A candidate forum, hosted by the League of Women Voters of Kitsap, was held July 11 for state representative position 1 of Legislative District 23, a two-year term.
Incumbent Tarra Simmons (D) is running after being elected in 2020. She will be challenged in the primary by two Republicans, Janell Hulst and Ace Haynes. Hulst chose not to participate in the forum.
Simmons, a formerly incarcerated person and criminal justice reform advocate, is vice chair of the Civil Rights and Judiciary Committee and serves on the Healthcare, Public Safety and Rules Committees, according to the voter’s pamphlet. She is also an attorney and registered nurse. She received her associate’s degree from Olympic College and her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Pacific Lutheran University.
In her first term, Simmons passed six pieces of bipartisan legislation to increase voting rights, invest in behavioral health, reduce healthcare costs and keep communities safe. She worked to support small businesses, domestic violence survivors and make critical investments in transportation infrastructure, ferries, land and forest conservation. She is endorsed by both the Suquamish and Port Gamble S’Klallam tribes, Kitsap County sheriff and prosecutor, among other elected officials and community leaders.
Haynes’ has served as a water commissioner for Country Meadows. His professional experience includes youth services for Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority, Bainbridge Island Parks and Recreation and BI Teen Center. He graduated from Central Kitsap High School in 2004 through Running Start. Haynes received an associate of arts and sciences degree from Olympic College.
Hulst is a real estate broker, architectural drafter, general contractor and small-business owner of General Contracting & Architectural Design Co. She received her associate degree from Fresno City College.
“Crime is at record highs, inflation is skyrocketing, ferries aren’t running, homelessness is increasing, and no tax relief was passed even with a $15 billion surplus,” her voter’s pamphlet statement reads. “State spending has nearly doubled over the last ten years and our problems are worse. As a small-business owner, wife and mother, I’m committed to solutions that help working-class families and small businesses, like reducing taxes and cutting waste. I’ll support parental rights and educational choice, empower police to enforce laws, and promote transparency and government accountability. I’ll protect the most cherished freedoms of our constitutional republic: faith, family and private property.”
Below are some statements Simmons and Haynes gave during the forum:
Haynes: I was asked to run by friends, family and neighbors when they were unhappy with how things have gone, particularly in 2020. I believe we have a lot to do to get our community back to a safe, open and exciting place to live. We have a two-party system that is far too frictive. I believe that Tarra would be the first to tell you that she can’t get proper representation for us in Olympia because we’re not a swing district. I believe that you will feel safe electing me as a Republican and restoring our representation.
Simmons: I am your representative; it’s been the honor of my life. During my first two sessions, I think I was uniquely effective for a freshman. I did work across the aisle to get things done and was also able to make significant investments in our community from supporting small-business owners to domestic violence survivors to land conservation and forest conservation.
Haynes: To restore the constitutional requirements that half of our state budget goes toward education. I’m not particularly picky in how we get there but I couldn’t imagine cutting more tax breaks without massive spending cuts in other areas would be the way to go. I’m far more interested in reforming how taxes are applied than I am slashing them, particularly the gas tax. As far as corporate tax rates, I think they’re more than fair in most areas. I believe we have a lot to do in order to make a fair tax code for all of us.
Simmons: I’m pleased our state legislature passed the Capital Gains tax and investing that money into education. We are finally fully funding education. I would focus on our behavioral health system now. It is critically underfunded and is causing so many of the issues that we’re facing today, including our housing crisis … Continue to improve on transportation because you can address a lot of issues at once through transportation. I would not roll back any of the reforms we’ve made on corporate taxes.
Simmons: One of the big reasons I ran was to eliminate the school-to-prison pipeline. What we see is early intervention with appropriate wrap-around services, guidelines and support. Not everyone has a healthy family of origin. Having an adult in your life that you can connect to and trust really does change the trajectory of children’s lives. We need more nurses, psychologists and counselors in our schools. We need to have more diversity within that program.
Haynes: Our schools have a huge problem with disproportionality so the funding that they do get goes toward bureaucrats and building, not teachers and direct assistance and product. I don’t understand why we send kids to school where they have a great big, beautiful building and no construction paper. My top focus would be teachers … and making sure they have the support so they don’t spend their paychecks on basic school supplies.
Simmons: I introduced the Keep Our Care Act, which has to do with the mergers and acquisitions of religious hospital systems that are limiting access to reproductive healthcare, gender-affirming care and end-of-life care…making sure that in the future if mergers happen that we have oversight by our Attorney General’s office. We need to support smaller providers that offer this care.
Haynes: I believe we have a state right to healthcare. The religious health initiatives have taken over many of our options for healthcare, and they’ve done so in an unregulated fashion. I don’t see why just because they’re church affiliated they get to operate outside of the system. They’re hospitals first and churches second. I want to force them, by law, to provide many of the services that they might find most objectionable, including rights to an honorable end of life as well as advancements of abortive services.
Haynes: We need broadband. It’s not working to leave it in the hands of corporations. They did a really good job profiting on the early setup but now it’s a common need that’s not being met. Right now, the Democrats can’t get this done because of other democrats stopping them, and they won’t tell us who.
Simmons: We’re very fortunate in Kitsap County, we have a great PUD that’s been ahead of the curb for a long time. I believe Kitsap will be one of the first to offer this but there is some work that needs to happen. We just allocated the funding and things need to be put in place before we can offer it here but it is moving in the right direction.
Simmons: We have passed a lot of great policies to address climate change. We have a lot to do before we’re not relying on fossil fuels. We do need to incentivize electric vehicles and have charging stations everywhere. We have to make sure we have accessible public transportation options. Here in Kitsap, there isn’t bus service on Sundays or at night.
Haynes: We are fortunate to have strong state protections. But we have a massive problem with the way the Growth Management Act has not protected sensitive lands and has restricted areas that have already faced development. It does put a lot of extra strain on the Department of Ecology to step up.
Simmons: I am fighting for racial justice and for helping people who have come from marginalized backgrounds to get out of poverty to have an opportunity for employment and housing.
Haynes: We are fairly aligned on many issues. I believe Kitsap is known for representing itself in an enlightened way, and they would like to see better representation from Olympia. I think they’re smart enough to know that one of the ways to do that is to become a swing district. We are known for electing Republicans in this county and this state. We are a purple state and a purple county. The problem is they haven’t been given very good options lately.