PORT ORCHARD — With the Washington state primary election looming Aug. 4, Kitsap County Auditor Paul Andrews acknowledged that voters in this state and county can feel fortunate they won’t be facing the prospects of lining up, presumably adorned with face masks, outside designated voting places waiting to cast their votes in person.
“We are in an enviable position in Washington in that even in the midst of a public health crisis, our elections can go on mostly as they have for years,” Andrews wrote in a message printed in Kitsap County’s primary local voters’ pamphlet, which was mailed to registered voters last week.
“Any changes in the elections process will be something that has no impact on the vast majority of voters. We are reviewing the process our elections workers will employ, but most voters will still receive a ballot in the mail, vote at home and deposit the ballot in one of our 22 drop boxes or send it by mail.”
COVID-19 notwithstanding, there will be plenty of candidates on the ballot to choose from. In the Washington state governor’s race, 36 candidates — including incumbent Gov. Jay Inslee — have filed and will appear on the ballot. In Kitsap County, a bevy of candidates have thrown their hats into the proverbial political ring.
23rd Legislative District
Incumbent Christine Rolfes, a Democrat, is running for another four-year term in the state Senate. She chairs the Senate Ways and Means Committee. The veteran is being challenged by Republican candidate Pam Madden-Boyer, a precinct committee officer who has retired from Central Kitsap School District. She also is a small business owner.
Rolfes said the immediate focus of elected representatives will be to address the regional and local economy that has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. “Our state entered this crisis in a strong position, ranked high nationally for our fiscal health and diverse economy. The next legislative session will be the most challenging in decades, and I commit to protecting our shared priorities as we rebuild our economy.”
Madden-Boyer agreed that the COVID-19 crisis is the state’s top priority, but said legislators are faced with a difficult job due to their “monumental” increases in government spending, plus money directed to the coronavirus response.
“Government must be reigned in,” she said in the voters’ guide. “We’ve seen Olympia ignore the will of the people in such matters as the sex-ed bill, new taxes and unwanted fees. I’m running to rectify this disparagement.”
The 23rd Legislative District races to fill the two House seats will be absent a familiar face: Rep. Sherry Appleton. The 16-year veteran of the state Legislature announced in October that she would be retiring at the end of her current two-year term.
“Being allowed to work for the people of Kitsap and the entire state for so long has been the greatest honor and privilege of my life,” the Poulsbo Democrat said at the time of her announcement.
Appleton said her greatest accomplishments included helping to draft and pass the Patients’ Bill of Rights and restoring funding for family planning clinics. She was named during her tenure as Legislator of the Year by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Humane Legislator of the Year by the Washington State Humane Society. She has chaired two House committees: Community Development, Housing & Tribal Affairs, and Local Government.
Leslie J. Daugs, a Democrat who is currently serving her fourth term on the Bremerton City Council, is a veteran of county government and community boards. She is running to replace Appleton in the state House.
She said in her statement that challenging times call for proven leadership. “Like many, I know firsthand how critical our state’s social safety net is. These resources are being stressed like never before. As we focus on keeping our families healthy and communities safe, we are seeing the devastating economic impacts of this pandemic.”
Daugs said her experience as a city council member will be valuable should she be elected to the legislative post. “I am ready to serve. This includes jobs, getting first responders’ resources, championing schools, protecting the environment, ensuring affordable housing, and high ethical standards.”
Lou Krukar, who is a commercial contractor and president of the Miller Bay homeowners association, is running as a Democrat. He is an active participant in community events in Kingston and is the informal “mayor” of the city.
Krukar said he is approachable in the community and is an avid listener to the concerns of citizens. “How quickly has the landscape changed. How urgent of a need to be present in the moment. It is not business as usual. We demand leadership to bring us from the darkness back into the sunlight.”
Tarra Simmons, a Bremerton civil rights attorney and justice reform advocate, is a Democrat also seeking to replace the retiring Appleton. Simmons earlier was appointed by Inslee to be a member and co-chair of the Washington Statewide Reentry Council. She also is a precinct committee officer for the 23rd District Democrats.
In her voters’ pamphlet statement, Simmons said her goal in the Legislature is to help rebuild the economy after the coronavirus pandemic, expand access to health care and education, and protect clean air and water for future generations.
James Beall, a Democrat, also is running but didn’t provide relevant information in the voters’ guide relating to his political plans for the future.
Also running is Republican April Ferguson, an owner of an electrical contracting company and past owner of an early learning center. Ferguson is a Republican precinct committee officer for the district.
“I will be a fierce fighter against laws that defy the proper role of government and individual rights and that are not financially responsible for our State and the people,” she noted in her voter statement. “I will focus on protecting us from the over-regulation of our businesses and the burdensome taxes that we have seen recently.”
Incumbent Rep. Drew Hansen, a Democrat, has held the 23rd Legislative District’s position 2 seat since 2011. He is a trial lawyer and partner at Susman Godfrey LLP and has taught civil rights law at the University of Washington School of Law and is the author of a book about Martin Luther King, Jr.
Hansen chairs the House College and Workforce Development Committee in the state Legislature. He touted his work in bringing new college opportunities to Kitsap County by working with Washington State University and Western Washington University to create new cybersecurity, engineering and early childhood education programs at Olympic College. The state representative also wrote Washington state’s new tuition-free college and apprenticeship law, “which will make college more affordable for over 100,000 Washington residents,” Hansen wrote in his voters’ guide statement.
Opposing Hansen in this race is Elaina Gonzales-Blanton, a Republican who is serving as a precinct committee officer. A case manager and home visitor for disabled children, she also is a domestic violence victims’ advocate, case aide for Kitsap Mental Health, and a home care aide.
In her statement, Gonzales-Blanton said: “Our lives have been upended from over-regulation, excessive taxes, bills that we did not want passed, and initiatives that voters passed that have been overturned.”
She said voters have been “ignored and devalued by our current elected officials because our state has been controlled by the same people for nearly a decade.”
26th Legislative District
Two Democrats, both election newcomers, have joined the race to compete against 26th Legislative District position 1 House incumbent Jesse L. Young.
Drew Darsow of Gig Harbor, who was a 2020 state Democratic convention candidate for the district, is finishing the last year of his bachelor of arts degree in economics at WWU.
Carrie Hesch, is the director of recreation and athletics for the Washington State Department of Corrections, Washington Corrections Center for Women. She also is a board director of Key Peninsula Community Services.
Hesch said in her statement that the coronavirus crisis “has shown that we need leaders investing in our public health, safety, small businesses and our local economies. We deserve a state representative who leads with integrity, solves problems and is ready to fight for real solutions to current — and future — challenges. Hesch said he has gathered endorsements from U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer and state Sen. Emily Randall for her candidacy.
Young, the Republican incumbent since 2014, is a software engineer and business owner. He said in his voters’ statement that by keeping his promises, he has successfully led efforts to stop toll increases on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, saving commuters more than $200 million. Young said he stands against “ineffective or anti-transparent government, working to strengthen our schools or applying my career experience to get this economy going.”
In the 26th District’s position 2 contest, incumbent Republican state Rep. Michelle Caldier will face in the primary a fellow GOP candidate and a previous district office seeker. Caldier will be on the ballot alongside Republican Alisha Beeler, a first-time candidate who serves as a Kitsap County PreTrial Services officer and juvenile detention officer. She also is a Republican state committeewoman.
Beeler, a Port Orchard native, said in her statement that, “Increased taxation, especially at a time when families are stretched beyond their means, demands action on the problem.” Beeler said she will work hard to lower property taxes, stop gas tax increases and fight against a state income tax.
Joy Stanford, a Democrat, returns to the ballot in her race against Caldier. A housing and health-care advocate, Stanford said she has worked to protect and expand access to health care and affordable housing. “Together we can close loopholes and reduce taxes on families, secure dedicated school funding and enhance career and technical training.” She also would seek to invest in transportation safety improvements and take on homelessness and addiction issues.