Two current office holders seeking a change in venue and one former elected official looking to get a return ticket to Olympia are in the running to replace State Sen. Darlene Fairley, D-Lake Forest Park.
After roughly 15 years in office, Fairley announced she was not running for re-election to the District 32 State Senate seat.
Hoping to replace her are State Rep. Maralyn Chase, D-Shoreline, Kenmore Mayor David Baker and former State Rep. Patty Butler, also of Shoreline.
For all three candidates, the economy is a key campaign issue.
Running for the state position as a Republican, Baker has spent seven years on Kenmore City Council. He unsuccessfully ran for a state senate seat once previously in 2006. In discussing the current election, he pointed first to his local record, noting Kenmore officials had not approved a tax increase during his council tenure.
“Here in Kenmore, we live within our means and I think it’s time the state learns to live within its means,” Baker said.
He added he does not want to run a negative campaign.
“I don’t want to get into bad mouthing my opponent,” he said, referring to Chase.
But Baker also added a key difference between the two is that Chase supports a state income tax while he does not. Instead of looking for new revenue, Baker said Olympia needs to realign its priorities. He claims some bureaucracies simply seem out of whack.
For example, Baker contends that in discussions with state park and recreation officials regarding athletic fields in St. Edward State Park, local leaders were told it was not the duty of Washington’s parks department to supply recreational opportunities. Baker said the statement left him mystified.
“What are they supposed to be doing then?” he added.
Now an assistant manager for a retail store in Bellevue, Butler served two years in the state house in the late 1990s. She lost her bid for re-election. Butler added that when Fairley decided not to run, she initially dismissed the notion of getting into the race herself. But Butler said contact from supporters and some personal experiences persuaded her to give it a shot.
At 58, Butler said she has, in the past few years, spent some time unemployed and ended up returning to school. She only recently earned a business management degree from Edmonds Community College and intends to further her studies. Still, she said she understands firsthand the economic difficulties many of the state’s residents have faced in the last few years.
“I have been living with what a lot of people have been living with as far as the recession goes,” Butler said.
While she didn’t name any names, Butler added she doesn’t like what she’s been seeing from some elected officials in the district. She mentioned legislators spending thousands to draw up state bills that had no chance of passage, of one official in particular “turning a cold shoulder” to local businesses.
For her part, Chase has spent eight years in the state house, first elected in 2002. She feels it is a natural progression in her career to attempt a move to the senate. Chase also feels the senate will be a better fit for her political style.
“There are fewer members,” she said, “and individual members have more of a policy role than in the house.”
Touching on economic development, Chase specifically mentioned supporting some of the initiatives of Gov. Chris Gregoire. But from her point of view, small businesses are the key to pulling the state, if not the country, fully out of recession.
Chase added she was not referring only to small mom-and-pop operations, but also smaller manufacturers with 15 to 25 employees. She contends such businesses have a great potential to power Washington’s economy, possibly increasing the state’s exports.
For example, Chase talked about giving tax breaks to homeowners and businesses who make use of Washington-built solar energy panels. The program could promote green energy, but also grow local solar businesses and create a ready demand for the products of those businesses.
Among the three candidates, Chase may or may not enjoy a level of name recognition not available to the other two candidates. Baker said Chase may have somewhat of an edge outside the Kenmore area, but said he has worked extensively on regional issues, especially transportation. Butler said she has remained active in the community where she has lived for decades and is not worried about being seen as a dark horse in the race.
“Because my roots are so deep, my name is still known in the community,” Butler said.