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State house candidates vie on issues

Whether addressing gay marriage or how to improve small business opportunities, three candidates for the state legislature were put on the spot Oct. 7.

At a League of Women Voters candidate forum at South Whidbey High School that evening, Republican Chris Strow and Democrat Nancy Conard went head-to-head in their race for one of two 10th District legislative seats. Also in the mix was a ghost candidate of sorts, as Libertarian Congressional candidate Bruce Guthrie spoke on behalf of Libertarian Tom Bronkema.

The candidates hit on issues such as health care, tort reform, gay marriage, abortion, the Growth Management Act in the effort to get the South Whidbey vote for the Nov. 2 general election.

Each candidate began with a three-minute opening statement.

Conard, who serves as Coupeville’s mayor, and was the former Coupeville School District business manager and had a 10-year tenure on Island County Economic Development Council, said her business and political experience prepare her for the work needed to reduce health insurance premiums, advocate for public transportation and protect water resources. In dealing with these issues and others, Conard said she would be accountable, and has the political connections to get the job done.

“I’m a problem solver first and an politician second,” she said.

Strow, a former chief of staff for ex-U.S. Representative Jack Metcalf, said the biggest problem in the legislature for the last 20 years is a lack of long-term vision and there needs to be more common sense. He said he promise of elected that he would balance his conscience with the constituent’s needs

“We have a unique life here that we need to protect,” Strow said. “We have to do better in the state.”

He said he’s opposed to the proposed state initiative that would end the Montana-style primary election system, and begin a system where only the top two vote getters, regardless of party, advance from the primary. The Montana style primary began this year and required voters to declare their party before voting.

Guthrie said Bronkema believes in individual rights, a staple of the Libertarian view. The Libertarians believe rights are something people are born with, not given by the government and cautioned people from believing that the government gives rights.

“If rights come from the government, then its OK when the government violates those rights,” Guthrie said.

Strow later said that he agrees with Guthrie to the point that all Americans are born with some inalienable rights.

“I’ve always described myself as a small ‘l’ Libertarian Republican,” he said.

In a society, Conard said, there needs to be order and something to provide services individuals cannot provide themselves.

“Everyone has rights, but sometimes those rights are infringed on and someone has to referee,” she said

When asked how they would respond to public sentiment if elected to office, Guthrie said a representative’s votes should not necessarily be based on public pressure or outcry. Conard said since she is the people’s representative, she will vote for the majority. But if passing a law could cause problems, he said she will caution the voters about consequences by collecting information on it. Strow said he promised to balance his conscience with the needs of his constituents.

When questioned about their reaction to legislation that could modify the state’s Growth Management Act, the views of the candidates varied.

Conard said she supports the GMA since it protects the environment, but also wants private property rights are protected. Strow said he would like to see some political accountability from the GMA hearings board. Guthrie said the pace and distribution of growth should be up to state voters.

In the race for 10th legislative district, Position 2, Republican incumbent Barbara Bailey and Democratic challenger Mark Norton held close to party lines. Libertarian candidate Lew Randall could not attend the forum due to a death in the family, so state senatorial candidate Brett Wilhelm stood in.

Gorton said he’s an honest person who believes that health care is a right, not reserved for those who can pay more. It should be affordable and accessible. He said farms need to stay viable, creative answers to transportation are needed and he would like to have a business and operation tax on gross rather than net tax. Though Norton said that realistically will not happen in the next session.

He said he’s against a state income tax, wants more financing for higher education to increase accessibility and more performance audits to increase accountability.

Norton said he would support civil unions and marriage is a religious matter not for the government. On abortion, he said he’s pro-choice.

“I ask you to know me and to trust me,” said Norton, a businessman and volunteer with the Civil Air Patrol.

In her time in the state House of Representatives, Bailey said she has made connections that would help her if she’s reelected.

“I have become a leader in the House,” she said.

Bailey said more competition is needed among the three major insurance providers in the state. She said by lowering the number of medical malpractice suits, the unnecessary tests that are run to avoid possible lawsuits could be ended.

Having a state income tax will not help the state crawl out of annual budget shortfalls that have forced billions of dollars in cuts over the past few years, Bailey said. With a lagging economy, more support for small business is needed. She said tax credits are needed and regulations that are driving up costs need to be lowered.

“I’ve worked very hard on that,” Bailey said.

She said good education is important to prepare the students for a global market. Bailey said she opposes gay marriage and supports the Defense of Marriage Act which defines marriage between a man and a woman. She also said that a same-sex couple should be allowed to form a civil union and sign a contract.

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