Elections

Economy the major issue in 10th District House race

If one door is pushed shut in politics, there’s always another one to knock on.

Two years ago, longtime educator Tim Knue, 54, of Conway, came in a strong second to Barbara Bailey in the battle for state representative from the 10th Legislative, District Position 2.

This year he performed a lateral arabesque to take on Republican Norma Smith in the Position 1 race. He received 47 percent of the vote against Smith in the primary.

Smith, 57, of Clinton, has been the incumbent since January, when she was appointed by the GOP to fill the vacancy created by the departing Chris Strow.

Democrat Knue (pronounced canoe), who grew up in Oak Harbor, taught vocational education at Mount Vernon High School for 27 years. He has lived in the 10th District for 32 years.

He said he became interested in politics while advocating for educational issues in his community and in Olympia.

“I learned that many of the tools I used to problem-solve and help students succeed in the classroom also helped me to learn and adapt on the campaign trail,” he said.

Smith, a longtime aide to the late U.S. Rep. Jack Metcalf, ran twice for public office, losing to Rick Larsen in a race for the U.S. House of Representatives, and to state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen.

She has been a state resident since 1978, and a Whidbey Island resident since 1989. Her husband, Stephen, a retired Marine Corps pilot, died in an Airlift Northwest helicopter crash in 2005.

Between her Congressional career and her recent legislative appointment, Smith was a researcher for Global Seascape and a program director and communications specialist with CRISTA Ministries. In 2005, she joined Lindsay Communications in Langley.

“I have a proven record of effectively working in a respectful, bipartisan way to find solutions,” Smith said.

Knue has both outraised and outspent Smith in the campaign Public Disclosure Commission, as of Monday, Knue had raised $165,444 and spent $87,673; Smith had raised $142,210 and spent $67,109.

Both candidates are clear on what they consider to be the number-one issue.

“The economy has taken center stage,” Knue said. “With the current projected budget deficit, it will only be through prudent, thoughtful and pragmatic leadership that we will be able to apply forward-thinking policies while being cost effective in our spending.”

“My highest priority will be to ensure the economic vitality of our district and state,” Smith said. “Small business and agriculture are the backbone of our economy and need advocates who understand the issues.”

She said that in the past four years, the state operating budget has grown 33 percent — “an unsustainable rate of growth.”

Smith said her role as a member of the transportation and capital budgets committees will help guarantee that wise choices are made.

“We need to begin with zero-based budgeting in 2009, looking at every line for savings and efficiencies,” she said.

Said Knue: “We need to continue to create efficiencies but not lose sight of the policies that have made Washington state the third-best state to do business in, according to Forbes Magazine.”

“We are going to have to be very thoughtful about the budget cuts that are going to be necessary to ensure that we have the ability to work our way out of this economic downturn,” he said.

“Just as any family would act during tough times,” Knue added, “we have to balance the budget in a way that protects our future through education, infrastructure and jobs, without raising taxes.”

Smith said the best way to help Whidbey Island weather the fiscal storm is to address at the state level the barriers that constrain responsible economic growth.

“The regulatory climate in this state is habitually adversarial, and stifling for our agricultural and business sectors,” she said. “We must streamline regulation, and emphasize customer service.”

She would consider replacing the business-and-occupation tax with a flat value-added tax on businesses, with a “healthy deduction,” at least on the first $100,000 of revenue.

“This would stimulate small-business growth and employment,” she said. “We could then use the long-term growth in state revenue to reduce the sales tax, our most regressive tax.”

Both candidates stress the importance of strong education policies.

“High school graduates should have the skills needed to enter a competitive job market and achieve their dreams,” Smith said, adding that she would continue to work to provide “a world-class education” to state residents.

“We must focus on improving math and science education and preparation for higher education,” as well as continuing to improve career and technical opportunities, she said.

“I know the importance of teaching our children the benefit of a day’s work and giving them the education they need,” Knue said.

“I have always believed that education is the foundation upon which a strong economy is built.

“We need to strengthen our K-12 system to increase our options for all students, and to ensure that our post-secondary education system is responsive to the needs of our citizens,” he added.

On healthcare, Smith said insurers should be encouraged to offer affordable products with limited mandates to young adults who make up more than 50 percent of the uninsured.

She would also encourage insurers to sell plans that meet the specific needs of small businesses, she said.

“While the federal government debates the healthcare issue, we can move quickly to enact reforms,” Smith said.

Knue said that affordable healthcare needs to be easily available to everyone.

“We need to provide ways of improving availability of local doctors and healthcare clinics close to folks on the islands,” he said.

Both candidates stress that finding alternative transportation options and investing in infrastructure are critical to the health of the state.

“Our ferry system must be treated as essential marine highways,” Smith said.

Knue takes a long view.

“The Pacific Northwest is a vibrant, unique community that needs to be cared for so that all the reasons we live here are not adversely affected by overdevelopment,” he said.

“The Growth Management Act was a good start,” he added. “But for island living, we need specific legislation that takes these communities and their limited resources of land, water and services into consideration.”

Knue is a 1976 graduate of Washington State University with a degree in agricultural education. He has a master’s degree in education from Cambridge University.

He and his wife, Ricky, have two sons, Mark and Paul, and live in Conway, south of Mount Vernon.

Smith is a graduate of Puget Sound Christian College with a degree in theology. She has four children and four grandchildren, and lives in Clinton.

Knue has been a precinct committee officer, and a member of Kiwanis for 19 years. He is council president at First Lutheran Church in Mount Vernon.

“In this race, it’s all about leadership and experience,” Knue said.

“I have experience working within the Legislature as a citizen. I saw two bills relating to career and technical education successfully passed under two governors, and served on the state board that oversees teacher certification in Washington state.

“As a teacher, I was awarded Washington Association of Career and Technical Educators Teacher of the Year based on my ability to work with students from all walks of life while working to create an education system that was vibrant and beneficial, even under tight budget concerns,” he said.

Smith said she’s already been tested in Olympia and has made the grade.

“As a new legislator, I’ve worked on significant issues for our district and state, and have delivered results. My professional and life experiences and successes provide a solid foundation for addressing the issues.”

“I’ve managed operations and balanced budgets,” she added. “I believe in the legislative process, and am committed to giving my very best to make a difference.”

The 10th District includes all of Island County and parts of Skagit and Snohomish counties.

Roy Jacobson can be reached at 221-5300 or rjacobson@southwhidbeyrecord.com.

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