State Rep. Bailey quietly opens office in Oak Harbor
By JESSIE STENSLAND
Whidbey News Times Assistant editor
September 6, 2012 · Updated 10:47 AM
Rep. Barbara Bailey opened a district office in Oak Harbor this summer to better serve her constituents. It’s common for both state representatives and senators to have district offices and there are already two on Whidbey, but some critics are questioning Bailey’s motives in an election year.
The Republican representative opened the office inside the Pioneer Building, which is next to the Habitat for Humanity store on Pioneer Way, on June 1. She didn’t send out any press releases or notify the media. She didn’t put up any signs on the outside of the building.
Sue Karahalios, a former Democratic representative from Oak Harbor, suggested that Bailey is purposely keeping the office low-key in order to avoid the same criticism her rival, Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, received when she opened a district office in Oak Harbor years ago.
“All of Bailey’s supporters came out and just persecuted Sen. Haugen and here’s Barbara with an office downtown all of a sudden, in her last six months in the House,” she said.
Bailey has been in office for nine and a half years. She’s running for state senator against Haugen.
Haugen said she didn’t even know Bailey had a district office until her assistant happened to run into Adam McCrow, Bailey’s senior legislative assistant, at an Oak Harbor grocery store this month. She said the lack of transparency is suspicious.
“The purpose of a district office is to do outreach,” she said. “We opened our office and invited people to come out and meet us.”
Some people criticized Haugen for opening the office in Oak Harbor, arguing that it was a way to score political points with voters at taxpayers expense. The lawmakers, however, aren’t allowed to have any campaign activity in the offices.
Bailey said her only motive for opening the office was to help people in her district. She said a lot of people have stopped by the office and McCrow is busy assisting folks. She said he spends a lot of time helping people deal with state departments, particularly navigating through the Department of Social and Health Services bureaucracy.
In addition, Bailey said she wanted McCrow to spend more time in the district, as opposed to Olympia.
Bailey said her Oak Harbor office will only be open during the interim period. During session, her Olympia office will be up and running. All representatives have Olympia offices, but not all have district offices. There are a total of 60 district offices held by representatives in the state, but many are shared by more than one representative. Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton, has an office in Coupeville.
Bailey said her district office won’t cost taxpayers anything extra, but the Office of the Chief Clerk of the House said it does come with a small price tag. Representatives without district offices receive $5,500 a year for expenses and those with offices receive $6,500. Deputy Chief Clerk Bernard Dean said Bailey will receive a pro-rated amount this year because her office was only open half the year.
Bailey said she couldn’t send out any press releases about her office because of a House rule that prohibits such media releases after June 30 of each year. She opened her office June 1, but she said she’s been very busy this summer.
Dean, the deputy chief clerk, explained that there are tight rules regarding what representatives can send out after June 30 in an election year, but it’s not a total prohibition. Press releases have to be sent to the clerk’s office for approval before being disseminated to the press or public.
Bailey said she will likely keep the office in Oak Harbor if she beats Haugen in November; judging from primary numbers, she has a very good shot.
Bailey’s office is located at 380 SE Pioneer Way, Suite 102, in Oak Harbor. The office can be reached at 360-682-5040.
Contact Whidbey News Times Assistant editor Jessie Stensland at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360.675.6611 ext. 5056.