Haugen seeks yet another term

State Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, has unofficially declared her intention to run for another term.

Haugen said Thursday that she was talking with a reporter in Olympia and was asked off-the-cuff if she was planning to run again. “He put it in the paper,” she said with surprise. Other papers picked up on it, and her intentions for 2008 were known even before the 2007 election.

Haugen, 66, represents the 10th Legislative District, which includes all of Island County and parts of Skagit and Snohomish counties. In 2004 her Republican challenger was April Axthelm of Mount Vernon. She doesn’t know who the Republicans will put up next year, “but I know they’re looking for someone,” she said.

Haugen is finishing her fourth four-year term in the Senate after 10 years in the House. All that experience has its advantages in Olympia, where seniority is important. “I’ve got the most seniority in the Democratic caucus,” she said. She gets her pick of committee assignments and as a result chairs the influential Senate Transportation Committee.

“It does make a difference,” she said of seniority. “You know where the skeletons are buried and you get a good parking space.”

Although she is of retirement age, Haugen said she has too many projects in the fire to hang up her chairman’s gavel at this stage of her career. Highway 20 is undergoing a major renovation, the state ferry system is in dire need of help, Cama Beach State Park on Camano Island is still a work in progress, and she’s deeply involved in the effort to build a new University of Washington campus to serve Island, Skagit and Snohomish county students.

“I don’t want to walk away from it,” Haugen said. “Who would walk in and take care of my people?”

Haugen was in Oak Harbor last week to listen to city officials discuss possible highway improvements and other projects. “I’m pleased they’re willing to work with me,” she said. That hasn’t always been the case, as the heavily Republican Oak Harbor leadership has in the past been reluctant to get too cozy with the other party. “You’re a nice woman but you’re a Democrat,” is how Haugen describes the former attitude.

With the Democrats enjoying a 32 to 17 advantage in the Senate, and also dominating the House and holding the governor’s office, Haugen advises city officials to learn to work with them. “But I can’t work miracles,” she added.

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