"Anderson, Sehlin air their differences"
July 3, 2008 · Updated 1:02 PM
"Two candidates for one of the hottest House of Representatives races in the state dueled before one of the largest audiences of their campaign last Wednesday night.This is by far our largest crowd, said Rep. Dave Anderson, D-Clinton, as he scanned the audience of 150 in the South Whidbey High School commons. He's seeking a third term, but must overcome a formidable challenge by Barry Sehlin, R-Oak Harbor, a former three-term legislator himself.Anderson's comments at the South Whidbey League of Women Voters' Candidates Night focused on his concerns over the environment and quality of life in Island County. Sehlin suggested those sentiments are fine, but he has the leadership experience to see that things get accomplished in Olympia.I'm here to protect our quality of life, Anderson said. I tell it like it is - the way I see it. That has sometimes led to controversy, such as with his concurrency amendment, which requires the state and county to do growth planning with ferry and highway capacities in mind. Some have said that could stifle development. It makes perfect sense to me, Anderson said. Local planning must reflect the abilities of ferries, the bridges and highways. If they can't get the job done then plan that way.Anderson also cited his scientific credentials as a now-retired veterinarian as important in achieving his environmental goals. He is also active in South Whidbey salmon enhancement efforts, and has led the Legislature in looking into global warming and the biocumulative effects of toxins, which end up in orca whales and other higher forms of life.You simply have to have a science background to understand the issues, he said. In Olympia, he sought appointments to the House Agriculture, Ecology, and Natural Resources committees. If the Democrats control the House next session, he would likely chair Natural Resources, he said Thursday.Sehlin counters with what he sees as a more pragmatic approach to politics. It takes a lot more than rhetoric and good intentions, he said. It takes the ability to actually get things done. Sehlin expects to chair the House Appropriations Committee if the Republicans control the House.Not that Sehlin has no environmental interests. He said Thursday that wildlife habitat and open spaces were expanded during his tenure in the House, and he helped created the new Cama Beach park on Camano Island and acquire Ben Ure Island at Deception Pass. I don't have inspiring rhetoric about environmental issues, but I get it done, he said.As leadership credentials, Sehlin cited his background as commander of the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, and his former chairmanship of the House Capital Budget Committee. Environmental and other goals can be achieved, he indicated, but we need to do it with a sense of fiscal responsibility.Sehlin has a simple approach to taxation. To control taxes you have to reduce the budget, he said. He said he reduced the state capital budget by 18 percent while fully funding school construction for the first time in years.Anderson, speaking Thursday, gave Sehlin no credit for the 18 percent capital budget reduction. He said that figure is set by the state's bonding capacity. There's twice as many requests as we have money, he said. He spent to the limit. He also disagrees that school construction was fully funded by Sehlin.Anderson ventured into dangerous political territory at the forum, saying a new funding source is needed for transportation improvements. If not, You'll get more of the same or even worse - the T word just paralyzes them. He also called for paying teachers more and paying nursing home workers more.Sehlin voiced no such specific needs. You have to establish priorities, he said. We're going down the wrong path. "