Axthelm challenges Haugen for senate

A Mount Vernon Republican, April Axthelm, is trying to stop Democrat Mary Margaret Haugen from winning a fourth term in the Washington State Senate.

Axthelm served on the Mount Vernon City Council for eight years before stepping down when she moved outside of town. Her move to Dike Road, between Conway and Mount Vernon, put her in the 10th legislative district.

As a state senator, she said she would work to reduce taxes and regulations on small business as well as land owners. While admitting the need for some regulation, she said overall “it’s unbalanced.”

“There’s over-regulation on environmental issues,” she said in a visit to Oak Harbor last week where she spent the day doorbelling. “Some of it’s ridiculous.”

Haugen was one of the primary sponsors of the state Growth Management Act, which requires counties to adopt plans that protect farmland and other open spaces while directing most growth to cities and other places with the infrastructure to handle it. But Axthelm said planning in Skagit and Island counties has gone too far.

“It’s spun out of control,” she said of the GMA. “It needs to be fine tuned and brought back into balance, with more respect for the rights of property owners.”

As an example of unfairness, she said some Skagit County residents purchased property that could be subdivided into three parcels, but changes prompted by the GMA have reduced those properties to a single parcel. “It’s unjust and unfair,” she said. “I have no problem with preserving quality lands, but we need to be careful.”

Ideally, she’d like to see open space purchased rather than zoned into existence. “If you want to look at the field next to you, buy it,” she said.

Axthelm cites the top issues of the campaign as taxation, regulation and education. As a former high school teacher, she supports the WASL testing program in schools, but feels it isn’t being implemented properly, and she thinks teachers should be paid better.

As for transportation, she doesn’t believe the state is spending its money effectively. Haugen has long been active in transportation issues, but Axthelm questions how the money has been spent on local highways.

Haugen is seeking her fourth term as a senator, and before that served as at 10th District House member. But Axthelm thinks the legislator is beatable as her winning margins have slipped in recent elections. In 2000, Haugen beat Republican Norma Smith by less than 2 percentage points, according to Axthelm.

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