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Unconventional 10th District candidates challenge party favorites

Two candidates backed by their respective parties are being challenged by party outsiders in the race for state representative, position 2 in the 10th Legislative District.

Dave Hayes, a Republican from Camano Island, is seeking a second term. He faces three challengers in the primary election, including one candidate from his own party.

Island County residents should have received their ballots in the mail. They should be returned by primary election day, which is Aug. 5.

Oak Harbor resident Brien Lillquist, who admits to being unconventionally honest in his views, is running as a Republican. He previously sat on the North Whidbey Parks and Recreational District board and ran unsuccessfully for Oak Harbor School Board.

His reason for running is without nuance.

“I don’t like any of the people down there,” he said.

“My main concern is that nothing seems to change.”

Mount Vernon resident Nick Petrish, a Democrat, earned the endorsement of the Island County Democratic Party. He has many of the conventional views of Democrats, but a unique background. He grew up hunting and fishing in Anacortes and was an interrogator in the U.S. Army before becoming a union electrician; the Second Amendment and labor rights are both important to him.

“I’m all about guns, gun safety and gun rights,” Petrish said, adding that a practitical solution can be found for the background check issue.

Oak Harbor resident David Sponheim is also running as a Democrat but has been spurned by the party. On its website, Island County Democratic Party warns against voting for Sponheim, stating that “he is not actually a Democrat. Don’t be confused!”

Sponheim ran for president as a member of America’s Third Party, a centrist political party he co-founded, but he said his views most closely align with Democrats when it comes to the two major parties.

However, Sponheim said in a letter to the Whidbey News-Times, “the Democratic Party is completely out of step with the people of America.”

“I’m a fiscal conservative and a liberal on social issues,” he said.

Sponheim and his partner, Sarah Hart, have an Internet video chat program. They talk politics and introduce a variety of creative solutions for world problems, including “a transcontinental mag-lev rail system.”

Sponheim applied blackface to parody Barack Obama on his program. He maintains he’s not a racist and was just exercising his First Amendment rights.

The four candidates have diverse views on the issues, but agree that funding education will likely be the biggest issue facing state lawmakers in the wake of the McCleary decision.

In that ruling, the state Supreme Court found lawmakers aren’t meeting their constitutional responsibility by fully funding education and must fix the problem by the 2017-18 school year.

All four candidates said they agree that additional funding for schools should go directly to the classroom and not to bureaucracy.

Hayes, who serves on the House Education Policy Committee, said he expects that McCleary will “absolutely overshadow everything else” during the next legislative session.

Small reforms can help schools, he said, adding he plans to work with local school districts to propose a way to streamline the audit process.

Hayes said he wants to prevent unfunded mandates on school districts and fully supports the House Republican’s policy of funding education first.

Hayes said he doesn’t think a tax increase is necessary and will only consider one as a last resort.

He said lawmakers should be able to find savings in reforms and streamlining government. He said the exact number in the education shortfall is a moving target that needs to be settled once “basic education” is realistically defined.

“People have been trying to grow the box of what is basic education,” he said.

Lillquist said he has little faith in lawmakers to solve such a big problem .

“My feeling is that the Legislature is going to wait until 2018 to do anything,” he said.

The state simply doesn’t have the billions of dollars extra it would take to fully fund education, Lillquist said, adding part of the problem is that small, pet projects “nibble away” at the budget; but even without those expenditures, the money just isn’t there.

Lillquist said he isn’t in favor of raising taxes to fund education, but he would make his voice heard in Olympia and in the district.

“At least people would hear from me before the next election,” he said.

Petrish said he is more optimistic about the McCleary issues and believes solutions are out there.

He said the state can raise money by closing corporate loopholes in tax law and “clawback” tax breaks from companies that don’t keep up their end of tax-break bargains.

“Extorting politicians for corporate welfare is just wrong,” he said.

He also proposed that the state could save billions of dollars by following North Dakota’s example and starting a state-owned bank. He said Bank of America makes billions by being the state’s banker, but he believes the taxpayers could be making that money. He suggests an interim step would be to bank with a credit union, which he believes would save money.

“I don’t know if it would be enough, but it would be a start,” he said.

Petrish said he would likely support a small sales tax increase to support education.

Sponheim has many unique ideas for improving education and raising funds. He supports the legalization of recreational marijuana and believes it can be a goldmine for the state, but said progress in opening dispensaries has been too slow. He said the tax revenue could be appropriated to schools.

Sponheim proposes that the state set up a scholarship fund that will be doled out to students based on test scores. He said he was a top student in high school, but later fell through the cracks.

He said he feels that the nation still hasn’t recovered from the recession and he wouldn’t be in favor of raising taxes.

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