Senate candidates wage tempered battle

Haugen and Smith fight a 'civil' war for District 10 seat

  • Wednesday, October 18, 2000 5:00am
  • News

“I don’t like partisan politics.Mary Margaret HaugenI don’t believe in partisan politics.Norma SmithEven for two candidates who say they wish to run positive, non-attacking campaigns, it’s hard to face off in a passionate political race without making it a little personal at times.We have a transportation crisis in the state. It is the result of a lack of leadership in Olympia, said Norma Smith, the South Whidbey Republican campaigning for the District 10 Senate seat currently held by Camano Island Democrat Mary Margaret Haugen.Though Smith’s comment doesn’t name names, it is a not-so-subtle jab at Haugen who currently holds the chairmanship of the Senate Transportation Committee. Promising fresh ideas and a desire to find compromise, Smith, an assistant to retiring U.S. Rep. Jack Metcalf, is trying to unseat Haugen who has been a fixture and a force in the state House and Senate since 1982. What I bring is a citizen’s view of what’s happening in Olympia, said Smith, adding that she believes her opponent may have become part of the establishment. I’m not a career politician. I want to find solutions.Haugen is quick to respond to the suggestion that she may be losing touch with her constituents, but like Smith, she doesn’t name names.It bothers me when people think I’ve forgotten who I am, she said. I am part of this community. I’ve never forgotten that.At the same time, though, Haugen uses the fact that she is a longtime legislator to draw casual attention to her opponent’s lack of legislative seat time.I wish I knew as a freshman what I know now, said Haugen. I chair the second most powerful committee in the Senate. I worked my way up. You don’t get to be a chairman as a freshman.Haugen stresses that her position on the Transportation Committee is a valuable asset to Island County – one that will be hard to get back unless she is re-elected. As long as I’m chairman (ferries) are going to be funded. They need to be funded just like highways, she said. Haugen added that if she does not return to the chairmanship, the committee will either come under the leadership of a Seattle metropolitan lawmaker if Democrats claim the Senate, or a southern Washington Republican who hates ferries if the GOP holds control. Either way, Haugen said, ferry service could be put at risk.Smith doesn’t portray herself as a newcomer, however. Highlighting her experience working at the national level as part of Metcalf’s staff, Smith said she knows the ropes.I’ve worked with the federal bureaucracies. I understand, she said. But Smith said she also believes that elected officials need to make a real effort to restore the public’s faith in government. I think we have to go to extraordinary measures to prove that our governmental process is the best in the world.For Smith, that means getting people to work together and find compromise. On the other hand, she strongly takes up the traditional Republican banner in support of property rights, charter schools, a slimmer regulatory process and the phasing out of state property taxes.Haugen says people have come to know her as a fiscal conservative who is environmentally sensitive. She lists full funding of education as a top priority, though she admits that serious problems in transportation funding and new initiatives on the November ballot could make that more difficult.Haugen said she would like to see transportation issues tied to land use and sees more public/private partnerships in Washington’s transportation future.You can reach News-Times reporter Chris Douthitt at or call 675-6611.—————-Here’s what Smith and Haugen say about some of the issuesOn citizen initiatives.Smith: If Olympia is doing their jobs we will minimize the need for initiatives. The ought to be the exception to the rule but they’ve become the rule because of the leadership in Olympia.HaugenI’ve supported the initiative process but I really have a problem with initiatives being bought. Any special interest group can just buy their way onto the ballot.On transportationHaugenThe Blue Ribbon Commission is saying you can’t build your way out of it. It has to be a balanced approach of roads, ferries, rail. I support that.SmithI want to see independent performance audits of state agencies starting with the Department of Transportation.On whether state politics is too partisan.SmithThere are people who are very partisan and people who aren’t. It’s similar to D.C.HaugenIt’s gotten far more partisan over the years.On their philosophyHaugenI’ve always thought of myself as a lobbyist for Island County.SmithI do my homework, I treat people fairly and I present the facts. “

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