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Local candidates vie for votes in tight races | Election '14
If the August primary is any indication, then the November general election promises to be a close affair for some local legislative races.
Notably in District 47, where incumbent Pat Sullivan (D-Covington) battles Barry Knowles (R-Covington) for state Representative, Position 2.
Sullivan, who has been in the state House since 2005 and served as its majority leader the last four years, collected 52 percent of the primary vote. Knowles, a political outsider who has served in the armed forces and operates his own construction business, garnered nearly 48 percent of the votes.
Knowles vows to run an aggressive campaign to close the gap. The Nov. 4 general election is more than nine weeks away.
“I never take on something and expect to come close,” Knowles said at the Kent Chamber of Commerce’s third annual Speed Candidating event at the Kent Senior Activity Center on Aug. 21. “I actually was disappointed. I thought I already had beaten (Sullivan). I had knocked on enough doors, talked to enough people, so initially I was little disappointed until other Republicans came and said, ‘No, Barry, that’s great.’
“But I always expect to win.”
As does Sullivan, who acknowledges he’s in for a tough fight. He was somewhat surprised by the primary results but contributes the close numbers to a very low voter turnout.
“I don’t know what to expect, but I just know that I’m going to work hard,” Sullivan said of the race. “I take nothing for granted. I want to go out and talk to voters. I want to make sure that they know the truth of what I’ve done that last 10 years and what I plan to do in the future.”
That includes working with city government and the local business community in a pitch to invest in jobs as the economy slowly rebounds. Sullivan intends to make government more efficient, effective, and accountable.
He supports critical investments and improvements in the K-12 education system and has held the line on tuition increases. He supports enhancements to the area’s infrastructure and has worked to support local economic development opportunities.
But Sullivan understands the Legislature faces a difficult season ahead, dealing with the prospects of a $2 billion budget shortfall.
Knowles wants to eliminated “foolish spending” in Olympia.
“I’m convinced it’s a spending problem, not a money problem,” he said.
Knowles was particularly upset the state Senate suspended the tax-limiting Initiative 960, including a requirement for a public advisory vote on tax increases that are deemed an emergency by lawmakers. I-960 required that two-thirds of the Legislature approve any tax increase, a significant hurdle compared to the simple majority approval needed for other bills.
Another close race unfolding is in District 33, where Mia Gregerson (inset photo) and Jeanette Burrage will face off in November for a House seat.
Gregerson, D-SeaTac, who holds the Position No. 2 seat, attracted 49 percent of the primary vote. Burrage, R-Des Moines, drew 37 percent.
Gregerson anticipates a fight from Burrage.
“Definitely, this race has some life to it, and I’m very excited to use that as a reason to continue to network and get out into the community,” said Gregerson, adding that she brings a “fresh, creative voice” to the House.
“I understand our community and I’m willing to champion our needs for this community,” she added. “My door will always be open regardless of party issues.”
Gregerson, who serves on the SeaTac City Council, was appointed to the House seat in December by the King County Council to fill Dave Upthegrove’s seat when he left the Legislature for the King County Council.
Burrage, a Des Moines City Councilmember, remains optimistic after reviewing the primary numbers.
“Since the incumbent didn’t quite get to 50 percent, that’s a good sign that people may be ready for a change,” Burrage said.
Both candidates said the budget gap remains the biggest challenge in 2015.
“We’re going to need someone who will make tough budget decisions,” said Burrage, who touts legislative, judicial and budgetary experience.
Meanwhile, incumbent state Sens. Joe Fain (District 47) and Karen Keiser (District 33) had strong primary performances.
Fain (R-Auburn) had a significant edge on Democratic challenger Carol Barber following the primary. Keiser (D-Kent) received 51 percent of the primary vote to 36 percent for Republican Martin Metz, of Des Moines.
In District 47, incumbent Mark Hargove (R-Covington) will square off against Democrat Chris Barringer for the House seat. Hargrove took 58 percent of the primary vote. Barringer received 41 percent.
The event attracted eight candidates involved in five legislative races in districts 33 and 47.
Unlike debates, the fast and informative event allowed candidates to discuss issues with residents seated at various tables. Candidates moved to a new table after a 10-minute session, continuing the process until they had met the entire audience.
State Rep. Pat Sullivan listens intently to Harry Williams during the Kent Chamber of Commerce’s third annual Speed Candidating event at the Kent Senior Activity Center. MARK KLAAS, Kent Reporter