Opinion

Expect sparks to fly in the 31st District races | Elfers

Watch for sparks to fly in the Cathy Dahlquist/Pam Roach state Senate battle. The campaign will be long, contentious and expensive. Adding to the interest is that both candidates are Republicans.

Sen. Pam Roach, the incumbent, is working to be re-elected to her seventh four-year term. Cathy Dahlquist has been elected to two terms in the House of Representatives and is now challenging Roach.

Making this race even more intriguing is Independent Democrat Rep. Chris Hurst's strong support of Dahlquist. He is adding his political capital to hers. Both believe it's time for Pam Roach to go. Hurst would have run against her, had not Dahlquist thrown her hat in the ring.

This Senate race pits two differing approaches.

Roach's statement upon entering her bid for her seventh term was: "I want to continue my work to protect taxpayers, defend constitutional liberties and boost Washington's economic recovery. The concerns of the people are my priorities."

Dahlquist has a different take: "We have a lot of challenges. We can fix them, but only if we leave partisanship at the door. ... We can have the best schools, a clean environment and quality health care for citizens, but only if we all work together."

Roach's approach is her vintage style. She is a seasoned political infighter who knows what has worked for her in the past and will repeat those same themes in this Senate race. Expect a lot of sound and fury from her.

The strategy of Dahlquist against Roach is to link forces with Hurst to show the voters that Republicans and Democrats can work together to bring about the needed changes to the state. It's an unusual strategy, but in these times of political gridlock in the other Washington, it is one that many voters might appreciate and support.

Dahlquist and Roach are conservatives who have similar views on several issues. The difference is that Sen. Roach has had difficulties dealing with her own party and was banned by her caucus from communicating with staff and from participating in the caucus up until 2012 when the Republicans needed her support to take control of the Senate.

My guess is that Dahlquist will use Roach's status of being in the doghouse with her own party as a key wedge issue. Dahlquist will also point out her opponent's difficulty dealing with legislative staff and her other "crazy behavior."

Roach's approach will probably be to dig dirt on Dahlquist. This was her successful tactic against her last opponent, Matt Richardson.

Expect this campaign to become very dirty on both sides. There will be a lot of mudslinging. Voters will need to put on their muck boots and hold their noses when they vote on Aug. 5 in the primary and again on Nov. 4 in the general election. Remember, in Washington state, it's the top two candidates chosen in the primary that determine who will run in November.

Also, expect this campaign to be very expensive. Hurst suggested that Dahlquist's campaign might cost upward of $1 million. Roach will be in the fight of her life and money will flow. Dahlquist is probably one of the toughest opponents Roach has faced.

Whatever happens in the four-plus months of this election cycle, a few things will be certain: Dahlquist will emphasize her ability to get along better with people both in her party and outside and Hurst will add his voice of support that it's time for Roach to go. Roach will emphasize her long history of working for the people of the 31st District and point out her many accomplishments in nearly 24 years of Senate service.

The question before voters will be whether they want to continue to support Roach and her scrappy manner or do they want someone who is more collaborative and bipartisan?

Rich Elfers is a columnist for the Enumclaw Courier Herald. Reach him at editor@courierherald.com.

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