Kent’s Entenman took campaign on foot to secure state House seat

Democrat and political newcomer beats incumbent Hargrove to represent District 47

Debra Entenman. COURTESY PHOTO

Debra Entenman. COURTESY PHOTO

Democrat Debra Entenman credits door-to-door campaigning as one of the main reasons she defeated incumbent Republican Mark Hargrove to represent House District 47 in Olympia.

A first-time political candidate, Entenman, of Kent, beat Hargrove, of Covington, with 53 percent of the vote in the Nov. 6 general election. Hargrove held the state representative seat for eight years.

Entenman said she drew voters because she went to apartments, mobile home parks and neighborhoods in Kent, Covington and Auburn where candidates had never been before .

“They told me ‘no one has come here before,’” Entenman said during a phone interview Nov. 16. “I started knocking on doors, and it made a difference. People wanted to talk to somebody and have someone listen to them.”

Entenman worked her day job as 9th District director for Congressman Adam Smith, D-Bellevue, out of his Renton office, and then in the evenings and on weekends visited neighborhoods to let people know she wanted to represent them in the state Legislature.

“I worked hard,” she said. “I tried to run a race about what I can do rather than being negative against my opponent. … I think people were ready for a change.”

She focused on education, taxes and transportation – issues she plans to tackle when she takes office in January.

While she had never run for office, Entenman has experience in public service. She serves on the Renton Technical College Board of Trustees. Gov. Jay Inslee appointed her to the board in July, 2015. Her term expires in 2019.

“I want equity in funding for technical colleges,” she said. “They need more resources, more funds to support all students.”

Students don’t just need help to pay for tuition, but also for food and books, she added.

Entenman, a member of the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, met a lot of people while door-belling who complained about property taxes being too high, even to the point where they might have to sell their home and move out of town. She plans to work with other legislators to find a way to reduce property taxes or provide property tax relief.

She also discovered transportation as a major concern of voters. She wants to improve roads in the Southeast 272nd Street and Highway 18 area and get railroad-vehicle grade separations in the valley so people commuting don’t get stuck waiting for trains.

Entenman, who is married with two adult children and a young grandson, will give up her job with Congressman Smith at the end of the year because an elected official cannot work for another elected official. She has worked 12 years for Smith and led his community outreach efforts in South King County, often representing him at events.

Smith supported Entenman running for office and gave her some advice.

“One thing he told me was, ‘don’t spend your own money,’ ” she said. “If you cannot get them to give money to you, they won’t vote for you.”

Smith also told Entenman that posting political signs doesn’t really work, but she said she put up a lot of signs anyway.

“But 12 years is a long time and I learned a lot from him,” she said.

Entenman had no trouble attracting campaign contributions. She raised $306,447, according to the latest Public Disclosure Commission reports. Hargrove raised $123,293.

Those donations allowed Entenman to send a lot of mailers and to hire a campaign manager and two field people.

The Seattle-based Washington Senate Democratic Campaign contributed $75,000 to Entenman. She also received $55,000 from the House Democratic Campaign Committee and $32,313 from the Washington State Democrats.

Entenman said she appreciated the efforts to support her, including help from Code Blue, a group created in response to the 2016 election that is a coalition of motivated Democrats committed to helping elect candidates who best match its progressive values and who are most likely to vote with Democrats, according to the Code Blue website.

But Entenman, who previously served on boards for Neighborhood House as well as Kent Youth and Family Services, is ready to help anyone in the 47th District.

“I really thank my constituents for the opportunity to represent them,” she said. “I hope they reach out to me with any concerns they have.”

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