No matter what else the various candidates at the Oct. 18 forum agreed or disagreed on, the resonating issue where they basically agreed was providing Washington’s kids with a good education.
Candidates running for office in legislative districts 41 and 5, along with candidate Karen Porterfield who is challenging Rep. Dave Reichert for the District 8 seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, answered questions from the public at a candidate’s forum in the Issaquah city council chambers. Reichert did not attend the forum.
In response to written questions from the audience, Porterfield said she supports a public option for health care, as well as the paycheck fairness.
“My sister works, I work,” she said. “If we don’t pay women what they’re worth – we’re moving backward.”
Porterfield said Social Security is facing a challenge from the Baby Boom generation.
Health care costs are the problem with Medicare she said. Preventative health, or moving toward keeping people healthy should be the health focus.
In legislative races, one of the more contentious races is between Issaquah City Councilman Mark Mullet and Brad Toft for state Senate in District 5. The seat was vacated by Cheryl Pflug, who accepted a position in Olympia with the Washington State Growth Management Hearings Board.
“We’re in a seat that is getting a lot of attention statewide, and it makes me sick to my stomach,” Mullet said.
Pflug, a Republican, endorsed Mullet, leaving her party scrambling for a candidate.
On the issue of teacher evaluations, Mullet said he supports teacher accountability. Toft said there is a “tinge of hostility” with the issue, but said the goal should be to develop the teacher.
“Firing is expensive, so that shouldn’t be the goal,” Toft said.
On health care, Mullet supports the affordable care act because the idea forces people to be responsible for their health. Toft believes the state does have a role to help the most vulnerable, but disagrees with Obamacare.
“I think the affordable care act is bad for the country and is a mistake,” Toft said. Health care should be patient centric. It’s not wise to mandate health care”.
Toft said he supports charter schools, adding that he doesn’t think any solution should be off the table given the current condition of public education in Washington state.
Earlier this year the state Supreme Court ruled that the state is not meeting its constitutional duty to provide a basic public education to all children in Washington. The ruling was a result of a lawsuit, McCleary v. State, which was brought by the Network for Excellence in Washington Schools (NEWS), a statewide coalition of community groups, public school districts, education organizations and Stephanie McCleary, who is the suit’s namesake.
Mullet said he was neutral on the issue of charter schools, stating they would solve only 20 percent of the problem.
When asked to identify their top issues, Toft said number one is to end partisan bickering, to foster implementation of an orderly process for budgeting, and fully funding education.
Mullet identified investment into education as number one, followed by transportation and then facilitating business to be successful.
Each candidate got to ask the other a question. Toft asked Mullet about special interests, to which Mullet responded that just because a group or individual supports him monetarily, he would not let it affect his decisions.
Mullet asked Toft why he didn’t meet with the Washington Teacher’s Association.
“Teachers unions need to stop lashing out at those who want education reform,” Toft said.
In the race for District 5 representative, Position 2, Issaquah School Board president Chad Magendanz faces educator David Spring.
Magendanz supports the 2/3 majority by the Legislature to raise taxes; Spring does not. Spring also doesn’t support charter schools.
“I’ve actually walked in these charter schools,” Magendanz said. “I admit I was on the fence with charter schools, but they’re bringing a whole new innovation to education.”
In the District 41 race for state Senate, incumbent Steve Litzow, a Republican, squared off with political newcomer Maureen Judge, a Democrat. Both candidates have backgrounds in technology.
Judge said the Legislature needs to be very clear on McCleary, closing tax loopholes and emphasizing STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).
Litzow, who sits on the board that is reviewing McCleary, said K-12 funding is definitely a priority over higher education.
When asked what services they would protect from cuts in the upcoming session, Litzow said education would be his priority. Judge basically agreed, adding that she would protect some of the key social issues such as care for the elderly and mentally ill.
Judge also wants to review tax loopholes to see who or what is getting the big tax breaks. Litzow said there are 14 tax exemptions right now that have “outlived their usefulness.”
To reduce waste, Litzow said there are about 3,500 engineers too many employed by the state. Judge wants to go after people who “game” the system.
On teacher evaluations, Litzow said they should be uniform statewide. Judge said it’s also important to look at economic issues, such as kids who come to school hungry or on little to no sleep due to less than desirable home conditions.
Last up were incumbent Marcie Maxwell, a Democrat, and Republican newcomer Tim Eaves, both vying for state representative, Position 1 in the 41st. district.
Regarding Bellevue College expanding to Issaquah, Eaves said the without prosperity returning to the state “I don’t see expanding Bellevue College as a priority.”
On the question of tolling, Maxwell stressed the importance of transportation for local businesses, while Eaves said he prefers user fees to fund transportation, and does not support tolling on I-90.
Both candidates support fulling funding basic public education.
Issaquah Reporter staff writer Linda Ball can be reached at 425-391-0363, ext. 5052.