By Gale Fiege Herald Writer
Political newcomer Democrat Aaron Simpson and incumbent Republican Norma Smith, running for her third term in the state House, have more in common than they might realize.
The candidates for the Position 1 seat representing the 10th Legislative District have concerns about jobs and economic development, farmers and owners of small businesses, state parks users and students.
In fact, they even share solutions to some of the issues on which they are campaigning.
For example, Simpson and Smith want to see changes in the business-and-occupation tax and hope to bring regulatory reform to cut costs and make it easier for businesses, including farms, to thrive.
They also don’t want people to pay fees to use state parks, especially Washington’s most popular destination, Deception Pass State Park, located in the middle of their district. They want the parks used and the tourism dollars rolling in and they want the state’s natural resources protected for the next generation.
Where the candidates begin to divide is in the future of education, and even on that topic they have similar concerns.
“When you talk about the economy, education and job creation go hand in hand,” Smith said. “Our paramount duty as a state is to provide adequately for our children to get good education. Right now, we have a gap between the jobs out there and students who don’t have the skills to get those jobs. We need to eliminate barriers to real life learning. Our antiquated school-funding system has to be improved, but we must continue to insist on accountability from schools.”
Charter schools, home-schooling programs and other “creative” options should be open to all students, Smith said.
Simpson said charter schools could undermine funding for public schools, and he wants teachers to be allowed to teach their subjects, not just prepare students for state standardized tests. “We need to inspire kids to want to be teachers.”
As a recent university graduate, Simpson wants to put a stop to tuition increases at public colleges.
“Because we are unwilling as a state to give colleges the funding they need, we create a situation where not every person will be able to pursue more education after high school,” he said.
Where Smith wants to deal with the state budget with a “disciplined” hand ensuring tax dollars are used wisely and that public safety is given the top priority, Simpson proposes that the budget process include getting rid of some tax exemptions, many of which date back to the founding of the state, he said.
“Rather than raise taxes on the average taxpayer, let’s collect $5 billion in revenue that we have been saying ‘no thanks’ to for far too many years,” Simpson said. “Our markets have changed and many of these laws do not make sense anymore. We need to institute sunset conditions on our inefficient and outdated tax exemptions.”
The Legislature has a lot of work to do and it needs to make an effort to be as pragmatic as possible to lead the state to the future, he said.
“These things don’t require bipartisan support because they are nonpartisan issues,” Simpson said.
Smith said she wants to continue to be part of the team there.
It’s OK for people to have a vigorous political debate on the issues, Smith said.
“But people are so weary of the ugliness. We need to respect one another and learn from one another and take the time to build consensus,” she said.
Simpson said he decided to challenge Smith when he came to understand that the state has the right to deal with certain issues about privacy.
“The last straw, was when the Supreme Court extended the right to law enforcement for a strip searches without cause,” he said. “Someone needs to stand up and make the right decision and I do not feel our current representation is capable of that.”
Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Representative, 10th Legislative District, Position 1
At stake is a two-year term in the state Legislature representing the northwest corner of Snohomish County, a portion of Skagit County and all of Island County. The salary is $42,106.
Experience: A graduate of Western Washington University and a native of south Whidbey Island, Simpson is a coffee company operations manager and a professional musician.
Experience: Appointed in 2008, Smith is running for her third full term in the Legislature. She is the ranking member of the House economic development committee.