Distinct voices in 10th District House contest

Rep. Dave Hayes, R-Camano Island, faces three challengers in his bid to keep a seat in the Washington State House of Representatives.

Republican Brien Lillquist and Democrats Nick Petrish and David Sponheim hope to win enough votes to displace Hayes, who is wrapping up his first term in office. The four are vying for the second House seat in the state’s 10th Legislative District. The district covers Island County and part of Skagit and Snohomish counties, including Stanwood, Mount Vernon, Oak Harbor and Langley.

Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton, holds the district’s other House seat. She is running against Libertarian Michael Scott.

For each race, the two candidates with the most votes in the Aug. 5 primary election, regardless of party, advance to the Nov. 4 general election.

Hayes, Lillquist, Petrish and Sponheim largely agree on which issues are key for the state Legislature: education, transportation, safety and spending. However, they differ in the order of their priorities and how they hope to provide services while cutting costs.

Hayes, a sergeant with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, said his focus in Olympia has largely been public safety. Outside of public safety, he tries to keep his eyes on education and transportation and not get “too watered down” by tackling other topics.

“We can solve some of these issues with changes in policy rather than just throwing money at them,” he said.

The 47-year-old Navy veteran said he is working on legislation to cut costs by streamlining audits for schools and permits for transportations projects.

Transportation systems, like the ferries that help navigate Island County, need to be updated, he said. He aims to get the state out of designing ferries and bridges. He suggests leaning on private sector expertise to avoid costly mistakes.

Lillquist, also a retired Navy veteran, said he wants more accountability for mistakes in building bridges or ferries.

Lillquist is looking to serve one term in Olympia. He wants to focus on being a legislator, not campaigning to be one, he said.

Aside from transportation, his biggest concerns are funding schools and prisons. He said legislators need to figure out how to comply with the state Supreme Court’s order to fully fund K-12 education by 2018, which is expected to cost more than $3 billion.

But schools aren’t the only state service that needs funding, Lillquist said.

“We keep making new laws to put people in jail but we don’t have any place to put them once we catch them,” he said. “It’s kind of a catch and release program.”

Lillquist, 67, has lived in Oak Harbor for about 25 years and said he is not happy with his current representation at the state level.

“I don’t have a lot of faith in the people in Olympia working together to get anything done,” he said. “The people we send down there don’t seem to play together very well.”

Nick Petrish, an electrician and U.S. Army veteran, found himself similarly fed up with the folks in Olympia. He decided to run for office because he feels Washington’s political landscape “looks more like 1914 than 2014.”

Petrish said he supports labor unions, women’s access to birth control and redirecting university dollars from athletics to academics. The 51-year-old describes himself as a “left-winger on everything but gun control.” He supports background checks for gun owners, but not limits on the type of gun or ammunition they can own if they pass.

He hopes to fund education and infrastructure by closing tax loopholes for corporations and trust fund beneficiaries, and by establishing “clawbacks” on tax breaks for big businesses, meaning the business would have to return the money if it failed to follow through on promises to the state.

He would also support an increase in the state sales tax.

Sponheim, on the other hand, is against upping taxes. He calls himself a fiscal conservative and social liberal.

Though the 54-year-old identified himself as a Democrat for the Aug. 5 primary, he heads up his own political party: America’s Third Party.

He’s attempted several write-in campaigns for the U.S. presidency, most recently in 2012. He plans to try again in 2016.

In the meantime, he wants to serve closer to home, he said.

Sponheim said his first priority if elected would be clearing the way for more recreational marijuana shops and lowering taxes on marijuana, which he said is significantly overpriced. He also wants to eliminate septic system inspection requirements that can be costly for homeowners in the 10th district.

Sponheim, who previously worked in advertising, participates in online videos promoting America’s Third Party. A 2008 video in which he used blackface to parody Barack Obama has created some backlash during the current election. In a response to the video earlier this year, Sponheim said he “couldn’t have done it in white-face.”

“I think my First Amendment rights are paramount,” Sponheim said in an interview with The Herald last week. “If anyone accuses me of being too vocal or anything else, I think they need to look at what this country was built on.”

Sponheim failed to verify his campaign’s financial information with the state’s Public Disclosure Commission on time. He has until Aug. 7 to submit the information along with a statement of understanding and a $100 fine, according to the PDC.

Hayes has raised $50,517.65 for his campaign, according to reports filed with the state. Petrish has raised $1,925, and Lillquist has not raised any funds.

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439, kbray@heraldnet.com

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