Very few others in the state Senate have the clout held by longtime 10th Legislative District Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, who is charge of the Senate’s powerful Transportation Committee and has spent 30 years working in Olympia.
Win or lose, the Camano Island Democrat is finishing up the final campaign of her career.
“I might have stepped aside earlier, but I knew I had to help get our state through this recession. I have the institutional memory and the experience to get the job done,” Haugen said. “If I lose, I worry about the lack of state transportation investments in northwest Washington.”
Haugen, 71, is running a tough re-election campaign against Rep. Barbara Bailey, who has given up her place in the House to run for the Senate. Bailey, 68, of Whidbey Island, is one of the people the Republican party hopes will win and help the GOP gain control of the state Senate.
Bailey received 53 percent of the vote in the primary while Haugen got 47 percent. Neither one, however, believes the primary outcome will be the same when the general election ballots are counted in November.
“The primary was a good result for us. But we have moved on because that was just a point in time,” Bailey said. “We are very committed to a win and a have a good plan to achieve that, but I do believe the race will be close.”
“I am taking this election seriously, but I remain optimistic,” Haugen said. “Many more people will vote in the general election.”
Bailey said she had to ponder a run for Senate and the great amount of work it would take to win.
“But the last four years convinced me that we need to take this state in new direction,” Bailey said. “I hope to have a more powerful voice in the Senate.”
Bailey said she will use her voice to find bipartisan, common-sense solutions to the state’s economic woes, its lack of jobs, and what she says are its too-stringent regulations on small business and the Legislature’s failure to properly fund education needed to train the workforce.
“We need to work on the education budget first before we even start the rest of the budget. Education has been treated just like another state department. The process is flawed,” Bailey said. “Our priorities should be education, public safety and helping our most vulnerable populations.”
If the Democrats and Republicans are working together, it won’t be difficult to fund the priorities without raising taxes, Bailey said.
“If we keep on doing the same old thing, we’ll get the same old results,” she said.
Haugen said her decades of public service have been a passion.
“People came to me and told me I just had to run again. It’s what I do. I don’t play cards or knit. I’m a tough, good public policy maker,” Haugen said. “I have a lot of Republicans supporting me because they know I listen as much as I talk, that I get things done and that I have always worked to benefit the people of our district — the farmers, the military, the boatbuilders, the owners of small business.
“I am proud of living in this district all my life. My kids and my grandkids live and work in this district. I understand the issues.”
Working on regulatory reform to help businesses with job creation, the protection of the district’s quality of life and its farmland, education funding with an emphasis on technology and continued transportation funding are on Haugen’s priority list, she said.
The state ferry system is important to the 10th District, Haugen and Bailey agree.
Last year, Haugen got tough with state ferry workers, and now the unions representing most Washington State Ferries employees are endorsing and giving money to Bailey.
“I still have great support from unions. But the waste on the water was real and we had to get control over it to make the ferry system more efficient,” Haugen said. “Labor was the biggest cost. We didn’t bust a union, we just are treating ferry workers as we treat all state employees.”
Bailey admitted she was surprised to get the backing of the ferry workers.
“But they know I care about the ferries, safety on the ferries and the future of our ferries,” Bailey said.
In recent weeks, Bailey and Haugen have traded barbs about direct-mail fliers and the attacks on each other. Throughout the campaign, the two political parties have shipped out mailings over which the candidates have no control. And, though both claim they don’t like negative campaigning, the candidates have accused one another of poor legislative records on various issues. For example, Haugen recently said Bailey didn’t vote for ferry funding; when Bailey said she did, Haugen came back and refuted what Bailey said.
Both say they wish it would stop.
“Why do we as lawmakers think we get no respect when we don’t set the bar higher for ourselves,” Haugen said. “Sometimes I wish we had the discipline to go the Canadian election system and set limits on the lengths of our campaign periods.”
Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; firstname.lastname@example.org.
What’s the job?
At stake is a four-year term in the state Senate representing the 10th Legislative District, which includes northwest Snohomish County, all of Island County and a portion of Skagit County. The salary is $42,106.
Residence: Whidbey Island
Experience: State representative 2003 through 2012, with committee work that includes pension policy, veterans and military affairs, ways and means, business and financial services.
Mary Margaret Haugen
Residence: Camano Island
Experience: State representative, 1983 through 1992; state senator since 1993. Committee work includes senate chairwoman of transportation; financial institutions, insurance and housing; agriculture and rural economic development; rules. Running for sixth term.