Steve Hobbs (left) and Doug Roulstone

Steve Hobbs (left) and Doug Roulstone

Hobbs, Roulstone duel for important Senate seat

After a testy primary, tolls, traffic and taxes are dominant concerns on the campaign trail.

LAKE STEVENS — A turbulent primary behind them, Democratic state Sen. Steve Hobbs and Republican Doug Roulstone are now engaged in a noticeably toned-down contest for a legislative seat.

Hobbs is seeking a fourth term representing the 44th District, which includes Lake Stevens, Mill Creek and Snohomish as well as parts of Everett and Marysville.

Roulstone is looking for an upset, his optimism buoyed by the history of district voters to send Democrats and Republicans to Olympia to represent them.

Senate Republicans went after Hobbs hard in the primary. They funneled $188,761 to Washington Forward, a political committee operating independent of Roulstone, to pay for a battery of mailers and television ads against the centrist Democrat.

The incumbent senator won the primary with 55.1 percent followed by Roulstone with 41 percent and Libertarian Jeremy Fitch of Everett garnering the rest.

Washington Forward has not resurfaced.

Hobbs, 48, of Lake Stevens, is a major in the Army National Guard. He won his seat in 2006 by defeating the Republican incumbent, Dave Schmidt, and has been re-elected twice.

He is chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, putting him in the center of legislative conversations regarding tolling on I-405, calculating of car tab fees by Sound Transit and replacing the trestle on U.S. 2.

In 2015, when Republicans controlled the chamber, Hobbs, as part of the minority caucus, helped craft the $16 billion transportation improvement program known as Connecting Washington which included an 11.9-cent increase in the gas tax.

The self-described “radical moderate” leans left on most social and civil rights issues and leans right on fiscal issues and tax policy.

“I’ve carved out a niche in Olympia,” Hobbs said, noting his approach engenders him to receiving criticism from all quarters depending on the subject. “If you’re going to be representing the 44th you need to be ready to take that.”

In this past term, Hobbs led efforts to require health insurers to provide coverage for abortion if they are doing so for maternity services.

He voted for a bill banning bump stocks, but legislation raising the legal age to own a semiautomatic rifle failed to get a vote partly because he was unwilling to support it.

If re-elected, he said he’ll focus on sustaining ample funding for public schools, toeing the centrist line on fiscal policy, getting more transportation dollars to communities for use on local projects and combating the opioid epidemic.

Roulstone, 68, is a retired naval officer. He was a combat pilot in the first Gulf War and later served as captain of the USS John C. Stennis aircraft carrier.

In 2006, he made an unsuccessful challenge of Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen. In 2014, after Republican state Rep. Mike Hope resigned, Roulstone was appointed to the seat and served about four months. He left after Mark Harmsworth’s election in November 2014 .

Roulstone said one reason he got into the race this year is to help Republicans regain control of the Senate and be a counterweight to the Democratic majority in the House and Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee.

“I just think we need to have a balance in Olympia,” he said.

On the campaign trail, Roulstone talks about lowering property taxes and car tabs, easing congestion, and preventing any form of tax on income.

“When I meet voters, they tell me they don’t like the tolls on I-405, they don’t like the possibility of tolls on the trestle, they don’t like the carbon tax and they don’t like the capital gains tax,” he said.

The trestle is an area of difference between the candidates.

Roulstone opposes tolls to pay for building a new westbound trestle. Hobbs said it is too soon to rule them out as an option for a project that could cost up to a billion dollars. He cited a report given to lawmakers earlier this year containing a slew of financing mechanisms worth considering including a gas tax, a transportation benefit district, tolling, and public-private partnership.

On education, both candidates said more funding is needed for special education, counselors and therapists. Neither is ready to tinker with the cap on how much money school districts can raise from local property tax levies.

Both candidates said they oppose Initiative 1631, to create a new fee on carbon emissions, and Initiative 1639, to impose new regulations for buying and owning firearms.

Hobbs said he is against the carbon fee initiative because it doesn’t put revenues into the transportation budget for use in reducing tailpipe emissions, one of the largest sources of pollution.

He has authored bills to impose a carbon fee that steers money into transportation but those bills have not made it out of the Senate.

Roulstone does disagree with Hobbs on public records.

This year, Hobbs voted for a bill to limit which lawmaker records are released. Inslee vetoed it.

“One of the major problems of government is the lack of transparency,” Roulstone said.

Hobbs said not every constituent email should be made public. “I believe there is a compromise out there,” he said.

As of Tuesday morning, Hobbs had reported $376,627 in contributions and $156,011 in expenditures to Roulstone’s $179,650 in donations and $172,837 in expenses.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@herald Twitter: @dospueblos.

What’s at stake?

A four-year term representing the 44th Legislative District in the state House of Representatives, Position 1. The district is home to more than 150,000 people in Lake Stevens, Mill Creek and Snohomish, plus parts of Everett and Marysville. The job pays $48,731 annually.

Meet the candidates

Steve Hobbs

Party: Democrat

Age: 48

Residence: Lake Stevens

Experience: State senator, first elected 2006; Senate Transportation Committee chairman; Army National Guard, infantry major; U.S. Army veteran, served in Iraq and Kosovo; ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2016, for U.S. House in 2012 and for state House in 1994.


Doug Roulstone

Party: Republican

Age: 68

Residence: Snohomish

Experience: Snohomish County Charter Review Commission member, 2016; appointed state representative in 44th District for a brief period in 2014 after a resignation; ran unsuccessfully for U.S. House seat in 2006; retired U.S. Navy; served as captain of the USS John C. Stennis; was combat pilot in the first Gulf War.


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