By JIM HALEY
A spirited political battle is emerging in the sprawling, suburban 44th Legislative District, where the majority in the House of Representatives could hang in the balance.
The most celebrated of the two House seats up for grabs is Position 2, where incumbent Rep. John Lovick, D-Mill Creek, is getting a firm challenge from writer and lecturer Irene Endicott.
Republican Endicott, 65, also of Mill Creek, expects to spend $100,000 in her bid to unseat Lovick, 49, a Washington State Patrol sergeant.
The major political parties have contributed $63,000 to the two campaigns. Republicans, sensing a chance to break the 49-49 tie in the House, pumped $43,000 into Endicott’s coffers, according to Public Disclosure Commission records.
Lovick took about 51 percent of the vote in the September primary, while Endicott logged about 45 percent.
A third candidate, Libertarian Jesse Brocksmith, pulled in less than 4 percent of the vote. Although he will shell out just a fraction of what the major party candidates will spend, Brocksmith remains on the ballot in the Nov. 7 general election.
In the Position 1 race, three-term incumbent Rep. Dave Schmidt, R-Bothell, hopes to hold off Everett Democrat Kerry Watkins
In the Lovick-Endicott tussle, the challenger has made education the cornerstone of her campaign. A conservative businesswoman, Endicott has traveled extensively, writing and speaking about family values.
"Let’s get back to really instructing the individual child," she said. "We’ve had far too many years of liberals throwing money at education programs."
Her solution is more local control of state money. Local boards can then "do what’s right for the people of the 44th District."
Although her job frequently has taken her away through the years, Endicott has been a Snohomish County taxpayer for 23 years. "I feel a responsibility to use my skills to work for families in the 44th District," she said.
Her second priority is transportation and the gridlock that has strangled highways and roads in the district. After that comes tax reform.
The 44th is a largely suburban area with rapid growth, stretching from south Everett to Bothell and taking in parts of rural Snohomish and Clearview. Mill Creek is its only city. It has some of the worst traffic problems in the state.
Lovick said that’s why he’s been working on the issue he said people really care about, including education and the transportation nightmare on I-5 and the numerous state highways that pass through the district.
The Legislature needs to find a reliable funding source for roads and transit, Lovick said. He and Schmidt, the Position 1 Republican, were part of the bipartisan coalition of state, local and business leaders who set priorities and got the Legislature to approve funds for Snohomish County roads in the last session.
A lot of those roads are in the 44th District.
"I’m going to do everything I can to get more (transportation) money for the 44th District when I get back down there," Lovick said.
As a city councilman, Lovick worked to fund a police resource officer at Jackson High School. In his spare time, he has been a youth coach and referee at youth sporting events.
"I won (two years ago) with a lot of Republican votes, and I’m going to win re-election because of the job I’ve done," Lovick said.
In the Schmidt-Watkins race, Schmidt finished with a comfortable 58 percent majority in September. Watkins and fellow Democrat Herb O’Bryant shared about 42 percent of the vote, and O’Bryant threw his support to Watkins. But Watkins ran into a problem earlier this month when he apologized for making erroneous claims about the incumbent’s record of successfully getting bills approved.
Watkins said he has scaled back parts of his campaign and stepped up others.
"We are still working" to win, he said. "We haven’t quit."
Watkins, a Boeing Co. machinist, said his apology may not hurt his chances.
"I believe the voters respect honesty," he said. "We came out and said we were wrong and accepted responsibility."
Watkins said education, transportation, privacy and government efficiency are all issues he wants to tackle. A Washington National Guard officer, Watkins said government should be able to borrow techniques from private industry to become more efficient.
Watkins expects to spend about $15,000 on the campaign. Schmidt has raised about $55,000, records show.
Schmidt last year took on Everett Transit in a bid to approve a bill merging it and the other Snohomish County bus agency, Community Transit.
"Those of us living in the Community Transit area are subsidizing Everett Transit," Schmidt maintains.
This is the only area in the state with two major public transit authorities in the same county, Schmidt says, and it is unfair that Everett residents can use Community Transit buses and not have to pay taxes to support the operation.
Leadership was one of the reasons, Schmidt said, that Snohomish County did well in transportation funding last session, even after passage of Initiative 695, the measure that gutted the motor vehicle tax and sent lawmakers scrambling to find money for transportation.
"Snohomish County was very well organized in presenting its needs, where the priorities were for the county," Schmidt said. "That helped a lot in being able to get us a lot of money."