By Jerry Cornfield
OAK HARBOR — Republican state Rep. Barbara Bailey began campaigning Monday to unseat Democratic state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen in a contest that could decide the political control of the Senate.
“It is the right time for me. It is the right time for the district. It is the right time for the state,” Bailey said shortly before a kick-off event in a restaurant in her hometown of Oak Harbor.
She said she wants to restore a GOP majority in the Senate for the first time in eight years. Republicans now hold 22 of the chamber’s 49 seats and need to pick up three this fall for control.
“It’s not about taking on Senator Haugen. It’s about taking on the Senate Democrats in order for us to move forward for our state,” Bailey said. “I really look forward to changing the direction of the Senate.”
Haugen, a fixture in the Senate since 1993, responded Monday by announcing she will seek a sixth term. For months, the Camano Island resident had said she was uncertain about the race.
“I plan to run,” said Haugen, who as chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Committee is one of the chamber’s most influential voices. “I fully intended to announce my plans after the special session. We really need to try to get through this session without making it a political thing.”
The two women will duel for a four-year term in the 10th Legislative District, which includes all of Island County and parts of Snohomish and Skagit counties. It’s pretty evenly split among Democratic and Republican voters.
While Haugen serves in the Senate, Bailey and another Republican, Rep. Norma Smith of Clinton, represent the district in the House.
Bailey, 67, is in her fifth term as a state representative.
“We’ve got to reset, reshape and reform government,” she said. “How many special sessions can we have in which we are not addressing issues we need to address?”
She serves on the House Ways and Means Committee, the chamber’s budget-writing panel, as well as the Health Care and Wellness Committee and the Business and Financial Services panel. She also is chairwoman of the Select Committee on Pension Policy and a leader of the Joint Committee on Veterans and Military Affairs.
When pressed for specific differences between her and Haugen, she cited one:
“I would not be casting the deciding vote on a social issue,” she said referring to Haugen’s support of the law legalizing marriage for gay and lesbian couples.
Haugen, 71, is among moderate and conservative Democrats belonging to the Roadkill Caucus. Unlike some in that group, however, she’s been a loyal vote for her party’s leadership on crucial budget issues this year.
This re-election contest, she said, will be decided by who voters think will best serve them. Haugen said she’s delivered with expanded access to higher education, road projects through the transportation budget and, in recent years, new ferries.
“All they have to do is look at my record,” she said.
But Haugen may have to deal with fallout from last year’s civil trial involving her husband, Basil Badley, a former lobbyist for the insurance industry. A jury found he groped and sexually touched his wife’s former campaign manager without the woman’s consent and ordered him to pay her $50,000 in damages.
“I’m sure they’ll bring it up,” she said. “If people want to go that route, that’s fine.”
This is likely to be an expensive campaign though both Bailey and Haugen cannot raise any money until the special session concludes.
As of Monday, Bailey had $53,132 available if she ran for her House seat. She’ll need to get permission from those donors to shift the funds into the Senate race.
Haugen had $27,843, according to campaign finance reports filed with the state Public Disclosure Commission.
Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; email@example.com.