Taxes, U.S. 2 top issues in race

It’s a race that pits a state senator who’s spent her career trying to make government smaller against a former law officer who spent his career in government.

Sen. Val Stevens, an Arlington Republican, is attempting to defeat former Sultan Police Chief Fred Walser in the Nov. 4 election to retain her seat in the 39th Legislative District.

Stevens, 68, has built her reputation in Olympia as a strong advocate for fiscal conservatism.

She is seeking her fourth four-year term and she wants to “get the government out of the way” for businesses struggling in the slow economy.

“I have a track record of working hard for citizens,” Stevens said. “I have stood against tax increases, particularly property taxes. I believe there’s enough (money) to provide basic government service.”

Walser, 68, D-Monroe, spent about 40 years as an officer for the Washington State Patrol and as Sultan police chief. He said he’s been “very active in the community” through many organizations. He said he plans to maintain his style as a lawmaker.

“I will be very visible and accessible in the district,” Walser said.

Walser, chairman of the U.S. 2 Safety Coalition, said that transportation is his top issue and he’s especially concerned with the deadly highway.

“My opponent has never come to U.S. 2 Safety Coalition meetings to find out how she could help,” he said. “That’s the reason I decided to run. I thought I could be more effective.”

Stevens said she attended two meetings related to U.S. 2 last year. One was a gathering that Gov. Chris Gregoire organized in Monroe after touring the highway. The other was when state lawmakers who are in charge of transportation projects gathered in the city.

“I don’t know about monthly meetings” of the U.S. 2 Safety Coalition, she said. “(Walser) needs to invite me.”

The highway needs more than $2 billion in overall improvements. Walser said that it’s his efforts that have helped win $14 million for the highway this year.

“It’s our friends and neighbors who are being killed out there,” he said.

Stevens said that if re-elected, she wants to reintroduce a bill that aims to siphon a portion of sales tax revenue from automobile products to pay for transportation issues including those along U.S. 2.

The state has “ignored Highway 2 for so long to a point where nobody can ignore it now,” she said.

In June, Walser pleaded guilty to providing false information to a public servant, a gross misdemeanor, while being police chief in Sultan. He was ordered to do community service and pay fines to the city.

“It was an unintentional lapse on my side,” he said. “But I take responsibility for my actions.”

Stevens said that the incident shows a lack of integrity.

“A law enforcement officer who breaks the law now wants to make the law,” she said. “If you betray the trust as a law enforcement officer, how do you regain the trust as a lawmaker?”

Stevens said she plans to focus on reforming the Children’s Administration in the state Department of Social and Health Services. The agency has a problem supervising children in foster care. It doesn’t support foster parents well, she said.

“We believe they need to re-prioritize their mission,” she said. “We have a tremendous turnover in caseworkers. That turnover is causing lack of stability in the agency.”

As the state is facing a budget deficit next year because of the slow economy, Stevens said she’s committed to reducing the scope of the government and balancing the state budget without raising taxes.

“We need to re-prioritize,” she said. “I don’t know where cuts need to come, but we are facing very tough economic situation.”

Walser said that in addition to transportation, he’s focusing on education and public safety. His wife was a teacher in Monroe for 27 years; that has helped him learn about education issues such as Washington Assessment of Student Learning, Walser said.

“We have to do a better job of supporting teachers and finding an alternative to WASL,” he said. “We have to keep our kids engaged in our schools.”

His long-term service in law enforcement should help him improve issues related to domestic violence, child abuse and predatory sex offenders, Walser said. He’s supportive of creating specialized courts to deal with those issues.

“Judges need more flexibility in their courts in sentencing,” he said.

Reporter Yoshiaki Nohara: 425-339-3029 or

Val Stevens

Hometown: Arlington

Age: 68

Education: Attended public schools

Party: Republican

Experience: State representative 1992-95; State Senator 1996-present; Washington state director for Concerned Women for America 1987-91; state chairwoman for American Legislative Exchange Council 2000-07; and elected to the exchange council’s National Board of Directors 2006-present.

Web site:

Fred Walser

Hometown: Monroe

Age: 68

Education: Associate degree in liberal arts from Everett Community College; bachelor of science in law and justice administration from Central Washington University.

Party: Democratic

Experience: Served for about 40 years in law enforcement as an officer for the Washington State Patrol and as Sultan police chief, and has been the chairman of the U.S. 2 Safety Coalition for 11 years. Former member of various community organizations, including Monroe Lions Club, Monroe Rotary Club and East Snohomish County Health Network at Valley General Hospital.

Web site:

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