Two Democrats hope to unseat Barbara Bailey in Senate

Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor (Washington State Senate Majority Coalition Caucus)

OLYMPIA — Barbara Bailey helped Republicans grab control of the state Senate when she ousted the incumbent Democrat, Mary Margaret Haugen, in one of 2012’s most contentious and costly legislative races.

This year, two Democrats are trying to prevent Bailey from winning a second term in the 10th Legislative District and help their party regain the majority. They are Angie Homola, a former Island County Commissioner, who is endorsed by Haugen, and Nick Petrish, a union electrician, who ran for state representative in 2014.

The top two finishers in the Aug. 2 primary will advance to the November general election. The winner will serve a four-year term representing residents of Island County and parts of south Skagit County.

Bailey, 71, of Oak Harbor, served five terms in the state House before moving to the Senate. She is chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee and a member of the Ways and Means Committee, which writes the budget for the chamber.

“I take every election very seriously,” she said. “It’s not just who’s running against me. I see campaigns as a re-affirmation of the people of whether or not they want you to continue serving them.”

Among the achievements she cited from her first term were approval of balanced budgets, an unprecedented tuition cut for college students and increased funding for public schools.

She also touted her support of legislation to invest $16 billion into the state’s transportation system in the next 16 years and separate bills to stabilize Island Transit operations and restore a popular commuter route linking Camano Island, Stanwood and Everett.

Bailey also helped pass a bill in 2014 enabling undocumented immigrant students to receive state financial aid after she had blocked the effort the year before.

Homola, 56, of Oak Harbor, was elected to the Island County commission in 2008, beating longtime incumbent Republican Mac McDowell by 62 votes. Four years later, Homola was out after losing to her Republican challenger, Jill Johnson.

Homola, who is principal and sole proprietor of Straight Edge Architecture, LLC, said she will do what she did as a commissioner and “represent the will of the people in a bipartisan, transparent and fiscally responsible way.”

She said as a commissioner, she helped restore fiscal solvency to the county and improve its bond rating by trimming expenses, controlling energy and health care costs and freezing salaries of elected officials.

Homola criticized Bailey for not getting more funding for district projects included in the $16 billion transportation package and funding voter-approved initiatives for smaller class sizes and annual cost-of-living adjustments for teachers.

“My opponent has been in Olympia for too long,” Homola said. “She toes the party line, refusing to close billions of dollars in corporate tax loopholes, while agreeing to raid police and firefighter pensions, and environmental cleanup funds.”

Petrish, 53, of Big Lake located near Mount Vernon, is a union electrician. He lost to Rep. Dave Hayes, R-Camano Island, in 2014.

Petrish entered the race ahead of Homola ­­— whom he calls a friend — and opted to continue competing after she got in.

“I am not deluded into thinking this is an easy election,” he said. “I am running because we have ideas we want to inject into people’s heads and the public debate.”

He called for establishing a state-run banking system and using profits to pay for infrastructure, government operations and maybe even public schools.

Petrish also vowed to push for development and production of clean energy from thorium, a radioactive chemical element. He contends there are processes in which thorium can be a means of generating low-carbon electricity.

“To me it is the silver bullet that can save the planet and our economy,” he said.

Several issues differentiate the candidates. Earlier this year, the socially conservative Bailey voted to repeal a state rule ensuring transgender people can use public bathrooms of the gender with which they identify without discrimination. But the effort failed by one vote.

Bailey said she objected to a commission enacting the rule rather than the Legislature.

Homola and Petrish both expressed strong support for the rule.

On the proposed initiative to boost the state minimum wage and provide full-time workers with paid sick leave, Homola and Petrish are unabashed supporters. Bailey, who has not supported legislative attempts to boost the wage, declined to take a position on the initiative.

And on the issue that will dominate next year’s legislative session — complying with the McCleary decision to fully fund public schools — the candidates offer contrasting approaches. It is estimated that as much as $3.5 billion is needed in the next state budget to cover the expected cost of compliance.

Homola and Petrish want to raise additional revenue but Bailey doesn’t, at least not yet.

“I will support closing tax loopholes and fair taxation to uphold our state’s constitutional mandate, and moral obligation, to fund students and schools,” Homola said.

Petrish called for “stopping corporate welfare” and suggested they start by examining the tax breaks for Boeing.

“Everybody has to start to pay their fair share and they’re not,” he said.

Bailey said a special legislative committee is coming up with options and she wants to see the results before choosing a path.

“We are making a substantial investment,” she said. Those ideas must be considered before “we rush out and have some new tax or restructure our tax system.”

Bailey leads all candidates in fundraising with $125,440 as of late June, according to online reports of the state Public Disclosure Commission.

Her donor list is dominated by the state’s larger business, health care and utility interests including the Boeing Co. Puget Sound Energy, BP North America and Premera Blue Cross.

Homola had collected $53,000, almost all of it from individuals living on Whidbey Island and Camano Island.

Petrish reported $13,051 with the largest share coming from unions representing electrical workers and carpenters.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com, Twitter: @dospueblos

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