Larry Countryman, 67, is a retired artist, a semi-professional home builder and co-owner of a bed and breakfast in Snohomish. He’s also a Republican.
Hans Dunshee, 54, is a seasoned lawmaker and advocate for the environment, education and social services. He’s a Democrat with seven terms in the State House of Representatives under his belt.
The list of differences between the candidates seeking election to House position 1 in the 44th District is a long one. They take near-opposite approaches to solving the state’s budget crisis, to holding lawmakers accountable to taxpayers and to improving transportation.
Countryman, a former Snohomish city councilman, says the legislature is throwing money away, investing unwisely in such things as mass transit when commuters and freight carriers would be better served by infrastructure improvements to increase roadway capacities.
“I don’t think mass transit helps much,” Countryman said. “We need to find those choke points on our roads and highways and invest in reconstruction to get our truckers and freight carriers moving again.”
Dunshee says mass transit will offer commuters a reliable alternative, thereby reducing the number of cars on the roadway and easing congestion for those people who have to drive.
The vice chairman of the House Appropriations Committee takes issue with accusations that he and fellow Democrats have carelessly spent the state into a projected $3.2 billion deficit.
“These same people accusing us of overspending come to me for money when they decide they don’t really want to do senior programs, for example,” Dunshee said. “It’s really easy to make accusations … We’re looking at a deficit because economic levels didn’t stay where they needed to, and cuts will certainly have to happen.”
As one who criticizes lawmakers for reckless spending, Dunshee’s opponent couldn’t identify where the budget cuts should be made.
“I would need to look at the entire budget before I could address specific cuts,” Countryman said. “I have no sense of what the extraneous things are at this point.”
Dunshee, however, has been through budget cuts before.
He warns that every state funded program and agency will see reduced financial support in 2010 and 2011.
“There can be no sacred cows,” Dunshee said. “Anyone who says you can hack $4 billion without kicking some people off of health care or that schools won’t be affected is just blowing smoke.”
Dunshee expects the budget gap will continue to grow between now and the 2009 Legislative session.
“We’re already hearing from legislators, ‘If that’s cut I won’t vote for the budget,’” he said. “We’ve got to get people off those promises and focus on balancing the budget $1 at a time.”
Many people, including Countryman, say the state wouldn’t be in this mess if the Legislature had lived within its means. They want to squeeze out career politicians in Olympia to make room for a fresh set of lawmakers.
Countryman says his opponent has been in the Legislature too long.
“I have the time and money to be able to pursue public office and represent the people,” Countryman said. “My concern is balancing the budget without raising taxes.”