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Steaming for the Statehouse 

& & by Pia K. Hansen & & & &





Third District


(downtown Spokane and parts of the South Hill and North Side closest to downtown)





State Representative, Position One





Incumbent Alex Wood (D) vs.


Drew Lesofski (R)





Drew Lesofski is friends with Michael Parks, who's also running for office for the first time. Parks is also running in the Third District, but for Position Two.


"I decided to run because my wife and I just purchased a house, and we are frightened by all the sex offenders released here," says Lesofski, who's lived in Spokane for three years. "Sex offenders should be released back into the county where they offended."


Lesofski is a Native American but says he doesn't claim any tribal membership. He's worked for the health and human services in the administration for Native Americans since 1995, traveling to Washington, D.C. He says he wants to stand up for Native American rights and issues within the Republican Party, providing a new perspective the party badly needs.


Locally, he wants to make sure Spokane gets its fair share of the transportation budget.


"The state is spending road money on other programs, such as subsidizing the ferries and the general fund," he adds. "That is wrong, that money is for roads, it shouldn't go for state supported welfare."


Incumbent Alex Wood is running for his third House term. The WSU graduate worked in radio and television in Spokane from 1979 to 1996 when he was first elected. He serves on the transportation committee and says he supports the "three Cs of Government: compromise, consensus and comity.


"We have the highest rate of poverty around here, so I think the most important thing we have done is to get minimum wage in," says Wood. "When that kicks in on January 1, we'll have the highest minimum wage in the nation."


Wood worked with Rep. Jeff Gombosky (D) on the business empowerment zones that are proposed for Spokane and says such efforts are paying dividends.


"A lot of new businesses are moving into West Plains, and we should take any job -- we need them all," says Wood. "We need the lower ranking jobs, too, for people who go from welfare to work. They need a place to start."





State Representative, Position Two





Incumbent Jeff Gombosky (D) vs. Michael Parks (R)





Michael Parks is another first-timer in the battle for state office, and though he has worked with his fellow Republican Lesofski to get this far, he is running on his own platform.


"The Legislature is not doing its job," he says. "If it was, then why do we have to continue to bring our own initiatives to the ballot to force the Legislature to do what we'd like for them to do?"


Parks owns an Espresso Shop on Northwest Boulevard and works in a prison work release program. "I'm in favor of wiser spending. We need to find the wasted spending, and then reduce fees and taxes."


Parks, who moved to Spokane in 1989, is opposed to what he calls special rights for homosexuals. He says that if only the law was applied as it is, homosexuals would have plenty of protection from discrimination -- they should not obtain minority status.


He's a pro-lifer who grew up in a politically active family in Orange County, Calif.


"I'm a Republican running in an area that's 70 percent Democrats, so I believe the Republican Party has been putting its attention to other and hotter races -- I'm not sure I stand a chance," says Parks. "I guess what I'm saying it that this is why Drew [Lesofski] and I have been doing this grassroots kind of thing together. We're out there ringing doorbells and meeting people."


Incumbent Jeff Gombosky is aiming for his third term in the House. He remains the youngest member of the House, and is considered by many in his party as a perfect example of a young up-and-coming legislator. Since his first election in 1996, his career has gone full speed ahead. He is currently a member of the appropriations, economic development, housing, trade and higher education committees.


Earlier this year, he was one of the main forces behind the revision of the state's community empowerment zone program, which will now let Spokane, if declared an empowerment zone, provide tax incentives to businesses located in zones that are challenged by poverty and unemployment, as is the case in many areas of the city. He says the local economy is the biggest issue facing his district.


"We need to continue our investments in higher education," says Gombosky, "as we have done in Spokane with WSU Health Sciences Building and the Allied Health Building at SFCC.


"We also need to continue to provide new institutions that will further economic development," he continues, "such as what we have done with our investments in SIRTI. We need that to continue to have new economic development."





State Senator





Lisa Brown (D) is running unopposed in a district where she seems firmly seated. She was elected state representative in 1992 and 1994 before she won the senate race in 1996.


She is the chair of the Energy, Technology and Telecommunications Committee, the vice chair of the Ways and Means Committee, and she's on the Education Committee as well.


The economics professor from EWU markets herself as an I-get-things-done senator. She has worked on health care issues, expanding women's coverage in areas such as cancer screenings and is widely known as a consumer advocate. As for why she ran again, she says, "I'm in such a good position as chair of the Energy Committee and vice chair of Ways and Means, and there are so many things I want to do, and so many ideas I have.


"There is so much at stake in this election, the majorities in the Statehouse, and in the senate, and in the national election as well. People really need to get out and vote."





Fourth District


(Most of the Spokane Valley, Northeast Spokane and the east side of the South Hill)





State Representative, Position One





Incumbent Larry Crouse (R)


vs. Carol Ford Duncan (D)





Duncan was one of the locked out Kaiser workers, so she says she knows firsthand the trials and tribulations working families in Spokane are faced with every day. Her focus is to bring better paying jobs to Spokane and to increase medical coverage for working families.


In education, Duncan is against I-729 (the charter school initiative), saying it will divert too many tax dollars to what she calls experimental, semi-private schools. But she's for I-728 (reduction of class sizes) and also for I-732 (cost of living increase for teachers).


She agrees that roads and other infrastructure needs to be fixed, but will not support any legislature that does so by cutting funding for schools, seniors or health care.


Incumbent Larry Crouse is seeking his fourth term in the House. A former Kaiser Aluminum machinist, he now serves as the chair of the Eastern Washington Republican Caucus and describes himself as a full-time legislator. He serves on the Appropriations Committee and is co-chair of the Technology, Telecommunications and Energy Committee.


"I'm running on less government, tax relief for all citizens and relief from parts of the property tax," says Crouse. "I'd like to eliminate the state's part of the property tax altogether, and no, that doesn't mean we'll lose programs."


Crouse adds that the state's surplus is so large -- $1 billion or more even after I-695 -- that there should be enough money to go around. He says the health care programs needs to be looked at closely.


"Most of the programs are federal, but the state needs to step up to the plate and pay part of the prescription prices for seniors," says Crouse. "And the people who work in the nursing homes are really underpaid. The state already supports them, but we need to do more of that."





State Representative, Position Two





Lynn Schindler (R) vs. John Kallas (D)





When Republican incumbent Lynn Schindler was first elected, she ran on a platform dedicated to government accountability when it comes to spending taxpayers' money. She's stuck with that, she says, and this time around she has added more priorities, including securing permanent transportation funding for Spokane and working on property tax relief for everyone. She supports independent school districts and wants to work harder at solving people's insurance problems.


Schindler moved to Spokane in 1982 from Wisconsin, and she and her husband run a property management company together. She's currently the vice chair of the Education Committee and also serves on the Judiciary and Transportation committees.


"We need to rein in some of the agencies," says Schindler. "The legislature has given away too much control, and we need to take that back. For instance with the Department of Ecology and with the unelected boards that oversee the Growth Management process."


John Kallas is a retired detective who says his first priority is public safety.


"I want to represent all people of the Fourth District, and I'm running on the values of fairness, equality and accountability," says Kallas, who lives in Veradale. "My goals include affordable health care for all, and I'll work to establish a livable wage as opposed to a minimum wage."


Kallas was Spokane County's first crime analyst, and after a nine-year stint on what he calls "the notorious Sea-Tac strip" in Seattle, he's now a property manager in the Spokane Valley.


"I'm tired of public education bashers," says Kallas. "Private school vouchers are not the solution, and charter schools must be examined carefully. We must not weaken the public schools."


Obviously Kallas supports funding for law enforcement. "We need to provide law enforcement with funding to educate people," he says. "They need to be able to purchase modern equipment to better protect the public."





State Senator





Bob McCaslin (R) vs. Jim Peck (D)


vs. Rob Chase (Libertarian)





Incumbent Senator Bob McCaslin, who has been a state senator since 1980, is facing two challengers this year. He's lived in the Valley for 40 years and is seeking reelection from a community he says he feels strongly connected to. His main issues are to reduce taxes and government regulations, enforce tough laws against crime and to assure a high quality public education.


McCaslin is the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee and says he'll use this position to get as tough on criminals as they are on their victims.


Running against McCaslin on the Democratic ticket is Jim Peck. Peck moved to Spokane in 1995 after retiring from a 27-year military career. He currently works as a substitute teacher in District 81.


"There is great concern in the Valley about attracting and retaining livable wage jobs," says Peck, who's running for office for the first time. "I live in Liberty Lake, and we have sort of a new economy boom out here that the rest of the Valley doesn't have. We need to move some of the businesses closer to the Valley."


Peck supports targeted tax incentives for businesses, though he says he really is on the side of working families. Another issue he feels strongly about is health care.


"There is a great deal going on at the federal level, but we need to look at state level as well," says Peck. "There is not a high enough reimbursement from Medicaid and Medicare, and I think the state should look into a single payer health plan that would make care available for everyone."


Also in the running is Robert Chase, with the Libertarian party. He's lived in Spokane since Expo '74 and holds a degree in operations management from EWU. He has worked for Agilent Technology in Liberty Lake for the last six years.


"Government is getting too big. Taxes are now to the extent that it takes both spouses to hold down jobs to support the family, and that's detrimental to children," says Chase. "Children have to depend on government run schools and cable TV. People should be able to take part of their property taxes and give it to their private school of choice."


Chase advocates that welfare and other social services be provided by volunteers instead of by the state or federal government. "You just get more bang for your buck when it's privately run charities who take care of things like that," he explains. "And it's good for people. We tend to insulate ourselves from the impoverished and the ugly side of life. We need to deal with that."





Sixth District


(Most of the South Hill, parts of West


and Northwest Spokane)





State Representative, Position One





Brad Benson (R) vs. Bernie Nelson (D) vs. Jesda Gulati (L)





Though he is running against Brad Benson for the second time, Bernie Nelson is more determined than ever. He's a life-long Spokane resident who has just recently retired after 41 years of service in the state government.


Nelson is a strong supporter of public schools since, as he puts it, they educate most of the state's children. He wants to make universal health care available for all Washington residents, and he supports women's right to choose. Nelson also supports a long list of senior issues, such as affordable housing for low-income seniors and strengthening the Family Caregiver Support Act. He also says it's time to get serious about tackling some of the tougher issues, even if they are complicated.


"We have in our culture a great faculty for taking complicated issues and reducing them to simply a few paragraphs," says Nelson. "Then we don't stick with that, we reduce them to a 30-second soundbite, and then from there to a bumper sticker. We've got to get away from that bumper sticker mentality. It's not doing us any good."


Benson's top priority is bringing jobs to Spokane. "We need more good jobs so hardworking people can get ahead and support their families," he says. He supports the state's education reform, saying that each student should be ensured great teachers and a safe environment to learn in. He has lived in Spokane since '86.


On health care, Benson wants to provide better health care, but any new system must be based on the patients' choices.


Although 19-year-old Gulati's Libertarian campaign has lost steam, he held quite a good starting point: He set a record in the primary, accumulating the most votes ever for a third party candidate in his district. Also the chair of the Spokane County Libertarian Party, Gulati is a small Internet business owner who was born in Thailand but grew up in Illinois before he moved to Spokane. He says the government has grown too big, to a point where citizens now serve the government instead of the government serving the citizens. He is for smaller government and lower taxes.





State Representative, Position Two





Jack Geraghty (D) vs. John E. Ahern (R) vs. Bonnie Varner (L)





Former Spokane Mayor Jack Geraghty says he is running on the experience ticket. Having served both as mayor and as Spokane County commissioner, he says he knows people in the legislature and would be able to hit the ground running.


"My top priorities are public education and transportation," says Geraghty. "We should get our share of the rest of the state's booming economy." He supports the final development of a north-south freeway, and the safety improvements on Highway 195, where he wants to complete four lanes all the way to Pullman.


Geraghty says he may support charter schools, if they are closely monitored by the school districts.


"Education is key. I have a deep knowledge of the K-12 system, and I also served for 12 years on EWU's Board of Trustees," says Geraghty.


Running against him is John E. Ahern, who owns Janco Products. He says he was inspired to run for office for the first time at the Republican State Convention, which was held in Spokane earlier this year.


His main platform is to lower taxes and for Spokane to get its fair share of the road maintenance money from Olympia. If the streets don't get fixed soon, CEOs visiting from other areas won't be brining back their companies, he says. Bringing in businesses with better paying jobs is another priority of his. Ahern also believes there are too many sex offenders being released in Spokane.


Also running is Bonnie Varner from the Libertarian Party. She says she decided to run because her son said she complained too much and did too little.


"He said, 'You never do anything about it,' " Varner says. "And I thought, if we all sit around and complain, then nothing will ever change. So I ran."


The former Safeway bookkeeper says she first of all believes in making government smaller and reducing taxes. "I don't have problem paying taxes if only the government would please not waste the money. They must become accountable," says Varner. "If we make the departments and agencies accountable, we won't lose services." She also advocates ending the war on drugs, saying that illegal drugs only stimulate gang wars and crime.

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