Outsiders challenge party favorites for state seat

Two candidates backed by their respective parties are being challenged by party outsiders in the race for state representative, position 2 in the 10th Legislative District.

Dave Hayes, a Republican from Camano Island, is seeking a second term. He faces three challengers in the primary election, including one candidate from his own party.

Island County residents should have received their ballots in the mail. They should be returned by the Aug. 5 primary election.

Oak Harbor resident Brien Lillquist, who admits to being unconventionally honest in his views, is running as a Republican. He previously sat at the North Whidbey Park and Recreational District board.

His reason for running is without nuance.

“I don’t like any of the people down there,” he said. “My main concern is that nothing seems to change.”

Mount Vernon resident Nick Petrish, a Democrat, earned the endorsement of the Island County Democratic Party. He has many of the conventional views of Democrats, but a unique background. He grew up hunting and fishing in Anacortes and was an interrogator in the U.S. Army before becoming a union electrician; the Second Amendment and labor rights are both important to him.

“I’m all about guns, gun safety and gun rights,” Petrish said, adding that he feels a practical solution can be found for the registration issue.

Oak Harbor resident David Sponheim is also running as a Democrat but has been spurned by the party.

On its website, Island County Democratic Party warns against voting for Sponheim, stating that “He is not actually a Democrat. Don’t be confused!”

Sponheim ran for president as a member of America’s Third Party, a centrist political party he co-founded, but he said his views most closely align with Democrats when it comes to the two major parties.

However, Sponheim said in a letter to the Whidbey News-Times, “The Democratic Party is completely out of step with the people of America.”

“I’m a fiscal conservative and a liberal on social issues,” he said.

Sponheim and his partner, Sarah Hart, have an Internet video chat program. They talk politics and introduce a variety of creative solutions for world problems.

Sponheim raised some eyebrows when he applied blackface to parody of Barack Obama on his program. He maintains he’s not a racist and was just exercising his First Amendment rights.

The four candidates agree that funding education is likely be the biggest issue facing state lawmakers in the wake of the McCleary decision.

In that ruling, the state Supreme Court found lawmakers aren’t meeting their constitutional responsibility by fully funding education and must fix the problem by the 2017-18 school year.

Hayes, who serves on the House Education Policy Committee, said he expects that McCleary will “absolutely overshadow everything else” during the next legislative session.

Hayes said he doesn’t think a tax increase is necessary and will only consider one as a last resort. He said lawmakers should be able to find savings from reforms and streamlining government.

The state simply doesn’t have the billions of dollars extra it would take to fully fund education, Lillquist said, adding part of the problem is that small pet projects “nibble away” at the budget, but even without those expenditures, the money just isn’t there.

Lillquist said he isn’t in favor of raising taxes to fund education.

Petrish said he is more optimistic about the McCleary issues and believes solutions are out there.

He said the state can raise money by closing corporate loopholes in tax law and “clawback” tax breaks from companies that don’t keep up their end of tax-break bargains.

Sponheim has many unique ideas for improving education and raising funds. He supports the legalization of recreational marijuana and believes it can be a goldmine for the state but said progress in opening dispensaries has been too slow. He proposes that the state set up a scholarship fund that will be doled out to students based on test scores.


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