Three Republicans vie for 20th District Senate seat

Job creation a key issue for incumbent, pair of challengers

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20th District Senate candidates

John Braun

Age: 45.

Party: Republican.

Residence: Centralia.

Website

Money raised: $38,815 as of June 29.

Major endorsements: Had not released list as of June 29.

Rae Lowery

Age: 49.

Party: Republican.

Residence: La Center.

Website

Money raised: None.

Major endorsements: None.

Dan Swecker

Age: 65.

Party: Republican.

Residence: Rochester.

Website

Money raised: $47,618 as of June 29.

Major endorsements: Cowlitz County Republican Party, Rep. Richard DeBolt (House Minority Leader), Rep. Gary Alexander, Rep. Ed Orcutt, Lewis County Commissioner Bill Schulte, and former Winlock Mayor Cy Meyers.

Republicans in the 20th District will have a diverse choice of candidates for the state Senate seat in the August 7 primary. Democrats, however, are out of luck -- no one filed to run as a Democrat in the district, which begins just south of Olympia and stretches south to nudge into northern Clark County.

The candidates are Rae Lowery, a social services worker; Sen. Dan Swecker, the incumbent; and John Braun, a local businessman.

The top two vote-getters in August will advance to the November general election ballot.

Swecker, who has served on the Senate since 1995, said he's running because he thinks he has unfinished business in the Legislature. He wants to continue to save the state money and attract businesses by simplifying the permit process, he said.

By attracting businesses, his work has also helped generate jobs, he said. And creating jobs is still Swecker's priority.

"I don't say 'jobs' lightly," he said. "Lots of people sit around and talk about jobs and regulatory reform, and they've never done it. And I have."

Braun is the president of Braun Northwest, a company that manufactures emergency vehicles. His background would bring an important perspective to the Senate, he said. That's because manufacturing is a key driver for economic growth, along with farming and resource development, he said.

"I don't think we're as focused on building that base as we should be," he said.

Like Swecker, Braun's primary focus if elected will be adding jobs by creating a good business climate, he said.

Lowery knows a bit about jobs, too. She works at Clearview Employment Services in Vancouver and finds jobs for homeless people. She said politicians are too far removed from the problems that face many Washingtonians.

"People are losing everything," she said. "I think that they could be helped, but the people that are in politics seem to be too far away to really know what to do. And I've been right there in the trenches -- I know what to do, I know what would work."

Sizing up the competition

Neither Swecker nor Braun views Lowery as a threat.

"I don't see her as a viable contender," Swecker said. "She has no political background, and doesn't have any of the necessary contacts or knowledge to actually put herself forward."

Lowery said she knows the other two candidates don't view her as a serious contender, but thinks that can work in her favor.

"I clearly feel I have the skills or I wouldn't be running," she said. "I'm going to win. It sounds so vain, but I'm going to win."

Braun and Swecker also expressed confidence. Braun said he's running because the people of the 20th are ready for someone more connected with the current business world. Swecker is out of touch, he said.

"I don't think two decades of service -- while commendable -- is necessarily a positive right now," he said. "People are looking for new leadership. They're looking for a choice, and that's what we're offering."

Conversely, Swecker said Braun is somewhat naive, and doesn't have the experience necessary to successfully navigate the complex Legislature.

Taxes

On raising revenue, all three candidates said they oppose tax increases. Braun said the Legislature has a lot of work to do before hiking taxes.

He wants to create a better business climate, he said. Braun said privatizing workers' compensation would be a good first step. Washington is the second most expensive state for workers' compensation, he said.

"We know we're not very efficient," he said. "And yet we don't do anything about it. And there's a known solution."

Education

Both Swecker and Braun support fully funding basic education, with some stipulations. Swecker said the Legislature needs to redefine basic education and get rid of unfunded requirements.

Braun agreed that the Legislature should take a closer look at education dollars. He said lawmakers should keep looking for new solutions.

Lowery echoed the idea of evaluating education spending. However, she disagreed that the Legislature should fully fund basic education, despite the recent state Supreme Court decision emphasizing the need to prioritize basic education as stated in the Washington Constitution.

She said she doesn't support fully funding basic education because it's already so heavily funded.

All three support the creation of state-funded charter schools. They said a wider range of choices would benefit Washington students.

Marijuana

The three candidates followed party lines once more, opposing the legalization of pot. Swecker said wide availability of marijuana could lead to more people driving while high. Lowery said she disapproves of all illegal substances.

"Now this is really archaic of me, but I think that all drugs are stupid," she said. "Alcohol, nicotine, even caffeine are so harmful … (marijuana) is just one more drug that we have very easy access to if it's legalized."

Same-sex marriage

None of the 20th District state Senate candidates support legalizing gay marriage. In fact, Swecker has lately become a leader for Washington Republicans on the issue.

"In my mind, there really is only one relationship that rises to the level of government endorsement and promotion, and that is the relationship between a man and a woman, and the reason is because that is the only relationship that results in producing the next generation," he said.

Lowery did not know an earlier law had given domestic partnerships in Washington the same rights as married couples.

"So what's the reason for the marriage part then?" she asked. "What else do they need? … If you can have a domestic partnership that has all the legal rights, I don't see the need just to change the word and have exactly the same thing."

Braun said that because domestic partnerships have the same legal rights as marriage, it's not a pressing concern.

"This is not the defining issue of our time," he said. "The issues right now are the budget, the economy, education -- that's what we should be focused on."

Swecker echoed his challenger nearly word-for-word and said the coming years will be tough for Washington.

"We have huge problems ahead of us," he said. "Budgetary problems, economic problems, employment problems, education problems -- those are all huge issues. And what we need are people who will have the best opportunity to deal with those issues based on experience. And I think I am that person in my current race."

As for the House of Representatives in the 20th District, Richard DeBolt is unopposed for Position 1 and John Morgan faces Ed Orcutt for Position 2. All three will advance to the November ballot.