District 17 hopefuls disagree on most of the top issues

Women both have education background

By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian assistant metro editor



17th District House Candidates, Position 1

Matthew Homola

Age: 38

Party: Republican

Residence: Vancouver

Campaign website

Money raised: Has not reported to the Public

Disclosure Commission because Homola plans to raise and spend less than $5,000.

Major endorsers: Not disclosed

Julie Olson

Age: 49

Party: Republican

Residence: Ridgefield

Campaign website

Money raised: $26,087

Major endorsers: Washington Food Industry Association, Washington State Veterinary Medical Association, U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, state House Republican leader Richard DeBolt, former state Sen. Joseph Zarelli.

Monica Stonier

Age: 35

Party: Democratic

Residence: Vancouver

Campaign website

Money raised: $22,996

Major endorsers: Washington State Labor Council, Washington Education Association, the League of Education Voters, former U.S. Rep. Brian Baird, former Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard.

Two House candidates with backgrounds in education and a third candidate who works as a warehouse supervisor will appear on the Aug. 7 primary election ballot for voters in the 17th Legislative District.

The candidates -- Democrat Monica Stonier and Republicans Julie Olson and Matthew Homola -- are running to succeed state Rep. Tim Probst, D-Vancouver, who decided to run against state Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, rather than seek re-election. The top two candidates selected in the House race, regardless of party affiliation, will advance to the November general election.

Despite sharing a background in education, Stonier and Olson have different

perspectives when it comes to reforming the state's education system.

Olson said lawmakers and educators need to consider charter schools when reforming the state's education system. Charter schools, which voters will be allowed to decide on this fall, would be run privately but paid for with state dollars.

State "resources have to be focused on student achievement, and we have to be flexible in looking at ways to do that" Olson said. "There are some really great success stories on public charter schools."

Stonier said there have also been stories of failed charter schools, and she said she worries the state would have to pay for charter schools but not have adequate ways to watch over them. Stonier is a teaching coach who previously worked as a language arts and social studies teacher at Pacific Middle School in the Evergreen school district.

"It's taking money away from public schools," Stonier said. "There are ways that we can turn communities and schools around without opening the door to charter schools."

To improve the state's education system, Stonier said she wants to apply her experience as a teaching coach to trouble areas around the state. She said she's had success in helping close gaps in student achievement.

"We can do it with the resources we have," Stonier said. "I've seen it work, and I'm part of making it work."

Olson said she supports merit-based pay for teachers and other educators, including principals and classified staff. She was elected to the Ridgefield School Board in 2005 and has served as chairwoman of the board for the past four years.

Stonier said she doesn't support merit-based pay for teachers because she has yet to see a merit-based pay system that adequately rates how well a teacher is doing. She said she supports the evaluation plan recently approved by the state that allows schools to fire bad teachers for receiving multiple, unfavorable principal evaluations.

Columbia River Crossing

Stonier and Olson agree that the Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia River needs to be replaced, but they disagree about whether the Columbia River Crossing project should include a Portland light rail extension into Vancouver.

"I would be in support of a new bridge," Olson said. "I drive that bridge a lot and it's a mess, and it really is a choke point" for traffic.

Eliminate the light rail component of the bridge, and project planners might "not need exorbitant tolls," Olson said.

Stonier said she will support what voters decide about the light rail component of the project, although she thinks it would be smarter to pay for light rail on the bridge now than have to pay for a separate light rail project later. She also said if Clark County residents have to pay tolls to cross the bridge while on their way to work in Portland, then they should pay less in tolls, perhaps through a tax credit.

"I think tolls would be unfair for Clark County residents," Stonier said.

Homola did not return multiple calls and an email request to be interviewed for this story. In a previous interview with The Columbian for a story announcing his candidacy, Homola said he worried that using tolls to pay for the CRC would raise the prices of goods and services for consumers in Clark County.

Same-sex marriage

Olson and Stonier also disagree about whether same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. It's another issue voters will be able to decide on this November.

Olson says the civil union law Washington has now -- dubbed the "everything but marriage" law -- gives same-sex couples the same civil rights as straight couples.

"I support the civil union laws we have on the books now," Olson said, but she doesn't support same-sex couples getting married. She added that she doesn't support changing the definition of marriage.

Stonier, on the other hand, said she supports allowing same-sex couples to marry. She said such couples do not have the same rights as straight couples in Washington state.

"It's not equal rights," Stonier said. "I don't buy the argument that because people can visit each other in the hospital, that it's the same thing."

Stonier also said that the government shouldn't be involved in keeping same-sex couples from getting married.

Job growth

To help create jobs, Stonier said the state should improve job training programs, provide business and occupancy tax relief to businesses that hire new employees, and work closely with larger businesses to discover ways to entice them to move to Washington. B&O taxes are based on businesses' gross income rather than their profit.

Olson said the best thing Washington state can do to create jobs is get out of the way of businesses. She also said the state's industrial insurance system needs to be reformed because the Department of Labor and Industries, which currently offers such insurance, is harming businesses.

"We have to look at either privatizing or inserting some competition in the process," Olson said.

Stevie Mathieu: 360-735-4523 or stevie.mathieu@columbian.com or www.facebook.com/reportermathieu or www.twitter.com/col_politics