An educator and Columbia River Crossing opponent is running in the 49th Legislative District this election season against incumbent state Rep. Sharon Wylie, D-Vancouver.
Republican Debbie Peterson, 60, of Vancouver, also ran for the same position in 2008. At that time, she said she made her decision to run for office because she wanted a brighter future for the children she taught.
“I looked at these kids one day,” Peterson said, and “I thought: ‘What kind of future will they have when they graduate, stepping into the state of Washington? You are going to be so burdened by taxes — and by things you never had a chance to vote on.'”
She said education remains a top priority — improving high school drop out rates in particular.
Another priority will be to continue on “a path to make our state fiscally sound again,” she said, praising the spending reforms put in place by Republicans in the 2012 Legislature.
She also said opposing the current plan for the new Interstate 5 Bridge over the Columbia River would be a priority. She called
the proposed interchanges near the bridge a “concrete octopus” eyesore, said the bridge will not solve congestion, and that the project will encroach on historic parts of Vancouver.
Peterson said she doubts light rail on the bridge will significantly relieve bridge congestion, adding that taking the light rail into Portland would be an inconvenience because people would have to drive to the station and wait for the train.
She said she wants to see the bridge retrofitted so it can last another 60 years.
“It’s a beautiful bridge, and it’s an historical bridge,” she said. “Why would we want to take an asset like that down?”
If the nearby railroad bridge was updated instead of the Interstate 5 Bridge, then the bridge lifts would happen less often, Peterson said. The I-5 bridge is often lifted for boats that have to pass through the swing span of the railroad bridge but cannot maneuver to get under higher points of the I-5 bridge, she said.
Peterson taught at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School in Vancouver from 2000 until 2008 before becoming a substitute teacher. For the past couple of months, she has put substitute teaching on the back burner so she can do some consulting work for a political action committee called the Economic Transportation Alliance.
Through the Economic Transportation Alliance PAC, Peterson said she is paid by Clark County Commissioner candidate and businessman David Madore to research bus rapid transit. Peterson said the PAC work she’s doing is strictly educational, but she will stop working on the project if a bus rapid transit proposal goes before voters, making it a political issue.
Peterson also is a member of the Smarter Bridge Coalition, a group of CRC critics that advocates for alternatives to the project. She previously worked for Madore for three months, organizing about 700 electronic files about the CRC project obtained through a public information request.
Before becoming a teacher, Peterson worked as loan officer and a financial specialist. She has a bachelor’s degree in biology from Northwest Nazarene University in Idaho and a teaching certificate from Concordia University in Portland.
“My first passion is actually teaching,” Peterson said. “I love to teach. I’m a natural teacher, so it’s like breathing for me.”