Rivers holds big fundraising lead over Schmidt in 18th District race

Former representative seeks to hold on to Senate seat

By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian assistant metro editor


photoRalph Schmidt

Ann Rivers' 2012 candidate survey

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Ralph Schmidt's 2012 candidate survey

Download .PDF

18th District candidates

Ann Rivers

Party: Republican

City of residence: La Center

Age: 46

Occupation: Small business owner

Campaign website: Elect Ann Rivers

Major endorsements: National Rifle Association, Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, Washington State Farm Bureau, Association of Washington Business, Washington State Council of Firefighters

Money raised in campaign: $148,190

Ralph Schmidt

Party: Democrat

City of residence: Camas

Age: 70

Occupation: Retired information technology specialist

Campaign website: None

Major endorsements: Clark County Democratic Women’s Club, Planned Parenthood, 18th Legislative District Democrats, Clark County Democrats

Money raised in campaign: $4,872

State Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, is campaigning in the 18th District this fall to defend her recent Senate appointment against Democratic tax reform advocate Ralph Schmidt.

Rivers, previously a member of the state House, was appointed in June to complete the final months of Joseph Zarelli's term.

Rivers and Schmidt disagree on most issues, including the Columbia River Crossing, how to increase job opportunities in Clark County, and whether same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. Another difference between the two is seen in their fundraising abilities. Rivers has raised nearly $150,000 in campaign contributions; Schmidt has raised nearly $5,000.

On the proposed Columbia River Crossing project, Schmidt said the Interstate 5 Bridge should be replaced as soon as possible, and that recent differences between CRC officials and the U.S. Coast Guard, which has permitting authority over the CRC, should be resolved as soon as possible. The proposed $3.5 billion CRC project would replace the Interstate 5 Bridge, extend light rail to Clark College, and rebuild freeway interchanges on both sides of the Columbia River.

"While this area does not have much seismic activity, it has enough to make possible collapse of a current bridge into the river a dangerous risk," Schmidt wrote in response to The Columbian's 2012 legislative candidate survey. "We cannot risk the loss of river traffic for months, if not years."

Meanwhile, Rivers does not support the CRC in its current form.

"We need a new bridge on the Columbia River," Rivers wrote. "The project that we have been presented with is the wrong project, though. … Bridge location, elimination of light rail, fixing the bridge height issues, competent design, poor transparency (and) public input, and a lack of federal funding are but a few of the concerns that must be addressed in order for me to be supportive."

Rivers does not support bringing a light rail line over the bridge from Portland into Vancouver, while Schmidt does support bringing light rail to Vancouver, calling it "inevitable." Both candidates said that if tolls are necessary to pay for the new bridge, then breaks should be available for frequent users.

Economy, jobs

Schmidt said one of his top three priorities is reforming the state's tax structure, which he says would help the economy and increase jobs. He has said that the poor carry the toughest tax burden when compared to other members of society.

"Reforming the Washington state tax structure will allow small businesses to be more successful and taxpayers to have more discretionary income," Schmidt said. "The increased economic activity will allow small businesses to hire more people."

Schmidt, a retired U.S. Air Force veteran, has a master's degree in taxation from Golden State University.

Rivers' ideas for improving the economy include making the climate friendlier for business. This includes reducing the burden of worker's compensation costs for businesses, reducing regulations and reducing permitting fees, Rivers said.

"We must create an environment that is welcoming and supportive of business in the entire state, which will certainly benefit Clark County," she said.

On health care, Schmidt supports expanding Medicaid to more Washingtonians, as outlined in the 2010 federal health care reforms. Rivers does not appear supportive of that plan, saying she has concerns about the Medicaid expansion.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled recently to mostly uphold the health care reform act, but it also ruled that each state can decide whether to participate in the law's Medicaid plan. Medicaid is a health insurance program that provides coverage for low-income people and the disabled.

"In Southwest Washington, there are very few Medicaid care providers," Rivers said. "Adding more people without adding providers would result in even more limited access to care."

On the Medicaid expansion, Schmidt said: "Funded by the federal government, this plan will actually reduce health care costs to Washington state."

Ballot measures

Schmidt supports a ballot measure that would allow same-sex couples to marry. He also supports an initiative to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Rivers opposes those measures.

Schmidt did say he has doubts about the marijuana measure because "marijuana can cause memory loss" and "federal law will still prevail," he said.

Schmidt opposes an initiative that would require any tax increase posed by the Legislature to be approved by a two-thirds vote of the Legislature, rather than by a simple majority. Rivers supports that ballot measure.

Rivers was elected to the state House of Representatives in 2010 and she served on the Judiciary Committee, the Transportation Committee, the Rules Committee, and the Business and Financial Services Committee. The Rules Committee decides which bills to send to a vote on the House floor.

Schmidt, a retired computer programmer, thought he would be running against Zarelli when he filed for candidacy in mid-May. Schmidt has said he does not expect to win. He wants to use his campaign as a vehicle to advocate for changes in tax policy that he says would help grow the middle class.

Ballots for the Nov. 6 general election will be mailed to voters Oct. 15. State legislators earn an annual salary of $42,106, plus a $90 a day allowance to cover expenses such as food and lodging while on state business.

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