GOP incumbents aim to hold 14th District seats

CRC an issue in Columbia River Gorge counties

By Patty Hastings, Columbian breaking news reporter

Published:

 

Two Democratic newcomers are challenging the Republican representation in the 14th Legislative District covering Skamania and Klickitat and parts of Clark and Yakima counties.

Reps. Charles Ross, R-Naches, and Norm Johnson, R-Yakima, both received more votes in the August primary than their opponents and have spent time campaigning together.

Ross is running for re-election for Position No. 2 against newcomer and former Yakama Nation Tribal Council member Mathew Tomaskin, 49. Tomaskin was born and raised in Yakima Valley and works for the tribe as a legislative liaison. His platform calls for fair and equal representation of all political and ethnic groups in his district.

He supports the Washington State Voting Rights Act, a bill that failed in the Legislature last session that would have made it easier for groups to challenge voting where racially polarized voting exists.

His opponent, Ross, has served in the House for six years, during which he work to craft solutions to gang violence, including stronger penalties for people who commit gang crimes and elude the police.

Education

When it comes to higher education, Ross said he doesn't just want to pour more money into the system. He's working on creating incentives for institutions that ensure students are able to complete their degrees on time.

Tomaskin would like to start getting kids ready for college during K-12 education, creating a self-sufficient workforce that's ready for higher education.

Columbia River Crossing

The proposed Interstate 5 bridge construction is a hot topic issue, even in the 14th District.

"I think people are becoming very nervous that the bridge won't reduce congestion," Ross said.

He's undecided on Proposition 1, the C-Tran sales tax measure that would fund maintenance and operation of a light rail line from Portland to Vancouver and a bus rapid transit project in Vancouver, but he said there needs to be more research and discussion on replacing the bridge. Tomaskin would like to see the project done, because having people able to easily travel between the states helps the economy.

"You can't impede traffic on major freeway major artery," Tomaskin said.

The candidates also disagree on these other issues:

• Initiative 1185, requiring any tax increases posed by the Legislature to be approved by a two-thirds vote of the legislature. Tomaskin opposes it; Ross supports it.

• Initiative 1240, to create a public charter school system. Tomaskin opposes it; Ross supports it.

• Initiative 502, to legalize marijuana possession for people over 21. Tomaskin is undecided, but leaning toward supporting it; Ross opposes it.

• Referendum 74, to allow same-sex couples to marry. Tomaskin supports it; Ross opposes it.

Both support Joint Resolution 8221, which creates a constitutional amendment that would lower Washington's debt limit and Joint Resolution 8223, which deals with investments by the University of Washington and Washington State University.

• • •

Democrat Paul Spencer, 67, of Stevenson, is running for Position No. 1 against Johnson. Spencer, after retiring from a career in manufacturing, unsuccessfully ran against Rep. Bruce Chandler, R-Granger, in 2010.

Higher education

To reduce the burden of college tuition on Washington families, Spencer would like to reduce administrative costs and create state-funded student loans with very low interest rates.

Johnson, 74, was a teacher and counselor before being elected into office in 2008, and said education is his top priority. He thinks that early learning, K-12 and higher education should all be discussed by one committee.

"That way, we're not going to be competing one against the other," Johnson said.

Health care

When it comes to health care, Johnson said his district is challenged to meet the mandates outlined in the 2010 Affordable Care Act, because there are no providers in Klickitat and Skamania County for people who are on the basic health plan.

Spencer would like to see the state expand Medicaid to its citizens.

"Health care — and basic food and shelter — should be a citizen right, no matter what the person's current financial situation. The data shows that programs such as Medicare and Medicaid are the most efficient insurance systems in financial terms," Spencer said.

Columbia River Crossing

Johnson would like to see the I-5 bridge replacement issues discussed and put to a vote of the people on both sides of the river. There are a lot of questions that need to be answered before anything is done, he said.

Spencer would also like to see the proposal fleshed out, but he's supporting C-Tran's Proposition 1. Although he also supports light rail, he recognizes the technical issues and says a better approach might be to build another railroad bridge next to the existing span.

The candidates also disagree on these other issues:

• Initiative 1185, requiring any tax increases posed by the Legislature to be approved by a two-thirds vote of the legislature. Spencer opposes it; Johnson supports it.

• Initiative 1240, to create a public charter school system. Spencer opposes it; Johnson supports it, so long as it's part of the public school system.

• Initiative 502, to legalize marijuana possession for people over 21. Spencer supports it.

• Referendum 74, to allow same-sex couples to marry. Spencer supports it; Johnson opposes it.

• Joint Resolution 8223, to create a constitutional amendment that deals with investments by the University of Washington and Washington State University. Spencer opposes it, but is in favor of creating a state bank; Johnson supports it.

Both, however, support Joint Resolution 8221, which creates a constitutional amendment that would lower Washington's debt limit.

If Spencer and Tomaskin win the election, the 14th Legislative District will still have Republican representation. Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, is running unopposed this election. He was first elected into the Senate in 2007.