Peterson takes on Wylie in 49th District

Incumbent, challenger at odds on most issues

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter


photoDebbie Peterson

Debbie Peterson

Party: Republican.

City of residence: Vancouver.

Age: 60.

Occupation: Substitute teacher.


Major endorsements: David Madore, candidate for Clark County commissioner; Gun Owners’ Action League; Vancouver-based Holland Group property firm; LifePAC, and state Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver.

Money raised in campaign: $13,549.15


Debbie Peterson 2012 Candidate Survey

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photoSharon Wylie

Sharon Wylie

Party: Democrat.

City of residence: Vancouver.

Age: 63.

Occupation: Management consultant.


Major endorsements: Washington Fire Chiefs, Children’s Campaign Fund, John Rudi, CEO of Thompson Metal Fab; Deena Pierott, member of the State Commission on African American Affairs; former Congressman Brian Baird, D-Wash.

Money raised in campaign: $50,460.91.


Sharon Wylie's 2012 Candidate Survey

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Newcomer Debbie Peterson has challenged State Rep. Sharon Wylie, D-Vancouver, for her seat in the Democratic-leaning 49th District.

Peterson, a substitute teacher, challenged Wylie to try to help rein in state spending, improve the state's public education system and stop the Columbia River Crossing project to replace the Interstate 5 Bridge in favor of another plan for transportation across the river.

Wylie touts legislative experience her opponent lacks and has raised more than three times the amount Peterson has in campaign money.

Wylie was appointed to the state Legislature in April 2011 to replace former Rep. Jim Jacks and elected in November 2011. She also served as a lawmaker in the Oregon House of Representatives from 1993 to 1998.

In a second term in the 49th, Wylie said her priorities would be supporting job creation, education and safety-net programs.


Peterson said she looks to North Dakota as an example of how to create a business-friendly environment in the state.

"Because of the oil boom, North Dakota had to have services immediately," Peterson said in a response to The Columbian's 2012 candidate survey. "They swept off the table massive regulations and prohibitive fees. The result: businesses and jobs are being built and thriving."

Wylie said she supports streamlining permitting requirements for businesses to create the conditions for faster economic growth.

"Although there is a limit to what government can or should do to create employment, building the right physical infrastructure and ensuring education options throughout the working life of residents is critical," Wylie said in response to the candidate survey.


A unanimous state Supreme Court ruled in January that the state has failed to adequately fund basic education, as required by the state constitution.

Peterson said the state should not spend more money on education. She said she favors reducing spending in education administration and moving that money to the classroom.

"Throwing money at the problem isn't going to solve our pitiful school performance," Peterson said.

Wylie said the state needs to identify cost savings throughout the state

budget, which could be applied to education. Technology and distance learning also could help reduce education expenses, Wylie said. Then, the state needs to identify additional revenue sources through a public discussion of spending priorities, she said.

Columbia River Crossing

Wylie supports the Columbia River Crossing project to replace the Interstate 5 Bridge, but she acknowledged the current project has problems that need to be addressed before moving forward. She also supports including light rail across the bridge.

"I like light rail and believe it is a logical part of a transportation system that should be focused on the next 100 years," Wylie said. "Currently, the federal support incorporates light rail into financing and design. We must go with that reality."

Peterson opposes the project. She said a Corps of Engineers report from 10 years ago projected the bridge had another 50 years of life. That information was on the Oregon Department of Transportation website until the department removed it earlier this year. The department said the information was incorrect, and the bridge increasingly needs maintenance. Peterson said she supports waiting to replace the bridge and possibly retrofitting it for greater earthquake resistance.

The candidates also disagree on these other issues:

• Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. Wylie supports it; Peterson opposes it.

• C-Tran's Proposition 1 to raise sales tax by 0.1 percent to pay for maintenance and operation of light rail and cover bus rapid transit on Fourth Plain Boulevard. Wylie supports it; Peterson opposes it.

• Initiative 502 to legalize marijuana possession for people 21 and older. Wylie supports it; Peterson opposes it.

• Referendum 74 to allow same-sex couples to marry. Wylie supports it; Peterson opposes it.

• Initiative 1185 to require any tax increase posed by the Legislature to be approved by a two-thirds vote of the Legislature. Peterson supports it; Wylie opposes it.

• Initiative 1240 to create a public charter school system. Peterson supports it; Wylie opposes it.

The candidates agree on Resolution 8221 to amend the constitution to decrease the state's debt limit and on Resolution 8223 to amend the constitution to give the University of Washington and Washington State University more flexibility to invest pensions, retirement funds and other public funds in hopes of gaining greater returns on investment.

Paris Achen: 360-735-4551;;;