3 candidates bring diverse agendas to 14th Legislative District race

By Justin Runquist, Columbian small cities reporter



14th District candidates for state representative

Gina McCabe

Age: 51.

Residence: Goldendale.

Party: Republican.

Past elections to public office: None.

Occupation: CEO and general manager of Goldendale's Quality Inn & Suites, owner of several businesses, high school dance and cheerleading coach.

Education: Bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Washington, associate's degree from Clark College, studied law for two years at Concord University.

Top endorsements: Former congressman Sid Morrison, Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, Rep. Norm Johnson, R-Yakima, Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, Lloyd Watson, a co-founder of Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences.

Amount of campaign money raised so far: More than $45,000.

Paul George

Age: 84.

Residence: Yakima.

Party: Democrat.

Past elections to public office: Yakima city councilor, 2001 to 2003, mayor of Yakima, 2004 and 2005.

Occupation: Retired, Washington horse racing commissioner.

Education: Two years at the University of Portland, bachelor's degree in English from St. Martin's University (Saint Martin's College at the time).

Top endorsements: Yakima County Democratic Central Committee, Yakima South Central Counties Central Labor Council, Teamsters Local 760, Klickitat County Democrats, Skamania County Democrats.

Campaign money raised so far: $5,072.

Adam Yoest

Age: 30.

Residence: Yakima.

Party: Republican.

Past elections to public office: None.

Occupation: Staff sergeant with the Washington Army National Guard, where he works as a government liaison to military contractors.

Education: Master's degree from the University of Southern California's School of Public Policy, bachelor's degree in political science from Central Washington University.

Top endorsements: Republican Liberty Caucus of Washington State.

Campaign money raised so far: About $3,200.

Voters will get to choose from a batch of fresh faces in this year's race to represent Washington's 14th Legislative District.

Instead of fighting to hold onto his seat for a fifth term in the Legislature, incumbent Rep. Charles Ross, R-Naches, is running for Yakima County auditor. In his place, three new hopefuls with diverse backgrounds have stepped forward to vie for his seat in the House.

Perhaps the best-known name of the bunch is former Yakima mayor and councilor Paul George, 84, who serves on the Washington Horse Racing Commission. George is the only candidate in this race with experience in an elected public office, and he's the lone Democrat in the field.

George, a journalist before diving into politics, faces an uphill battle for the seat. He jumped into the race in hopes of becoming the first Democrat from Yakima elected to the Legislature in nearly 20 years. And if elected, he'll become one of the oldest to ever serve in the Legislature.

If he's going to accomplish those feats, George will have to campaign hard to come out ahead of Republican Gina McCabe, a Goldendale businesswoman who currently leads the pack in fundraising and high-profile endorsements. Though new to state legislative campaigns, McCabe said her background in business has long been paving a road to Olympia.

McCabe, 51, said she brings more than 25 years of economic development experience to the table. In addition to her position as the CEO and general manager of Goldendale Quality Inn & Suites, she and her family own several businesses.

Newcomer Adam Yoest, a 30-year-old from Yakima, hopes to establish enough of a presence to gain an edge with McCabe's Republican supporters. Yoest, a staff sergeant in the Washington Army National Guard, said he decided to join the race because his views best align with the values of what he sees as an increasingly conservative district.

The ballot will also feature a fourth candidate, Ben Shoval, who suspended his campaign late last month after receiving unfavorable poll results. Shoval finished third, behind George and McCabe, with only 13 percent of 500 likely voters supporting him.

But Shoval dropped out too late to get his name off the ballot, so he could still move on to the general election if he gets enough votes in the primary.

The three other candidates share two key legislative priorities: preserving jobs and supporting small businesses. Aside from that, they're quick to point out their differences.

George said his eyes are set on passing a comprehensive transportation budget and a state voting rights act, restoring public works funding and protecting public employee pensions. He also lists carbon pollution reduction and dealing with climate change among his top concerns.

McCabe said her priorities include honoring veterans and ensuring fiscal accountability in state government.

"We must stop living beyond our means," she said. "It is our duty to leave a healthy future for the next generation."

Yoest shares McCabe's view about government spending. The biggest problem with state government today is it's a bureaucracy running amok, he said.

But Yoest paints a contrast between himself and McCabe when he talks about his other top priorities: protection of the right to bear arms, rejecting Common Core standards in public education and the protection of property rights.

On the local level, the candidates have vastly different stances on transportation funding priorities and whether Vancouver should become home to the Northwest's largest oil-by-rail terminal.

George opposes the terminal. The jury's still out for his Republican opponents, but Yoest said he doesn't think the state should get involved in the decision.

Yoest and McCabe said transportation funding should go toward maintenance and repair for the state's ailing roads and bridges. Both are hesitant about whether a new bridge over the Columbia River is necessary.

George disagrees, saying he thinks the state should put more funding into public transit, including the revival of the Columbia River Crossing project with light rail included.

The 14th Legislative District comprises Skamania and Klickitat counties, part of eastern Clark County, and western Yakima County.