LONGVIEW — The two candidates for the 20th District state House of Representatives seat are taking different approaches to campaigning during the COVID-19 pandemic and how to balance the budget.
At the same time, they agree the local economy needs more family jobs and that rural infrastructure needs a boost.
The 20th District includes parts of Clark, Cowlitz, Lewis and Thurston counties.
Centralia Republican Peter Abbarno said he hasn’t changed any of his campaign strategies since the primary, because it worked for him then. He won 47 percent of the total vote across the four counties.
“I’m campaigning in all four counties with socially distanced, small meet-and-greets,” Abbarno said. “I’m just trying to meet people as much as I can in this new age of campaigning.”
Toutle Democrat Timothy Zahn said while he typically prefers knocking on doors and meeting people where they are, he hasn’t done that due to COVID-19 and does not plan to. He won about 26 percent of the vote in the primary.
“I know if you take the right precautions there’s not a high risk of infection, but the last thing I would ever want to do is give anybody COVID so even the remote possibility I could give it to someone is too much,” he said.
He said he’s “sticking to emails, responding to people who talk to me and going to every forum that I can.”
“I think that’s the best we can do,” Zahn said. “I’m working with what I have.”
Abbarno said that from the primary to now, he’s found that voters are focused on the same local issues.
“It’s still the economy. It’s still about schools and when they’re going to reopen. It’s still about rural broadband infrastructure,” he said.
Abbarno said concerns for working families and small businesses also “haven’t changed much.”
“It’s making sure your employees get paid and you stay open,” Abbarno said. “If you’re a working family, it’s how to stay employed and make ends meet. I’m finding that most of the people I talk to are not so much focusing on large federal issues but are really focused on those kitchen table issues.”
Zahn said he’s also heard people bring up the state budget deficit. Zahn favors a temporary 1 percent wealth tax on people with more than $10 million in assets.
“The budget is a huge one and I think far as I know I’m the only one who offered a solution that doesn’t require cuts to vital services,” he said. “If they do cuts it will be to things like higher education, early education and social services.
“Those typically cut benefits and services for people who either can’t stand up for themselves or rely heavily on those services, and that’s just wrong, especially when there are people in our state who have made billions of dollars off the coronavirus.”
Abbarno said he prefers specific cuts to the budget, not an across-the-board 15 percent cut as Gov. Jay Inslee proposed.
Abbarno and Zahn both agree that the McCleary fix to school funding has not been fair and needs to be changed and that rural infrastructure needs to be improved, including broadband internet.
Zahn also wants to keep farmers on their land and make Centralia College a four-year school with an added agriculture school. Although some of his ideas are not typical for the district, he said he’s gotten some positive responses from people.
“It seems like people are interested in something new and maybe seeing somebody who will try something that most politicians hesitate to do,” Zahn said.
Abbarno is endorsed by Rep. Richard DeBolt, a longtime Chehalis Republican whose seat he is seeking; Republican state Sen. John Braun; and Republican state Reps. Ed Orcutt and Jim Walsh, among others. He has raised about $74,800, mostly from individuals and businesses.
Zahn is endorsed by Thurston County Democrats, Cowlitz County Democrats and Lewis County Democrats, among others. He has raised just over $5,200, mostly from the party and individuals.