FourC holds forum for state legislative candidates

By Lois Krafsky-Perry and Sue Forde
Citizen Review Online

Posted June 30, 2010

Sequim, WA - June 28, 2010 - Approximately 450 people gathered to listen to seven legislative candidates, as they shared their sometimes, different views about how to run Washington State.

The Boys’ & Girls’ Club’s gymnasium was filled to almost capacity and people were anxious to hear plans and ideas from candidates.

Pat Tenhulzen, representing FourC (Concerned Citizens of Clallam County)  opened the meeting and recognized approximately  25 home school students, who attended the event.

National radio syndicate host Mike Siegal, from New York, facilitated the event and directed the pre-sent questions to the candidates.

Pete Church-Smith asked that ground rules would be followed, and shared the theme for the speakers:  “What is the candidates’ approach for problems in District 24 and the State of Washington?”

Retiring house member, Lyn Kessler (D)  was honored by the FourC group, which hosted the event.  Kessler has served 18 years in the legislature and she encouraged the attendees, “just remember to be civil, remember what our parents taught us.  Listen, learn and choose on merit,”  She cautioned the audience not to express anger over the frustration with “the great recession.”

Sequim police chief Bob Spinks received a special “thank you” for his service to the community.

The candidates present were Jim McEntire (R) , Jack Dwyer, (D)  Larry Carter (R), Steve Tharinger (D) , vying for 24th District House of Representatives, Position 2; and Kevin Van De Wege (D) , Craig Durgan (R) , and Dan Gase (R) , running for Position 1.

Pete Church-Smith introduced the candidates and explained that this forum would be to learn each candidate’s approach to District 24 and to Washington State.  He then  acknowledged the homeschoolers’ group which has been attending all the FourC meetings, over the past few months.  He introduced and turned the meeting to Mike Siegal as moderator, for the event.

Each candidate spoke for five minutes.  

Craig Durgan began, stating that our government needs to be fundamentally changed –  not the kind of change that President Obama talks about, but it needs to return to its Constitutional roots.  He talked about the issue of the ever-increasing debt at both national and state levels.  “This nation needs to get spending under control,” he said.

Larry Carter suggested, “let’s get involved in this adventure, of Democracy, as I call it.”  He explained that he got involved in this race because of Lyn Kessler.  “We are going to set aside I-960 and raise taxes?” he asked.  He said that is not endorsed by anyone. There are problems to fix---it is  going to be rough, because we are so broke, remarked Carter

Steve Tharinger, Clallam County Commissoner, was next to speak.  He stated the “process” should be “transparent”.  He said globalization is changing our economy, and we “can’t go back to the 1950s.”  The “solutions are…complex,” he remarked.  Besides being the current county commissioner for District 1, he is also chair of the State Salmon Recovery Board and chair of the Dungeness River Management Team (DRMT).  “The only thing that is clean and simple is our expectations.  We’ve been extenuating the cost on our environment way too long,” he announced.  His goal is to strengthen public trust in institutions.

Jack Dwyer is a chiropractor from Montesano, and is on the board of the school district, there.  He said they have taken the school district from “in the red” to “in the black.”  He is involved with Special Olympics.  He stated he would “talk across the aisle”, and indicated that prioritization of the outgoing money is necessary, with education being number one. Integrity, honesty, and trust are his goals, for the position.

candidate forumKevin Van De Wege is the only incumbent running.  He said we are “having to deal with the greed of many people,” and that it’s not the fault of the State Legislature.  “There is a financial crisis. I hate to think the state is to blame, or can fix it,” he announced.  

He said he’s had some success in helping with job creation, which is one of his priorities.  As an example, he got the bank to listen to K-Ply, and then encouraged the government to pay attention to that company.  He supports the Jobs Act, energy efficiency in rural schools, bio-mass as a way to create energy.  He wants to make Washington a “business-friendly state”.  Van De Wege also is employed by the local fire department as a paramedic.

candidate forumJim McEntire said he understands the concept of responsibility and accountability.  He said he is a “commonsense conservative, adding,  “we are overspent, not undertaxed.”  He stated that the State needs to get rid of the regulations that are harming business and individuals.  He wants to be sure that “we have commonsense environmental” laws. “Economy, then environmental,” he stated.

Dan Gase said he is running primarily because of his grandchildren’s future.  He comes from a diverse background as a businessman, and “not a single day as a politician.”  He said the State has a “regressive B&O tax” – if a business makes no profit, it still has to pay the B&O tax.  “We’re a state that has a spending problem,” he remarked.  He would use a “commonsense, logical business approach.” “We are on a slippery slope, in the wrong direction for our state, “ said Gase.

A series of questions, as submitted to the FourC board, were asked of each candidate.  Mike Siegel asked the questions according to a drawn number by each candidate, as to who would go first.  For each question asked, the person’s name that was drawn was invited  to speak to the issue for several minutes, then the other candidates were allocated 30 seconds to make their responses.

The first question was to learn what the top five priorities would be for each candidate:

Tharinger responded that his top five were:  Education, economic development (infrastructure, funding agencies like health care for the disadvanataged), to use tax dollars to stimulate the economy, like using money for sewer in Port Angeles and Carlsborg.

Van De Wege said his are education, health and human services, medicare Part D, foster care, tax incentives and criminal justice.

Durgan stated that public education costs around $9,000 per student, and that it’s half that amount to send children to private schools.  He said infrastructure would be a priority, that he would cut regulations that inhibit jobs; he would place police, fire departments and social programs as a priority.

Gase stated  his priorities as:  education, health and safety, and assistance to local and district businesses.  He  said, “government should stand out of the way to let us create jobs.”

McEntire said his priorities would include the legal obligations of the state, law and justice, transportation, and commonsense environmental regulations.

Dwyer stated his priorities include jobs, to reduce restrictions on business, to reduce the B&O tax, funding basic education, and to improve mass transit.

Carter said he would work toward serious budget cuts, and cut the bureaucracy.

The next question was about the State Department of Ecology (DOE): what is it’s appropriate role?

Carter talked about the battle with the DOE in Jefferson County; he said he would cut 85-90% of their budget.  Things like WRIAs 17-20 and the CAO (Critical Areas Ordinance)  “take away our rights” on how we can use our own property, he said.  He is the CAPR (Citizen’s Alliance for Property Rights) president, and would like “to take them down at the knees.”  They (the DOE) want to “protect all the critters except for ‘us’ critters,” he said.

Tharinger answered, “the DOE is everbody’s whipping boy”.  He said the legislature directs them  what to do.  We need things like stormwater control, he added.  He said the DOE doesn’t stress customer service enough, and he would work to change the “culture” there to a more “citizen-friendly way” of doing things.

Dwyer said it’s “Ecology versus the economy”.  DOE “loves their programs.”  He then  raised the issue of whether they are “really protecting the environment” or hamstringing people.

McEntire answered, “results, not process.” He quoted the words stated by Chatham and emphasized the importance of those, from  history,  not allowing anyone to cross the threshold, not even the King of England.  He was addressing ‘eminent domain’ and was speaking about the rights of property owners.

Gase jokingly said, “I am from the government, I am here to help you.” He stated that  DOE is to serve the people of the state, not to serve themselves, and there’s “no accoutability” in that agency.

Durgan said the agency needs to be abolished.  “It needs to be abandoned;  it is running on auto-pilot,” he said. He would eliminate it along with the WACs (Washington Administration Codes) they have created.  “It’s running on its own - it’s a fiefdom,” he said.  

Van De Wege  referred to making sure water is clean and that oil spills do not happen, and there could be proper clean-up, in the event it did happen. He said, “DOE is not going is a hard bureaucracy to take”  He said the legislature is “trying” to control it; there are over 1,000 employees.  He added that the legislature needs to change the “culture” in the agency.

Question.  “What, if anything, would you do for the private sector?”

Dwyer said, “Get rid of the B&O tax---promote private sector growth.”  He stated that we need living wages for families.  “Roll back B&O taxes and restrictive laws,” he recommended. He said he would “scale them down so payrolls could be met.”

Van De Wege said, ”Private sector---job growth.”  He pointed to Batelle as an example of government helping the private sector.

Durgan answered, “The government needs to get out of the way.” He reminded people of the fight for his land use happenings in Jefferson County.  “The government is the biggest problem, and they need to get out of the way,” he said.

Gase said Olympia needs a mindset to make adjustments to incentives and tax structure for “long term results”.  We can be number one business friendly in the United States, he said. He referred to problems with bonds.  We pay for 20 years with bonds, there are long term ramifications,” stated Gase.

McEntire answered, “Set the table and get out of the way.”  He said that capitalism is the economic order.  He is proud of the role, that the local port has taken.  [He serves as an elected board member].  He stated that tax policy has been kept the same. “Get regulation on the side of business, not opposing it,” said McEntire.

Carter mentioned  the state and liquor sales issue.  He discussed zoning issues---limit growth. He said community development is on the fast track and it is hard to get systems approved in Jefferson county. We need to “get the State out of competing with private business,” he maintained.

Tharinger discussed partnering in education and also job training.  He mentioned sewer, water and transportation.  We need “partnership” in technology development, he said.  He pointed to the government partnership with Batelle.  He suggested wind energy.  “Partnership with government” will lead to private jobs, he said.

The next question, “How do you see the new federal health care law in your decision as a state legislator?”

McEntire encouraged people to tell their representatives what kinds of programs they desire.  He stated it should be the State’s decision, and through the generosity of our communities.  There is much to be said for volunteers instead of relying on government, he said. He would rather see individual responsibility for funding their own heath care. “I fear the situation could increase cost of health care,” he said. He said it lays a heavy burden on every state, and will add to the economic burdens we already have.  “I would push back very strongly against unfunded mandates from Washington, D.C.”, he affirmed.  

Tharinger said he disagreed to McEntire.  A system that “gobbles up money needs to go to “outcomes”, rather than be “fee-based”.  

Carter said he expects it to be overturned in the courts and commended Attorney General Rob McKenna’s involvement with a current court endeavor. “We cannot afford what we have now,” stated Carter.

Dwyer answered that the savings to the State would be about $180 million, and he “would  like re-invested in Washington Basic Health.”

Gase--- “It is a confused topic---full of holes, with lots of uncertainty,” he answered.

Durgan--- “Problem was beginning with the government.  National Health Care is just one more big government.... we need to scrap it,” he declared.  We can’t go outside our State to purchase healthcare insurance.  The federal “healthcare” plans is just more big government, he stated.  “Now we have a monster that will eat us alive,” and we need to get rid of it.

Van De Wege said he is watching it.  He mentioned health insurance for working poor.  The federal will affect it. “I hope it will be good for the Olympic Peninsula,” he remarked.

Next question---- Would you support renegotiating state employee contracts in case of a fiscal emergency?

Durgan said “yes”.  “In these hard times, everyone has to take a little bit of a hit.  “It is hard times,” he announced. He referred to DOE.  “They get pay raises,” he said.

Van De Wege answered, “We are doing a lot along those lines of what you want to see happen with $7 million in cutbacks.” He explained that some state workers are having unpaid furloughs.  

Gase said, As a small business man, you learn about making adjustments and opening contracts.”

McEntire answered, “Yes.”

Dwyer said, “We all have sacrificed....We need to get our priorities straight...Reallocate our money.”

Carter said, “Yes, we are facing an unimaginable mandate.”  The average government worker gets $55K a year, compared to the average private sector worker, who gets $26K, he said.  The State needs to renegotiate with the unions.

Tharinger said the State doesn’t get to re-open the contracts, but the idea is to hold the line.  “We all share challenges,” he announced.

“Would you support Initiative 960 being reinstated?”

Van De Wege said, Yes, and that he voted to that it be reinstated one year from today. “We did suspend 960,” he said.  “There’s a reason you have to be careful with’re saying you’re okay with tax loopholes....We suspended for about 15 months,” he answered. He said there was ‘a movement’ to change it.  He said it would stop them [legislature] from realizing new revenues.  “Be careful, your tax dollars will fund Wall Street,” he declared.

Durgan answered that he would not vote to suspend the initiative. “The will of the people needs to  be honored,”  he stated.  “The want to bring in a [state] income tax - they say it’s for the wealthy, like the sales tax, he said.  We have had the same thing over and over again---excuses need to stop,” suggested Durgan.

Gase said, “For 15 months or 15 seconds, they discarded what the people wanted”. He emphasized that increasing taxes is not good.  Call it for what it is: raising taxes, not “increasing revenue”.  The added that the “priority of the government is more government.”

McEntire declared that “the will of the people should be honored, not suspended.”  He desires smooth pursuit for family businesses. “Take the shackles off the people for growing a business,” he said.

Dwyer answered that it’s “taxation without representation.  We continue to waste money.”  He added, “When we speak, the government needs to listen.... We are wasting money.  We need to be represented.”

Carter referred to Van De Wege’s comments.  “Voted on 1-960 and then set it aside?”  We support raising taxes? he said.  “Our mission is to cut the size of government and the budget. That is the mindset of the progressives,” affirmed Carter.

Tharinger answered, “These issues are very complicated.”  He said he would not have voted.  What kind of state or community do you want?  What do you want to do?  he said.  We need to come together, collaborate, and that includes taxes, he said.  “We are more effective, if we share our resources, and that includes taxes,” he announced.

The next question, delivered from Siegal asked, “The House now allows the Legislature to record  automatic votes by absent members.”  He asked if they would consider this an ethics violation.

Gase stated, “Tt is prudent to be there and vote.  Let’s be accountable,” As far as it being an ethics violation, Gase said he was not familiar with the concept.  

Tharinger was unclear on the question and was not sure it  meant someone else could vote for the absentee. He said he had no comment on ethics.  He said the person you elected should be the one to vote.

Carter made a comment about votes, by a Governor, from Illinois.  “Everything is ‘so’ complicated - we keep hearing that.  Really? “  We the people do not understand!” chided Carter.

Dwyer, said, that he would be present to make his vote.  “Holding multiple offices should not be.”

McEntire mentioned that each House can establish its own rules, which may allow for excused absences; however, being present to vote is a sacred thing.  “Not by proxy,” he answered. “You hire the person to be there to vote - not to be given by proxy”, he said.

Durgan, said, “If you work, you get paid”.  We don’t need part time people, he said. If you want a job, do the job.  It is criminal to have someone else vote for you....I would be a full-time legislator.

Van De Wege said nothing he was confused about the question. Nothing has changed, he said, so he does not know about this.  “If you’re absent, no vote”, he added.  “Ethics, it would be,” commented Van De Wege.

Question----What does Section 1 of the Washington State Constitution mean to you and how does it guide you?

Van De Wege said he was not versed enough to understand the state Constitution, “especially the first part,” he declared.

Durgan answered, “All power derives from the will of the people - that’s pretty straight forward.  “We are the sovereign in the State, not the government,” he said. “We are serving not government officials, but  the people,” he added.

Gase said, “Follow our State Constitution.”

McEntire said, “Article 1 of the State Constitution is an elegant rendition of the limits on government authority of our individual rights,” as it guards our rights in this state.   He said the  people are sovereign.  “They [legislators] are servants to the people, declared McEntire.  

Dwyer admonished, ‘Listen to constituents, as I am doing on the campaign trail.”

Carter said, ““All political power is inherent in the people, and governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and are established to protect and maintain individual rights.”

Tharinger announced, “I understand my authority comes from you”.  I work for you with the government and its agencies, he said.

For more information about FourC, check out their website here:

For more on the candidates, click on the websites below:

Kevin Van De Wege (D) ,

Craig Durgan (R) ,

Dan Gase (R) ,

candidates for 24th District House of Representatives, Position 1.

Jim McEntire (R) ,

Jack Dwyer, (D)  (no known website - please contact editor if you know of one)

Larry Carter (R),

Steve Tharinger (D) ,

candidates for 24th District House of Representatives, Position 2.