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Dahlquist and Bunney battle for House seat

Both candidates for the Position 1 House seat in the 31st Legislative District are Republicans, but – as each is quick to point out – they offer voters a clear choice.

Enumclaw’s Cathy Dahlquist and Lake Tapps resident Shawn Bunney are chasing the position soon to be vacated by incumbent Dan Roach. He is stepping aside to run for the post Bunney is leaving on the Pierce County Council. Bunney is being forced off the council due to term limits.

The race between fellow members of the GOP has turned testy at times. Dahlquist labels Bunney as a career politician who has never had to operate in the real world, where legislative mandates can make or break small business owners. Bunney’s TV advertisements accuse Dahlquist, a member of the Enumclaw School Board, of running up budgets; in a print ad, he attempts to link her to left-leaning Seattlites.

Dahlquist, who operates a small architectural firm with her husband Jeff, says the difference between the candidates is simple: “I’m a business owner and he’s a career politician. I know what it’s like to run a business in this economy.”

Also, Dahlquist doesn’t hesitate to make a distinction when it comes to family matters. She’s a mother of three, including two who are still in school, while Bunney is married but does not have children.

“When it comes to children’s issues, that makes a difference,” she said.

Dahlquist said her No. 1 issue, if elected, would be jobs and the economy.

“We need to give businesses incentives to grow and thrive,” she said, citing the state’s business and occupation tax are one example of how the current system stifles business.

In her second term on the school board, she freely admits “we need education reform,” the type that would give parents choices. She would favor charter schools or allowing vouchers so parents could afford non-public schools, but only if they are required to meet the same standards as public schools.

“I consider myself a fiscal conservative,” Dahlquist said, noting that the state is required to fund education and public safety. The problem lies in the continued funding of non-essential services and too much growth in state agencies, she said.

She cites the Department of Social and Health Services as “government run amok.”

Speaking of government, Dahlquist chides Bunney for his role in Pierce County’s highest office, particularly a vote that resulted in a 21 percent pay increase for he and others on the county council.

Dahlquist is seeking votes “as someone who comes from the private sector, who runs a business, who raises a family.”

Bunney also hammers home the point that Washington state’s economy has to be the Legislature’s top priority.

“We have to live within our means,” he said, adding he’s done just that as a member of the Pierce County Council. That group, he said, has trimmed $26 million in spending and reduced 378 jobs to keep the county’s books balanced.

“This election is about who is going to be the best to create jobs for working families in South Puget Sound,” he said. Bunney said his experience in county government and the connections he has developed will be beneficial when the district needs money for projects like improvements to state Route 167 and SR 162, plus the development of the long-sought cross-base highway.

Bunney said the 31st District needs a strong voice in Olympia to assure the district gets its fair share of hard-earned tax dollars. He argues against too much money heading north for Seattle’s viaduct and floating bridge.

“We need to get the infrastructure needed to create jobs,” he said. “It’s about being able to broker deals and get things done.”

Small businesses in the Evergreen State are held back, Bunney said, by a “regulatory noose” that strangles their ability to grow and prosper. His experience at the county level, he said, has highlighted the need to streamline the process for the business community.

Bunney cites a study showing Washington in the bottom half of the 50 states when it comes to the ease of doing business. He figures there’s no reason Washington shouldn’t aim to be No. 1. “Why not position ourselves to be the place where jobs are created? he asks.

Bunney agrees it’s the state’s paramount duty to fully fund public education and further agrees the legislature hasn’t done its job.

He envisions a community college system that turns out employees ready for the work force and favors the concept of charter schools. “Taking creative approaches to education is something we need to keep trying,” he said.

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