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Calls started the day after the election

Cathy Dahlquist is mighty popular right now.

There’s an always-growing list of agencies, organizations and lobbyists who want just a bit of her time to pitch their ideas, support their causes or learn exactly where she stands on certain issues.

Dahlquist, an Enumclaw resident, became a hot property the evening of Nov. 2 when it became apparent she would capture a seat in the state House of Representatives. She and Shawn Bunney, both Republicans, had squared off for the 31st Legislative District seat being vacated by Dan Roach.

Even through the race was far from a landslide, the congratulatory calls started coming Election Night, Dahlquist said. By the following day, special interest groups were making themselves known.

“A lot of people want to get to know you, to learn your views,” Dahlquist said. “There’s certainly no sitting around.”

In recent days, she said, there has been a trip to the Port of Tacoma to learn about issues surrounding state Route 167 and a request from representatives of water districts, who hope to share technical information. She has made a trip to meet with folks from Pierce College and traveled to Seattle for an interview that aired on Radio Disney.

“There aren’t enough hours in a day” to grant all the requests, she said. “It’s kind of crazy right now.”

Dahlquist’s seatmate in the House, Christopher Hurst, recalls what it was like to be a newly-elected member – and he’s sympathetic.

“She will get to know a lot of folks and have to meet them all,” Hurst said of the key constituents in the 31st District and others around the state. The list will grow into the hundreds, said Hurst, a member of the Democratic caucus who was re-elected under the Independent Democrat label.

On top of that, he said, “she has 97 other people to get to know (in the House of Representatives), plus 49 in the Senate.” To be an effective legislator, Dahlquist will want to get to know each of the electeds who trek to Olympia.

The busy schedule and time demands aren’t limited to just newcomers, Hurst said, noting that he had received approximately 15 requests on a single day last week, all from people wanting just a bit of his time.

His advice is something Dahlquist has already come to realize. Not all requests can be granted and few get as much time as they would like.

Things are tougher for a newly-elected legislator, Hurst noted, because they don’t have the luxury of staffers who can filter the requests and handle some of the demands in advance. Now, Dahlquist is a one-woman operation.

As if the holiday season isn’t busy enough, Dahlquist and other legislative rookies will be slated for training sessions in Olympia. She will attend orientation sessions Dec. 7 and 8, then meet with fellow Republicans to discuss committee assignments Dec. 9 and 10.

Dahlquist, who is in her second term as an elected member of the Enumclaw School Board, hopes to land a position on the House Education Committee.

“That’s what I’m hoping for and lobbying for,” she said.

Dahlquist said she will likely serve on the local school board through the end of the year, then tender her resignation so she can focus on her legislative responsibilities.

“This is a tough year to be a new member,” Hurst said, citing the ongoing budget deficit and anticipated political bloodshed as members of the House and Senate attempt to hammer out a balanced budget. “I expect things will be very contentious.”

But the five-term incumbent believes Dahlquist has what it takes to handle the rigors of a legislative session.

“I’m convinced she’s going to be a good seatmate,” he said.

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