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Candidates vie for State House seat

By Dennis Box-The Courier-Herald

The 31st District race for position two in the state House has drawn three contenders, which will be whittled down to two Aug. 19.

Chris Hurst, D-Greenwater, is seeking his second consecutive term and fourth term in the House of Representatives. Hurst served from 1999 through 2002. He left office during the years his daughter was in high school. He won the seat back in 2006.

Hurst has drawn challenges from two Republicans this year.

Sharon Hanek, R-Bonney Lake, is making her first run at political office.

Josh Hulburt, R-Enumclaw, is making his first attempt at state office. Hulburt ran for the Bonney Lake City Council in 2003, losing to Jim Rackley.

The 52-year-old Hanek is focusing her campaign on three issues - education, government accountability and lower taxes.

Hanek said she has lobbied in Olympia during the legislative session for education reform and lower taxes.

Hanek said she believes the Iowa Test of Basic Skills is the “only test where students know where they stand.”

She believes the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) test currently being used is, “not valid or reliable. The documentation concerning the WASL's validity and reliability has been swept under the rug.”

Hanek said Terry Bergstrom, the state superintendent of education, “did not want it (the WASL) to die. She said we are doing this period.”

The candidate said she enjoys the campaigning and door knocking.

“I wasn't sure I could do it, but I started doing speaking engagements five years ago.” Hanek said. “There are a lot of things wrong in education and people are feeling squeezed.”

Hurst said he gained a new perspective on the legislative process when he returned in 2007.

“It was important to me to step back and look at being a Legislator and make sure I was there for the right reasons,” Hurst said. “All the things I have learned in my life up to now are starting to fit and work together.”

Hurst, 53, said during his four years away from Olympia, his son joined the U.S. Army and served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“My wife (April) and I faced some tough times with Andy in Iraq that first year,” Hurst said. “It's very lonely when you're worried about getting a knock on the door.”

Veterans' affairs in the state are a top priority for Hurst.

“The state Legislature doesn't address the war,” Hurst said. “But we deal with veterans coming back and the federal support system is not there. It's cut, cut, cut.”

Hurst has been actively involved in the Lake Tapps drinking water rights issue in the district and in Olympia since returning to office.

He has also been instrumental in pushing sex offender laws and legislation to combat the growing gang problem in the state.

The 26-year-old Hulburt said he knows he is in a tough race, “but I'm going to give it my best shot. I'm running because the political process excites me.”

Hulburt said he has been in business for himself since he was 18, but politics is his passion.

I'm a C-SPAN junkie,” Hulburt said. “My wife says I'm lame and boring. But I believe doing something at the state level for your district is the most important thing you can do.”

Hulburt said he graduated from Sumner High School and the University of Washington Tacoma with a bachelor's degree in business administration.

The primary election is Aug. 19 and the general election is Nov. 4. Dennis Box can be reached at dbox@courierherald.com .

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