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Hurst returned to Olympia, Dan Roach earns third term

By Kevin Hanson-The Courier-Herald

Christopher Hurst is preparing for a return engagement in Olympia, while Jan Shabro ties up loose ends and attempts to make some final, positive changes for constituents.

Dan Roach is contemplating what he will do when the next session opens in January, while Karen Willard reflects upon her first venture on the campaign trail and admits she's hooked on politics.

The four Plateau residents were drawn together the past year as each sought elective office, but only two could emerge victorious when the votes were counted following the Nov. 7 general election.

In races for 31st District seats in the state House of Representatives, incumbent Roach defeated challenger Willard for the Position 1 post. In the battle for Position 2, things went the other way as the challenger, Hurst, unseated two-term incumbent Shabro.

In the race for the district's Senate seat, incumbent Pam Roach held off repeat challenger Yvonne Ward (see separate story).

The Hurst-Shabro contest was the more glamorous of the two House races, based on name recognition alone. Democrat Hurst spent two terms in Olympia, elected by 31st District voters in 1998 and 2000, before walking away for family reasons. Republican Shabro, having spent eight years on the Pierce County Council, was then easily elected twice to fill the seat.

Hurst hopes to hit the ground running

Hurst, who will likely wind up with 54 percent support, once all votes are counted, figured he was in for a battle.

“We knew it would be tough,” the recently-retired Black Diamond police commander said. “I had been in for two terms and Jan has been around for 12 years (county and House), so she's pretty well known, too.

“This was a significantly more difficult race than I had before.”

The key to victory, Hurst said, was shoe leather.

“It was a full-court press from Day 1,” the Greenwater resident said, noting the important role his wife played in his successful run.

“April and I just door-belled our hearts out,” he added. “This was as much her victory as it was mine. We're a pretty unbeatable team.”

Beyond knocking on doors, Hurst said, voters recalled his track record favorably. “I've always been known as being very independent,” he said, citing a factor that plays well in the 31st District.

In addition, he believes, voters were turned off by some of the negative campaigning that went on. “I really think they made a strategic error,” he said, referring to a barrage of ads by the Republican Party dredging up a prior conflict with the Washington State Law Enforcement Association.

“The nonsense they were sending out...that didn't reflect the real Chris Hurst,” he said.

Turning his attention to matters still to come, Hurst said he will be welcomed by fellow Democrats as a veteran lawmaker, despite the four-year absence from Olympia. That will be key when it comes time for committee assignments to be doled out.

“I'd like to hit the ground running,” Hurst said, noting he'll be meeting with House Speaker Frank Chopp in the coming days and getting in touch with city leaders from around the district.

“The political part is over,” Hurst said. “Now it's all about what we can do for the district.”

Shabro, who spent Thursday collecting yard signs, wasn't sure what derailed her re-election bid.

“I just don't know,” she said, when asked if there was a reason voters turned her away. Her four years in Olympia had been free from scandal or controversy.

“I knew it was going to be close,” she said, “so it wasn't a shock.

“I feel I've done a lot, but that's just the way things are.”

Shabro, a Lake Tapps resident, now begins the process of leaving office and that includes passing along information to her former seatmates.

“There are bills I've started working on and those will be turned over to Pam and Dan,” she said. Those are bills supporting her constituents, she said, “and we won't forget about them.”

Shabro isn't sure what the future will hold, but certainly isn't ruling about the possibility of remaining in the public eye. Opportunities to work on behalf of citizens exist “and they usually seek me,” she said. “I don't seek them.”

Roach believes track record

made all the difference

Roach said he was “very happy” with the unofficial results, which show him capturing about 53 percent of the vote.

Despite a Democratic wave of success that swept many from the GOP out of office, Roach said voters in the 31st District noted “a clear difference between me and my opponent” - and chose to stay the course.

Roach, of Bonney Lake, said his success was built on a simple message that was delivered consistently throughout the campaign, whether in debates or meeting voters at their door. “We need to hold the line on taxes and hold government accountable,” he said, reiterating a theme that struck a chord with voters.

Roach believes Willard was vulnerable because voters feared her apparent willingness to raise taxes. She spoke of state-run healthcare and pumping more money into education, Roach said. “If you add it up, it's a big chunk of money,” he said, “and you can't do it without tax increases.”

Roach also believes he was helped by building a positive reputation with constituents who approach his office looking for assistance.

“Our No. 1 thing is customer service,” he said. “We can't solve every problem, but we can send people in the right direction.”

With nearly two months remaining before the 2007 session kicks off, Roach said he'll be putting together legislation he plans to introduce and meeting with fellow Republicans to help organize the caucus.

Willard echoes the sentiment expressed by most candidates - campaigning is a grueling process that takes its toll - but she remains upbeat.

“It was a very good experience,” the Wilkeson resident said. “I learned a lot about myself and a lot about politics.”

When it comes to the nature of the political beast, Willard found people shouldn't be so cynical. “The general public ought not to be so pessimistic,” she said. In her experience, she found “genuinely good people” both running for office and working behind the scenes.

Personally, Willard learned she likes being the one at the forefront. Until 2004, “I was just an ordinary, grassroots volunteer,” she said, explaining she would never tackle a chore that involved meeting with the public.

Running for office changed all that. “I learned I love voter contact,” she said. “If I was having a bad day, it just perked me right up.”

Now, Willard admits to having caught the political bug.

“You've not seen the last of me,” she said, clearly stating her intention to run again for political office.

Which office?

“I don't know,” Willard said, adding she's been asked by those within the party to run again for the House and other posts, as well.

For now - after taking a week off to wind down from a long campaign - she intends to keep working for the Democratic Party and continue her involvement in the fight to save the Demonstration Forest in Bonney Lake.

Kevin Hanson can be reached at khanson@courierherald.com.

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