Elections

House contest has veteran and newcomer

The race for the 31st Legislative District’s Position 2 seat in the state House of Representatives offers voters a choice between a familiar face and a political newcomer.

Christopher Hurst is the only candidate in the state running under the Independent Democrat label, but he figures that distinction can only be helpful.

The public is tired of partisan squabbling and nothing truly substantial will be accomplished in Olympia, he said, unless the extremists on both sides agree to come to the middle. And, Hurst said, that’s exactly where he sits.

“It describes me and how I’ve represented the district all these years,” Hurst said of the Independent Democrat label. Others share his outlook, he said, but stopped short of making the declaration official.

Hurst served two terms in the state House of Representatives, stepped away for four years, and was elected again in 2006 and 2008. He received solid numbers during the August primary election, but said he’s taking nothing for granted this time around. He’s buying advertising space in newspapers, will have mailings arriving at voters’ homes and is showing up for public events.

Hurst said his message - and, more importantly, his voting record - echoes the sentiments of 31st District voters. He voted against the repeal of Initiative 960, which allowed lawmakers to implement new taxes, and in the end voted against the budget approved during the last legislative session.

Neither move gained him support from Democrats.

“A lot of people in Seattle are unhappy with me, but I don’t represent them,” Hurst said.

He believes those who operate toward the political middle ground will wield more political power than ever when the Legislature convenes in January.

“There’s a big chunk of moderate Democrats and moderate Republicans who work very well together,” he said, “and the balance of power will shift to the center.”

Hurst said real progress is the victim when extremists rule the two parties.

“One is living on the North Pole and the other is living on the South Pole, and nobody is meeting in the middle where the people live,” Hurst said.

In moving toward the middle, Hurst doesn’t shy away from chiding his own party.

“The liberal agenda of raising taxes and spending has not worked and will not work,” he said.

The public, he said, realizes the only logical answer to the state’s problems is to refrain from raising taxes and look first and cutting expenses.

With the economy in mind, Hurst said the coming Legislative session “will be different than anything that’s happened in this state in decades.”

January brings the every-other-year full session and tough decisions will have to be made.

“There are no more lifelines,” Hurst said, referring to the financial bailout offered by the Obama administration. “We’re going to have to do the things that should have been done years ago.”

Aside from governmental belt-tightening, he said, that means passing legislation aimed at creating and keeping jobs in Washington.

“We are bleeding jobs overseas,” Hurst said, noting that a concerned public can do its part by purchasing American-made goods. But Olympia can help, he said, adding, “there’s a variety of things we can do to keep jobs here.”

The message Patrick Reed takes to voters is a simple one: the state’s political system is broken, troubles were left unchecked and have become massive and it’s time to get rid of entrenched politicians and send new blood to Olympia.

On his website and in interviews, Reed equates running the state of Washington to managing a household budget.

“If you have to tighten your belt, that’s what most people do,” he said, stating that the budget process is simply a matter of matching projected revenues with expenditures.

The state’s current budget fiasco, he said, didn’t have to bring such sudden and dire consequences. All the indicators were apparent and lawmakers should have done a better job of preparing for the budget shortfalls that have reached into the billions, he said.

“It should have been a graduated process that started early,” Reed said, explaining that the Legislature should have acted early to rid the state budget of nonessential services. He said the state could likely save money by farming all its printing needs to private enterprise; he also is a supporter of getting the state out of the liquor-selling business.

One option Reed does not favor is raising taxes to bridge the financial gap.

“It’s a spending issue and a responsibility issue,” he said, “especially when you’re accountable to the people providing the revenues.”

A Sumner resident, Reed is part of the state government, employed by the Secretary of State’s office as an operations manager in a division that is the first stop for new businesses in Washington. He also serves on statewide committees charged with listening to businesses large and small and identifying where improvements can be made to help businesses grow, add jobs and be successful.

Prior to joining the state, Reed spent 18 years in both private industry and the public sector.

He had never considered running for elective office, he said, until joining the state ranks two years ago.

“It didn’t take long to realize there’s room for improvement,” he said, citing the case of a small machine shop that opened for business in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. The owner filled out one simple form in Idaho, Reed said, but when he attempted to open a second shop in Spokane, the ordeal required seven forms and two weeks of processing time.

Businesses in the Evergreen State, Reed believes, “are over-regulated and overtaxed.”

With a limited campaign budget, Reed has relied on spreading his word through knocking on doors and asking questions – a process made difficult while holding down a full-time job, he said.

But the campaign process has been both eye-opening and enjoyable, he said. In meeting with the public, Reed said, he has found “a lot of opinions heading in a lot of directions.”

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