State House candidates race to the wire in Nov. 4 general election

By Kevin Hanson-The Courier-Herald

By Kevin Hanson-The Courier-Herald

A veteran state lawmaker and political newcomer are squaring off for the Position 2 seat, representing the 31st Legislative District in the state House of Representatives.

With six years of House service under his belt is Democrat Christopher Hurst of Greenwater. New to the world of political campaigning is Republican Sharon Hanek, who lives in the Bonney Lake area.

Hanek is a self-described political activist who has made numerous trips to Olympic during the past five years to lobby the Legislature on matters pertaining to public education and other interests.

A certified public accountant, Hanek emphasizes that state government has gone too far with its power and has overshadowed local jurisdictions.

The state too often takes a “one size fits all” approach to issues, she said, while voicing support for a system that would allow more decisions to be made at the grassroots level.

Hanek hopes to become a liaison for citizens hoping to shape their government.

“People don’t know what to do,” she said, when trying to work with state government.

The two sides need to be more accessable to one another, she said, explaining a desire to help the two sides come together.

“We need to get that conversation moving,” she said.

Given her accounting background, Hanek promises to keep a watchful eye on spending by all state agencies. And she’s convinced there’s plenty of money being wasted.

“There are a lot of problems with a lot of state agencies,” she said. “A lot of mismanagement of funds. We’re allowing so much money to slip through the cracks.”

She believes the state auditor has done a good job of examining various departments and coming up with recommendations, but worries that there’s no effective mandate to force agencies to comply. She would like to put some teeth into the auditor’s findings.

Hanek says she would not support any tax increase until “we learn where the money is coming from and where it is going.” But the priority is finding ways to save money, she said, rather than looking for new sources.

Hurst is seeking a fourth term in the House of Representatives, having previously been elected in 1998, 2000 and 2006.

The No. 1 issue when the Legislature opens in January will be the economy, he said, and there’s no effort to sugar-coat the present financial situation.

“Things are as bad as they seem,” Hurst said, adding that members of both the House and Senate will have to be willing to turn down a lot of requests when they draft the state’s two-year budget.

“You can’t raise taxes in a time of uncertainty,” he said, “so we’re going to have to say no to a lot of things.”

When it comes time to trim budgets, he added, “everything’s on the table.”

As part of the budget process, Hurst believes, the number of state employees will shrink with the coming budget.

While things are bleak, Hurst finds a bit of positive news.

“Washington is faring better than almost every other state in the country,” he said, and is poised to make a quicker recovery when the economy eventually straightens out.

While budget talk might dominate the Olympia scene, there are other issues Hurst intends to work on if re-elected.

It is imperative that state Route 167 get the “mega-project” designation is deserves, he said, thus making it a higher priority for funding. The highway is key to the South Sound economy and deserves more attention, Hurst said, noting that Seattle-based projects like the Alaskan Way Viaduct get more than their fair share of attention.

The former police commander is also hoping to see changes in the state’s “civil commitment” laws that will make it easier for authorities to commit those who are a clear danger to themselves and others.

There is also some unfinished business with regard to a Omnibus Gang Bill he sponsored during the last session, Hurst said. He hopes to add legislation that will make it easier for local police to put gang members behind bars.

Finally, he hopes the state will begin “a rational discussion of nuclear energy.”

He supports nuclear options as a way to eliminate the nation’s dependence on foreign oil. “It’s crazy,” he said, “to send our dollars to a Middle Eastern country.” Hurst maintains that current technology makes nuclear energy a safe option.

Reach Kevin Hanson at or 360-802-8205.