For a campaign that's been described in local media as contentious at times,
Sequim Sunrise Rotary's Sept. 3 debate seemed more like an amicable roundtable between old friends.
That would make sense, given that state House of Representatives candidates Jim McEntire (R-Sequim) and Steve Tharinger (D-Dungeness) both belong to this civic group.
"They know me from what we've done (at the county)," Tharinger said, "(but) the club is diverse politically."
Even though their fellow Rotarians saw more smirks and smiles than sparks, both candidates stuck to messages they've been preaching since their campaigns commenced months ago, with Tharinger touting his experience balancing budgets and bipartisan politics as a Clallam County commissioner and McEntire outlining a five-part approach to government that's strongly pro-business.
McEntire said that, in dealing with budget shortfalls, he'd set a six-part priority list, including legal obligations such as school funding, public safety, a common-sense approach to protecting the environment, law enforcement, transportation and finally protecting the most vulnerable citizens.
"Once you get done with your revenue, you stop spending," McEntire said. "And get out of the way of business. Lack of revenue is a symptom, not a cause."
Tharinger said creating jobs is key to restarting the lagging dollar.
"There's a lot of money sitting on the sidelines," he said. "That's why we should look to public and private partnerships."
Both expressed some frustration for the figurative Washington state small-business owner. Tharinger urged a repeal of the Business & Occupation tax.
"Something fundamentally is out of whack with how legislators view business in Washington state," McEntire said.
Various views of spirits sales
The candidates differ in their views of a proposal to privatize liquor sales.
Tharinger said privatizing liquor would not only take away revenue for the state but also lead to more problems with alcohol dependency.
"You're taking away funding you'll be needing for treatment," he said.
McEntire said privatizing liquor sales is a positive step.
"It's not a function of government (to sell liquor)," he said, adding, "It can certainly be regulated and taxed."
When asked what committees he'd join if he won the House seat, McEntire identified three: Ways & Means, Agriculture & Natural Resources and Ecology & Parks. Tharinger said he's interested in the Agriculture & Natural Resources, Finance and Capital Budget committees.
Though neither candidate is a neophyte to local politics (McEntire is a Port of Port Angeles commissioner, Tharinger a county commissioner since 2000), neither has made a bid for a political seat of this stature. The eventual winner of the state House Position No. 2 succeeds Lynn Kessler, former House majority leader.
Still, both candidates looked like campaign trail veterans Friday morning, both knowing full well they're in it for the long haul as general election ballots don't get to voters until Oct. 15. The general election is Nov. 2. We still need to be clarifying ... and laying out what our differences are," Tharinger said.
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