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Education Reform, Local Transportation Among Issues Discussed at Legislative Candidate Luncheon

The Bonney Lake Chamber of Commerce and the Pierce County League of Women Voters hosted a debate with candidates hoping to represent the 31st District in the state House of Representatives on Thursday.

At Thursday’s luncheon debate with state representative candidates, the conversation focused on education reform and local traffic issues, among other hot-button topics.

The event was hosted by the and moderated by Terri Baker, president of the Pierce County League of Women Voters. Incumbent Pos. 1 representative Cathy Dahlquist and her opponent Brian Gunn were at the table, as well as Pos. 2 representative Chris Hurst and his opponent, Lisa Connors.

“These debates are so valuable and interesting, because the conversation goes way beyond what’s in the voters pamphlet,” said Lora Butterfield, executive director of the Bonney Lake Chamber of Commerce.

Luncheon attendees wrote their questions for the candidates on index cards and presented them to Baker, who then asked each candidate for their stance in a one-minute response.

Questions mainly centered on education– an issue close to Connors and Dahlquist, who both mentioned K-12 reform as part of their platforms.

“I haven’t seen enough change in education for good – what I have seen are cuts,” said Connors, a member of the Auburn School Board. “More education equals a stronger economy… not all skills are covered in K-12. We have to keep kids engaged in a constant conversation about their future careers and fund career and technical programs in the public school system.”

Dahlquist said if she were re-elected, she would push to change youth unemployment numbers and cut down on regulations Washington business owners face when hiring underage workers.

“It’s a great expense for small businesses to hire teens – there are so many laws restricting kids from working on their own farms - that's something we're facing with kids who want to milk their own cows in Enumclaw,” said Dahlquist. “I want to loosen those regulations.”

When it came to local traffic issues, all candidates agreed that the SR 167 corridor must be a top priority for future highway improvements – carrying cargo from Puyallup Valley farms and businesses to the Port of Tacoma needs to be more efficient, they agreed.

“Our next mega project has to be SR 167,” said Hurst. “We need to do everything we can to separate cars from freight and things will run smoother. We need freight mobility in the south end, fix roads damaged by truck traffic and extend 167.”

Gunn voiced his support of light rail development and revitalizing public transportation in the South Sound. He was the lone candidate against coal development, citing damage to the environment. The other candidates said they supported coal trains and saw it as an opportunity for local job creation.

“We need to find economically sound solutions for this area,” Gunn said.

When it came to the final question of whether or not the candidates support Referandum-74, which would allow for gay marriage, Gunn was the only supporter.

What do you think of the candidate responses from this debate? Do any of them surprise you? Tell us in the comments.

MJ McGalliard September 15, 2012 at 04:19 PM
I attended the forum and was shocked at both incumbants' responses. Basically, all they said over and over again was that they could not solve the state's problems. They blamed everybody from Seattle to the Child Labor laws for what they can't do. Over and over again they cited the lack of revenue without offering and answer to the problem. Dahlquist and Hurst are supposedly from different parties, but nodded and spoke as if they were puppets connected to the same string. Brian Gunn was the only one who had answers to the state's problems, possibly because he doesn't take money from the special interests who are at the root of our lack of revenue. Dahlquist and Hurst said over and over again how they've failed and gave every indication that failure was their plan for the future. I say if they work for us- show them the door and let's start over with Gunn and Connors, a Democrat and a Republican, they can't do any worse than the incumbents. Maybe we'll get some representation instead of lobbiests pretending to be legislators.
Diane Kerlin September 15, 2012 at 07:30 PM
I give a lot of credit to newcomer, Brian Gunn who never wavered in expressing his true values. He agrees on the importance of education and gave examples of how income can be raised to improve funding for it, by closing loopholes. He sees the shortsightedness of the coal train proposition, where if we ship pollution to the far east, it will be blown back to us by the west winds. He explained his "Clean Money Campaign" where he is not accepting donations from any group, but only from individuals in Washington State and particularly from those living in the 31st Legislative District. He wants to work in Olympia for the people who send him there. The other three candidates do not seem to have his conviction about the corruptive power of money in elections. Brian Gunn's integrity is obvious. I believe he would vote my values in Olympia. Diane Kerlin
dexterjibs September 16, 2012 at 03:17 PM
So, it sounds like Brian Gunn only offers us what Seattle liberals have forced upon us for years? We need to change the make up of the State legislature from a liberal Seattle-centric philosophy to a more moderate, middle of the road philosophy which will be better for more people and more communities. Brian Gunn will only make this State more liberal. I would prefer a conservative mind set but I know that isn't possible in this State.
Patricia Szot September 17, 2012 at 10:50 PM
I did not attend the function, but my husband taped it and I was able to watch the “debate” this weekend. Ms. Padgett totally glossed over the important differences in the candidates at the forum. Brian Gunn stood out from the other 3 in every topic discussed. Representatives Hurst and Dahlquist gave the typical career politician’s answers, which means they spoke a great deal but didn’t really answer the question. Ms. Conner many times had no response on the issue. Mr. Gunn gave thoughtful answers to all questions; thinking and looking outside of the box to address the concerns people have in the state. His different take on answers to the questions may be because Mr. Gunn is not taking contributions from PACs/Big Money (inside or from outside of the state) that the other 3 candidates are doing. They have to couch their answers to keep their money sources happy as to their views (and votes when in office). I am fed up of all the money in politics and wonder who are politicians actually represent when in office. It is great to have a candidate in the 31st Legislative District that is running a different campaign and his commitment to be accountable to the people of the 31st and the state when he gets into office. That is refreshing from the typical politician running. Ms. Padgett missed this important point. Patricia Szot
Mary Hall September 19, 2012 at 06:45 PM
Brian Gunn is the only one of the four candidates to support a state bank like North Dakota has and other states are exploring. Besides saving the State money, it makes student and other loans at lower interest rates, plus it would keep the taxpayers’ money working in Washington State and away from the Wall St. banks. Chris Hurst dismissed the idea of a State bank saying that it only works in North Dakota because of the gas and oil fields, but Mr. Hurst is wrong - http://www.yesmagazine.org/new-economy/the-north-dakota-miracle-not-all-about-oil . The North Dakota bank was established in 1919 to help the State’s farmers, but so long as politicians are beholding to the Wall St. banks, it’s not likely to happen here. My jaw literally dropped when Cathy Dahlquist said she didn’t support a state bank because "We can't balance our check book. Why would you trust that I can balance that?" Wow!! Ms. Dahlquist just admitted that she doesn’t understand that a State bank isn’t competition to Chase or BECU for your personal account; it’s an internal structure meant to keep taxpayers’ money invested in their State for jobs, education, infrastructure, etc. However, when someone is getting their campaign money from commercial institutions like Chase, their loyalties are to them and not the people. Dahlquist said she is doing a terrible job that we shouldn’t trust her with our money. It’s time to end corruption and give Brian Gunn and his clean money campaign a shot.
dexterjibs September 20, 2012 at 02:06 AM
Cathy Dahlquist, Chris Hurst and Lisa Connors have one thing in commom-they all provide an alernative voice to the liberal Democrat machine that has ruled this State for 2 decades and has made this State an economic disaster. The last thing this State needs is Brian Gunn who would be another "yes man" to the Seattle liberal agenda. Gunn offers nothing new, just the same old worn out liberal ideas that fail everytime they are tried.

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