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.