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Hansen, Olsen advance to November ballot to represent the 23rd District
POULSBO — Rep. Drew Hansen and retired Coast Guard captain James Olsen advanced to the Nov. 6 general election Tuesday in the race for 23rd District state representative, position 2.
At 8:15 p.m. Tuesday with 18,318 votes counted, the County Elections Office reported Hansen led the field with 9,494 votes, followed by Olsen, 7,456; and political newcomer Henning B. Larsen, 1,348 votes.
"I am going to win," Olsen said Monday. His campaign message, which he said is resonating with thousands of people he spoke to at various events, such as Whaling Days, on the phone and forums, is the importance of creating an environment for private sector jobs.
"All is not well in the kingdom," he said. "People want to see something done about private sector jobs."
Hansen, the incumbent but also first-time campaigner, said his year-long work already in the legislature is what resonated most with voters.
"I focused on jobs in the legislature," Hansen said Tuesday. "Like doubling the Olympic College Engineering Program, so we train more engineers for the shipyards. Clearly most of the voters agree, we need more common sense ideas like that that move the state forward."
Hansen and Olsen will go head-to-head on the November ballot.
Members of the state House of Representatives serve two-year terms and receive $42,106 and benefits offered state employees.
Olsen, a Republican, hopes the third time's the charm; he ran for state representative in 2010 and Bainbridge sewer district board in 2011. A Republican, Olsen pledged to go to Olympia to work on jobs creation. He said the state could create more jobs by speeding up permitting, amending the business and occupations tax, and streamlining government to boost business confidence. He said business confidence is stagnant because the state is in “debt, doubt and decline.”
It's clear to Olsen, through the people he's spoke with, that Washington government suffers from a spending problem, not a revenue problem, which is what his opponents are heralding.
People are not happy, as 17,000 people currently deal with unemployment, he said.
"It's abysmal," he said.
Olsen also made an issue of contributions to Hansen’s campaign by out-of-state lawyers, decrying the influence of “special interests” in the election. “Special interests rob you and I of our voice,” Olsen said at a candidates’ forum in Poulsbo.
As of mid-July, Hansen reported $161,034.08 in campaign contributions, compared to Olsen’s $6,230 and Larsen’s “few thousand.” Of the 143 lawyers that contributed to his campaign as of mid-July, 90 are lawyers with Susman Godfrey, of which Hansen is a partner.
"I will double or triple my efforts to educate the voters on the bright line difference between my big-spending revenue demanding opponent and my call for streamlining, regulatory reform and creating a favorable business climate," Olsen said. "Washington State's New Prosperity will be fueled by a private sector confident that Olympia will facilitate, not obstruct business creation."
But Hansen, a lawyer appointed to the state House in 2011, and Larsen, poker room supervisor and tournament director at Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort, impressed with their suggestions for bold reforms. At a candidates forum in Poulsbo, Hansen suggested the Legislature “blow up the current [tax]system” and he supported the overturning of Initiative 1053, which he said allowed the Legislature to create tax loopholes with a simple majority vote but required a supermajority vote to close one.
"I think people in this district, like in the rest of the country, are very ready to work across party lines to get common sense, practical results," Hansen said.
"We'll keep talking to people about what I've done in the legislature … We'll also keep talking to businesses and to community college system and citizens about what we can be doing to bring more jobs in the area and train more people for the jobs we already have. That's what we've been doing all along."
Larsen said he plans to stay involved in politics, "no matter what."
"I'm sure I will find myself on a ballot again," he said. "As a first time candidate, I'm learning in the process. It [was] both a positive and probably the biggest negative that I had never done this before. People are looking at the experience factor."
Larsen added he hopes the election can continue with more of a focus on ideas and substance, which he said he brought to the table.
"What stood out the most was every time I spoke in public…it was about actual issues, about real solutions to those problems that we face," Larsen said. "The main point in [running for office] was to elevate the debate."
Hansen touted the work he was able to accomplish in a year in office. He sponsored legislation that exempts Kitsap County from having to pay back-property taxes on forest land it might acquire for conservation and public use from Pope Resources. The tax, called a “compensating tax,” is paid when land is removed from commercial forestry, to make up for tax revenue that would have been generated by timber harvests. The exemption is worth about $7 million to Kitsap County, which can instead invest that money in land acquisition. Advocates of the acquisition of as much as 7,000 acres of Pope Resources land say the acquisition will create jobs in ecotourism and outdoor recreation.
Hansen also sponsored legislation expanding the engineering program at Olympic College, to train people for civilian jobs with the Navy and in maritime. He’d like to see expansion in degree opportunities in other fields with a presence in Kitsap, such as health care and technology. In addition, the state moved up projects on its three- to five-year project lists because borrowing costs are low and the jobs are needed now.
Regarding reducing the cost of state government: All three candidates support performance audits. Olsen said the state must identify and fully fund core, or essential, priorities. The state could partner with non-governmental organizations and others to fund second-tier priorities. He said budgeting for some services, such as transportation, should be performance-based.
Drew Hansen: www.drewhansen.com
Henning Larsen: www.henningblarsen.com
James Olsen: www.voteolsen23.com