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GOP candidates vie for 23rd district seat

The race is on to fill the 23rd District’s Position 1 State Representative seat, vacated this year by state senate candidate Phil Rockefeller (D-Bainbridge Island).

But as Washington’s new primary system takes effect in its inaugural election Sept. 14, the first step in the race will be eliminating one of the two Republicans running — Paulette DeGard (R-Kingston) and Frank Mahaffay (R-Bremerton).

Under the new primary, only one candidate from each party can be on the ballot for the Nov. 2 general election. And though DeGard and Mahaffay agree they share many of the same viewpoints, each candidate believes the difference lies in their respective professional experience.

DeGard’s priorities, if elected, are similar to those of the Washington State Republican party — make government smaller and more accountable through regulatory reform and create more jobs through a “less restrictive” business climate.

But she said she is also in favor of government and private business partnerships, like the one forming in Kingston with foot-ferry operator Aqua Express and Kitsap Transit.

“Seeing Aqua Express and Kitsap Transit work together is very cool,” she said. “You have a balance.”

DeGard said she’s tired of what she believes are out-of-control state agencies, which are creating a burden for taxpayers and businesses rather than helping them.

“Agencies are creating their own rules,” DeGard said. “That’s got to stop because there’s a lot of controversies.”

DeGard has international business experience living in Poland, where she helped re-organize the post-Soviet era centrally-planned economy there into a more western free market economy. She said she applied the same skills to Boeing, working to help it move from a centrally-located company into a more spread-out, independently operated one.

DeGard’s training also helped her do the opposite for the Navy, which recently centrally aligned itself. She helped consolidate the Navy’s solid waste and recycling system, stating she helped shave $1.6 million off a $6 million budget in the process.

DeGard, who holds a doctorate in entrepreneurial leadership in international business, is currently the executive director of the Industry Cluster Institute, based in Silverdale and Kingston.

A former Naval officer and current head of the Kitsap County Association of Realtors, Mahaffay lists a similar set of priorities if elected.

“We’ve got to change the business climate in this state,” Mahaffay commented.

He said he’d do so by cutting taxes, cutting back on government through regulatory reform and creating performance audits that would help keep government agencies in check.

“Regulatory reform is needed to allow business to perform and expand,” he said.

If elected, Mahaffay said he’s also going to form a non-partisan “kitchen cabinet,” that would advise him on the issues.

Mahaffay would focus government spending on basic services, which he said there has been too much talking and not enough action upon.

“(The state) has failed to fund basic services,” Mahaffay said. “These issues don’t need to be politicized, they need to be funded.”

He is also out for tort reform, stating that doctors are leaving the state due to rising medical insurance costs.

As a Relator, Mahaffay said he’s listened to clients talk about heavy tax burdens while they also question the government’s use of the money.

“We overregulate,” Mahaffay said. “It’s not easy to operate a business in this climate. We’ve got to quit these little pork-barrel projects.”

The difference?

Experience, they say

Both candidates also agree on why one is better than the other — experience.

“We share philosophies,” DeGard said of her Republican opponent in the primary. “But I have more life experience.”

She added that Mahaffay is looking primarily at real estate issues whereas she is looking at a broad spectrum of issues stemming from her work with businesses both here and abroad.

“You have to reach across the aisle,” DeGard said. “What we need are people willing to look at an issue and say, ‘What is best for the state?’”

Mahaffay said he believes his to-the-point message resonates better with voters.

“I come from a business background and I have a very clear and succinct message,” Mahaffay said.

He also believes that as a Relator and a businessman, he would be going to Olympia untainted by traditional politics — whereas he believes his primary opponent has been.

“I’m not an insider,” Mahaffay said.

The 23rd District State

Representative, Position 1

Republican candidates Paulette DeGard and Frank Mahaffay are both running for the 23rd state representative seat, but only one can represent the party under the state’s new primary system. The primary election on Sept. 14 will send one of the candidates on to the Nov. 2 general election.

Awaiting the Republican who is successful in the primary are Poulsbo resident and Democrat Sherry Appleton and Keyport resident and Libertarian Dan Goebel. The Herald will be covering the general election race as it gets nearer to election day.

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