House hopefuls take the gloves off

Although results didn’t count, primary shows Angel leading Abel.

PORT ORCHARD — While the outcome of Tuesday’s primary had no bearing on the contest to replace retiring 26th District state Rep. Pat Lantz (D-Gig Harbor), it nonetheless represented the first occasion for hopefuls Kim Abel and Jan Angel to meet publicly to discuss the issues in depth.

Both candidates are well-known in local political circles, well-regarded by their respective parties and thought to be evenly matched.

Supporters of both, even while predicting victory for their own candidate, expect a close race.

This was forecast by the early primary vote totals, which found Angel with a modest lead over Abel in both Kitsap and Pierce counties in the district that straddles both counties.

In Kitsap, Angel edged Abel, the former Port Orchard mayor, by 5,973 (52.21 percent) to 5,416 (47.34 percent). In Pierce, Angel received 4,433 votes (53.21 percent) to 3,872 (46.48 percent) for Abel. In both counties, write-ins brought the percentages to 100.

The 26th District’s other House member, Larry Seaquist (D-Gig Harbor), prevailed with 4,379 votes (52.28 percent) to Republican challenger Marlyn Jensen’s 3,971 (47.41 percent).

Angel, a Republican, is winding up her second term as South Kitsap commissioner. Abel served one term as mayor of Port Orchard, a nonpartisan office. The term ended in 2007.

The debate, part of the Eggs and Issues series sponsored by the Bremerton Chamber of Commerce, took place before primary results were known.

“The difference between me and my opponent is my experience level,” Angel said. “I have 30 years in business and now have eight years in county government. I’ve owned my own business, I’ve spent 14 years in banking and have a financial background. I have worked in land use, real estate and property rights areas. I feel that lays a strong foundation that my opponent does not have.”

“The substantial differences between my opponent and I can be summed up in making sure that all the state’s citizens are thought of as we move forward,” Abel said. “My experience as mayor has shown that my opponent does not do this, as she did not give us proper time to make a transition when closing a clinic in Port Orchard.”

Because the event was sponsored by the Bremerton chamber, the candidates attempted to one-up each other as to who was the most “business-friendly.”

In this respect, they both favored the state streamlining the rules to help multi-jurisdictional businesses while offering tax incentives whenever possible.

“It’s easy to start a business,” Angel said. “But it can be really hard to keep your doors open after a few years.”

To which Abel added, “We need to make sure we’re giving incentives to the companies that are creating jobs.”

Angel, who as commissioner has faced state requirements for programs without funding support, spoke out against these obligations.

“I will work to eliminate unfunded state mandates,” she said. “My message will be, ‘Fund it or forget it.’”

Abel takes a less stringent approach, acknowledging that it may be difficult to meet these requirements, but that they should not provoke immediate resistance.

“Some of these regulations are no-brainers and should be supported,” she said. “We should be willing to pay for certain things where there can be no doubt about the fact they are necessary.”

While Eggs and Issues organizers said Tuesday’s questions were more informed and more balanced than in the past, some were slanted toward a certain point of view.

One questioner asked the candidates whether they would “vote the party line or do the right thing.”

Another asked “what would it take to get out of” the Puget Sound Regional Council.

Angel said it would be difficult but that Kitsap could choose to align itself with western counties rather than those situated to the east and south.

Abel, on the other hand, cautioned against just quitting the council, which makes decisions that impact the entire region.

“It is through the PSRC’s efforts that ferries became an important issue,” she said.

Both candidates favored increased support of the ferry system, saying that user fees should not be the only source of funding what is essentially an extension of the state highway system.

Angel said she favored exempting the ferry system’s fuel taxes, since the saved money would circulate back to the taxpayer. Abel agreed, while adding that the tax exemption would be appropriate for a variety of state programs.

And both candidates are aware of the special challenges of being a new representative. Angel said it is important to learn legislative processes, a crucial part of being effective.

Abel promised that her first term would be the most productive because “as a freshman legislator, I will be able to accomplish more than at any other time. A freshman legislator always comes in with new ideas.”

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