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Newcomers dominate 23rd District House race

In a time in which the Washington state House of Representatives carries a small majority of Democrats — 52 to the Republicans’ 46 — the winner of the District 23, Position 1 race will be crucial to deciding the balance of power in Olympia for the next two years.

The seat, vacated by Phil Rockefeller (D-Bainbridge Island) as he attempts to enter the state Senate, pits Poulsbo Democrat Sherry Appleton, Bremerton Republican Frank Mahaffay and Keyport Libertarian Dan Goebel against one another.

Frank Mahaffay

Head of the Kitsap County Association of Realtors and a former Navy officer, Mahaffay’s main objective is changing the business climate in the state through tort reform, cutting taxes and government deregulation. He also advocates independent performance audits of government agencies to get rid of what he said is “wasteful government spending.”

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

Mahaffay’s work in realty also extends outside of Kitsap County. He serves on several committees for the Washington Association of Relators and is also chair of the Central Kitsap School District’s Career and Technical Education Advisory Council.

Tort reform could help curb rapidly rising health care costs, Mahaffay said. He advocates eliminating frivolous lawsuits altogether, as well as capping certain types of monetary settlements. He would also support looking into a “loser pays” concept — if someone sues and loses, they have to pay the defendant’s fees resulting from the process.

“To think these (types of reforms) won’t reduce health care costs is ridiculous,” he said.

Aside from the cost, Mahaffay said he’s scared that medical professionals aren’t confident in practicing in Washington because of the current tort practices.

“We’ve got doctors at Harrison that are afraid to do risky surgery,” Mahaffay said.

Creating “a positive business climate,” is his rationale for many of the reforms he said he proposes, as he said that will be the biggest factor in creating jobs.

But despite his backing from many of his colleagues in realty and a pledge to make Kitsap more affordable in the housing market, he said he will also protect the county’s environment.

“You can be environmentally friendly and provide affordable housing,” he said, citing the Home Builders’ Association “Built Green” program, which he supports. He also mentioned that creating affordable housing isn’t just about making more homes, but getting more of Kitsap’s citizens to be able to afford existing ones through an improved economy and an increased salary base.

As far as growth management is concerned, Mahaffay said he believes local elected officials should control it — not what he called a current state board of appointed officials.

Transportation issues also are a cornerstone of his campaign and Mahaffay said Kitsap County needs more road infrastructure, not necessarily a mass transit solution.

“The people that don’t need (mass transit), don’t want it,” Mahaffay said. “And building a new road doesn’t create sprawl — but it does create economic growth.”

He would work toward gaining the attention of the Washington Department of Transportation, which has “neglected” Kitsap, he said.

Sherry Appleton

Appleton, a 22-year resident of Poulsbo, was a member of Poulsbo City Council from 1985-93. She also is a lobbyist for numerous organizations and currently serves on two commissions: The Washington state Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which she was appointed to by President George H.W. Bush in 1991; and the Commission on Judicial Conduct, appointed by Gov. Gary Locke in 1996.

“I’ve been there, I’ve done it, and I can do it again,” she said.

Her plan to boost the Kitsap economy includes laying fiber-optic cable to attract business and looking at comprehensive tax reform, including a possible repeal of Washington’s business and operation tax, which she called, “one of the most regressive taxes in the nation.”

On the same issue, Appleton said she supports looking into tax reform, but not making a decision on the matter until citizens have a say.

“There’s going to be no income tax here, because the people do not want it,” she said. “But the discussion is very important.”

She also said that Washington’s sales tax-based economy is a problem because its revenue stream isn’t stable and is too dependent on the economy.

Appleton said she supports the Growth Management Act, but views it as a guideline for growth.

“People in our state want planned growth,” she said. “We have a responsibility to our future generations to do that.”

Appleton is also a proponent of transportation initiatives outside of roads, including public transit in the forms of both car and passenger only ferries, the bus system and the idea of a Kitsap monorail. The Kitsap monorail idea surfaced earlier this year at a Poulsbo City Council meeting.

“To cut down on traffic, you have to get people out of their cars,” she said. “We also need to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”

Appleton said she doesn’t approve of independent performance audits that Mahaffay said he advocates.

“The government is not waste heavy,” she said, saying that independent audits of the government would be an “exorbitant cost.”

She also doesn’t believe tort reform — namely capping the amount of lawsuit settlements — will do anything to help curb rising medical insurance costs.

Dan Goebel

Libertarian candidate and Keyport resident Dan Goebel’s political career was born in January 2003, when he was cited by a Washington State Patrol trooper for not wearing his seatbelt.

“I thought to myself, ‘Don’t these guys have anything better to do?’” Goebel questioned. “Don’t I have a right to govern my own risk?”

Goebel sponsored Initiative 836, known as the “Click It, Stick It” campaign to repeal Washington’s seat belt law. It did not garner enough signatures to make the ballot.

However, Goebel is still appealing the $86 ticket he received almost two years ago, one that is currently under review by the Washington State Supreme Court. He is arguing the seatbelt law inhibits his “ability to travel freely” and that in many cases, occupants in a car using a belt may be at a greater risk of injury or death, he said.

Goebel said he believes in many of the traditional Libertarian viewpoints — smaller government and fewer taxes.

“They’re passing stacks of laws every year,” Goebel said. “The seatbelt thing is just the tip of the iceberg, the one that bit me.”

Goebel, a private contractor in Keyport, moved to Washington from Michigan in 1999.

Goebel said government has responsibility in society. But he said some privatization of government entities would help. For example, in education, by providing vouchers to parents so that private school becomes a more viable option.

“With competition, the schools will get better,” he said.

Goebel is a proponent of tort reform, stating, “People are being sued beyond what they can control.”

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