East Bremerton Republican vies for Kitsap commissioner seat

The last time they may have seen each other was in the halls of North Kitsap High School 13 years ago, but come November, Abby Burlingame will face off against Josh Brown for County Commissioner representing Central Kitsap.

Burlingame, a Republican, announced this month she has started her campaign for Brown’s District 3 seat. The three current county commissioners are Democrats.

She has never competed for office, and admits she’s a long shot candidate, but said she’s fed up with county policies.

“I think he’s going to be a difficult opponent,” she said, adding that with an internship in Olympia and a stint at a conservative think tank she makes a viable challenger.

Burlingame, 30, said she is one class shy of finishing her bachelor’s degree in public policy and law from Seattle Pacific University — which she said she plans on finishing before the election. For the last ten years, Burlingame has worked at A Barber Shop in Silverdale. She lives in East Bremerton.

Her intent is to bring a conservative voice to the board and change policies she believes are steering the county in the wrong direction.

“There are issues putting the taxpayer at risk,” she said, such as an onerous permitting process and the Transportation 2040 plan, a roadmap for developing infrastructure for the region’s future population growth. The plan was adopted by the Puget Sound Regional Council May 20. Burlingame said the process did not include enough input from the public and she said she has concerns about parts of the plan, like tolls.

Brown voted for the plan.

“We need ways to institute transportation policy that works within our county,” she said.

Bringing new jobs to the county, and maintaining the ones already here, is one of Burlingame’s priorities. She said the county needs to diversify its labor base so as not to rely on government jobs, like the Navy and the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.

“We need to stimulate growth in this county,” she said. “That’s my hope. It’s not about building more stuff, it’s getting more jobs in this county.”

Burlingame pointed to her belief that the commissioners have been ducking responsibility as another reason she decided to run.

She said she didn’t agree with the commissioners’ decision to remove themselves from the land use appeals process in April.

As for Silverdale incorporation, Burlingame said she would support a push for cityhood if residents took the lead.

“If I was a citizen of Silverdale I would be looking at my tax revenue and the county and think Silverdale could do a better job of managing money than the county does,” she said.

Although the Kitsap County Republican Party does not endorse candidates prior to the primary election, Chairwoman Sandra LaCelle said she believes Burlingame is a serious challenger in the commissioner race.

So far, Burlingame estimates she has raised more than $3,000 toward her campaign, down from an estimate last week of $5,000. Although she has filed with the Public Disclosure Commission, the state’s campaign finance watchdog, she has not reported her contributions yet. The next deadline is June 10.

She said she hopes to raise at least $50,000, revising down an earlier estimate where Burlingame estimated she would need $100,000 to run a serious campaign.

“It’s just getting around to talking to people and businesses and getting group endorsements,” she said. “I’m confident I can talk my way into it.”

Brown has already brought in $58,000 for his campaign and spent $10,000, according to the Public Disclosure Commission website.

When Brown ran successfully against Republican Jack Hamilton in 2006, he spent about $82,000. Hamilton spent about $101,000.

Brown said he knows little about Burlingame and said his focus is instead on his own campaign. The two attended high school together, but said they didn’t know each other.

She worked for the Washington Policy Center as a research assistant in 2009.

That same year, Burlingame worked as an intern for state Sen. Bob McCaslin, R-Spokane, researching legislation and writing papers with caucus staff.

Mike McCliment, McCaslin’s senior legislative aide, said Burlingame learned valuable skills having worked through a “long, grueling budget year” that will translate to her work as a county commissioner.

“She was a little bit older than the average intern, more mature and had a lot more life experience,” he said.

Burlingame said her lack of experience may not hinder her, given that now Brown has a record that may work against him. “It is the first time anyone can challenge him on things that he has done.”

This story has been corrected. - Ed.

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