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Education a key issue for 9th District candidates

Thu., July 31, 2008, midnight

Voters in the 9th Legislative District will choose among three new names on their Aug. 19 primary ballots, including one candidate affiliated with the Green Party who wants to guarantee all workers in the state a 30-day annual vacation.

The election will decide who takes over the seat vacated last year by Rep. David Buri, R-Colfax.

Republican Joe Schmick, of Colfax, was appointed to the seat last November by county commissioners in the sprawling district’s six counties.

He is facing Pullman Democrat Tyana Kelley, a 2002 graduate of Whitworth University with an English degree who is a volunteer coordinator and board member at the Pullman Civic Theatre.

The third candidate is Christopher Winter of the Green Party, a distance-learning sociology instructor for community colleges. He lives in Clarkston and holds two degrees – a master’s in industrial management and a bachelor’s in wildlife conservation.

Schmick holds a degree in accounting from Eastern Washington University. He farms 900 acres and has been active in the Farm Bureau. He also owns a vending machine business.

He said he is concerned about the health of small businesses in the largely rural district and wants to improve both the economic and regulatory climate for business, especially those that are competing with bordering communities in Idaho.

Schmick wants to improve work force education for jobs such as trades and crafts, bring more health insurance options to consumers and revisit WASL basic education testing in K-12 schools.

Kelley said she, too, has questions about the WASL test and believes it should not be a graduation requirement. She wants expanded health-care coverage through the state and lower deductibles and co-pays for private insurance. She also believes college tuitions should be reduced.

She has been traveling throughout the district, which is about the size of Connecticut, and knocking on a lot of doors. “I think this is the year to take the seat back in the Ninth,” she said. Her campaign had raised $5,000 through this month, she said.

Winter believes that undergraduate college education should be free, and that in exchange, students be required to attend classes and keep up with class work or face the prospect of paying the cost. The reason for the proposal, he said, is the younger generation is facing twin challenges of escalating costs for education and the prospects of higher payroll taxes to keep Social Security solvent.

“I think it’s a moral and ethical thing to do for the younger generation,” he said of the free undergraduate tuition proposal.

Similarly, a 30-day mandated vacation would lead to happier workers and greater productivity in the long run, he said.

Rep. Steve Hailey, a Republican rancher and farmer from Mesa, is running unopposed for the district’s other House seat.

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