July 23, 2012 in City

Five candidates vie for Billig’s seat in the House

By The Spokesman-Review

Bob Apple

56, Democrat

Career: Elected to Spokane City Council in 2003 and 2007. Former owner of roofing and contracting business. Former owner of Comet restaurant and bar in Hillyard. Long active in local politics. Ran for port district in 1982, state Legislature in 1986 as a Republican and in 2010 as a Democrat.

Education: Graduated from Ferris High School in 1975.

Family: Single. No children.

Tim Benn

34, Republican

Career: Owns a day care center, Little Precious Ones, with his wife in the Minnehaha neighborhood of north Spokane.

Education: Graduated from Faith Christian Academy in 1996. Earned associate’s degrees from Spokane Community College in general business, business management and marketing in 2005. Earned child development associate’s degree from Blue Prints for Learning in 2011.

Family: Married. Has three school-age children.

Morgan Oyler

29, Republican

Career: Owns Thom’s Coffee at Spokane Public Market. Supervised two homes for Helping Hands, which operates group homes for at-risk youths. Worked as a counselor for Excelsior Youth Center in Spokane for about two years. Ran for state House in 2010.

Education: Graduated from Crossroads High School in Santa Monica, Calif., in 2001. Earned history bachelor’s degree from Gonzaga University in 2005.

Family: Single. No children.

Marcus Riccelli

34, Democrat

Career: Served as senior policy aide to state Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown from November 2010 until May 2012. Served as Eastern Washington director for U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell from 2007 until 2010. Member of the Spokane Public Schools Public Affairs Advisory Council. Member of advisory board for Daybreak Youth Services, which helps teens battling addiction. Former member of the Spokane City Plan Commission.

Education: Graduated from Mead High School in 1996. Earned business administration bachelor’s degree from Gonzaga University in 2000. Earned master’s in public administration from the University of Washington in 2007.

Family: Married. Has one young son.

Jon Snyder

43, Democrat

Career: Publisher of the Go Green Directory and Out There Monthly magazine, which is focused on outdoor recreation. Founder and first board chairman of KYRS Thin Air Community Radio. Won Spokane City Council term in 2009. Serves on Washington Traffic Safety Commission, Aging and Long Term Care of Eastern Washington board and Spokane Regional Health District board. Formerly served on Spokane Regional Transportation Council and Spokane Transit Authority board.

Education: Graduated from Lewis and Clark High School in 1987. Earned bachelor’s degree from Evergreen State College in 1991.

Family: Married. Has two school-age children.

The last-minute decision of state Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown to retire at the end of the year set off a quick, frenzied rush among Democrats to determine how to maintain control of the three seats representing the only Democratic-leaning district in Eastern Washington.

In the end, state Rep. Andy Billig became the standard-bearer for the party for the Senate seat. That left Billig’s House seat open.

Voters have five choices for Billig’s 3rd Legislative District House position. The two candidates with the most votes in the Aug. 7 primary will face each other in the November election.

The Democrats are:

• Bob Apple, a former Spokane city councilman who has a strong independent streak. He was the most outspoken councilman in criticizing the city’s handling of the death of Otto Zehm, who died in police custody in 2006, but he has angered party faithful for some of his positions, including on global warming.

• Jon Snyder, a Spokane city councilman who has a large following among many Democrats, in part for his calls for broader transportation choices and willingness to sponsor a resolution in support of gay marriage to the City Council.

• Marcus Riccelli, Brown’s former senior policy aide, who has the backing of Brown and much of the establishment of the Democratic Party. That backing has translated into a big fundraising advantage. He’s gathered about $63,000 – nearly three times as much as Snyder, who has raised the second-most among the five candidates.

The Republicans are:

• Tim Benn, the co-owner of a day care center who successfully lobbied the Spokane City Council this year to write a letter to the state requesting to delay implementation of day care center regulations that Benn said were burdensome.

• Morgan Oyler, a moderate who owns a coffee stand and ran for a seat in the district two years ago.

The following is an excerpt of a 15-question Spokesman-Review candidate questionnaire. The full questionnaires are available at spokesman.com/elections. Candidates were allowed up to 100 words for each answer.

What is the first bill you hope to sponsor or co-sponsor next session?

Apple: Ones that will benefit my constituents and can be made into law. I will accomplish what can be achieved by building alliances as needed to accomplish expressed goals. Whatever the legislation, I will hold true to the goals intended and not diminish what is meant to be achieved.

Benn: Support the two-thirds majority vote to increase taxes.

Oyler: The first bill I would sponsor would be one establishing a stand-alone K-12 education budget to ensure that our schools are the first funding priority of the Legislature.

Riccelli: My experience has allowed me to be uniquely positioned to deliver on the medical school. We have set the table with the funding of the Biomedical and Health Sciences Building. We have the opportunity to make our community not only a center of health care excellence, but also bring economic development around clinical research. My first push would be for a bill or provision in the operating budget to fund additional graduate medical education slots. Spokane’s future is linked to growing the health care sector and this would help bring the medical school and 13,000 new jobs upon completion.

Snyder: Spokane needs jobs. The first thing I want to work on is a transportation revenue package. Whenever the state invests money to build it should have a triple benefit: 1) creating construction jobs, 2) improving access to employment, and 3) spurring the private sector to invest and create more jobs. If a project isn’t doing all of the above it’s not worth our time. We have great road, public transit and aerospace projects in the Spokane area that can do all three. Obviously one legislator can’t do this alone but the state has been laying the groundwork for years.

Do you agree with the state Supreme Court ruling from January that said that the state is not adequately funding basic education? Do you agree with Gov. Chris Gregoire’s assessment that tax increases are needed to meet the requirements of the ruling?

Apple: Yes, I support the court’s decision. It is addressed in the state constitution as a required responsibility and statistically has not been reasonably accomplished more recently. However, I don’t believe tax increases are needed. Administration of government should account for no more than 8 percent of budgeted money and that is being unreasonably exceeded by most state departments and, worse, by more newly created departments. So, in fact, this is a big problem throughout our state government.

Benn: I disagree with the court ruling from January but I have some serious concerns with the current education system and administrative structure. I also disagree with Gov. Gregoire’s assessment that taxes need to be increased. I believe we need to re-evaluate how tax dollars are being spent within education to get the highest quality education directly to the children and fulfill the state constitutional obligation.

Oyler: I agree with the McCleary decision. For too long, our elected officials have not met their constitutional obligations. I do not think we need new taxes to meet our obligations. If we put into place structural budget reforms that ensure that education is properly funded, we can avoid raising taxes.

Riccelli: As the son of an elementary teacher, husband of a school counselor, and newer parent, I know we have a responsibility to fully fund K-12 education and I agree with the ruling. In order to enhance education and produce better results for students, we must invest more revenue into our public education system. With a required two-thirds majority to put revenue options on the table, we have to find new and innovative ways to find the revenue necessary to support our public education system. Aggressively pursuing the closure of some of our more egregious tax loopholes is one way.

Snyder: We must fully fund our state education at the levels our state constitution requires in order to provide the opportunities our children deserve. If education at all levels is a top priority, we need to have the courage to fund it. We must always look for cost saving and efficiencies, but at some point we need to get serious about schooling the workforce of the next generation, and that will require new revenue so that all children in the state of Washington have access to great learning opportunities and have a chance to compete in the global economy.

Do you support same-sex marriage?

Apple: No, civil unions are provided for that occurrence. Otherwise, I believe the term marriage was contrived by our churches with a specific meaning that is contrary to that use.

Benn: No.

Oyler: Yes.

Riccelli: Like many young people from Spokane, I left for a bit after graduating college. I returned around two years later for a job and to court my future wife, and eventually we started a family. I would never think to deny that same joy to any committed couple. For me, I just don’t believe government should play a role in such a deeply personal decision, but I do support the exemption in the current law that allows churches to exercise their conscience in such matters.

Snyder: We must promote equality for all people, and that is why I am in favor of Referendum 74. Marriage is love, commitment and responsibility, and I believe that all couples in our state deserve the same recognition under the law.

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