The 6th Legislative District, which has set campaign spending records in previous years, is unusually tame this time around.
There’s just one contested race on the November ballot in the heavily competitive district. No one opted to challenge Republican state Rep. Kevin Parker, who holds the other House position, and the Senate seat won’t be on the ballot again until 2014.
That leaves all the focus in the 6th District on the contest for the seat currently held by Republican Rep. John Ahern, who announced his retirement earlier this year. Voters will choose between two attorneys, former state Rep. Dennis Dellwo, a Democrat, and former Spokane police Officer Jeff Holy, a Republican.
Dellwo, who has raised about $100,000, took first place in the August primary with 42 percent of the vote. Holy, who has raised about $65,000, advanced by taking second place with 31 percent. Two other Republicans were eliminated and have endorsed Holy. With a solid majority of voters leaning Republican in the primary, there appears to be an easy path to victory for Holy. Dellwo, however, says that with so many credible Republicans running in the primary, he’s bound to pick up support from voters whose favorites are no longer on the ballot.
In recent weeks Dellwo and Holy have sharpened their arguments against each other.
“When I compare Jeff Holy and his conservative, sometimes radical tea party values, the difference is striking,” Dellwo said in a recent interview. He later said that radical may not have been the right word, but he noted that Holy’s main base of support in the primary was from the conservative base of the GOP, including retired tire store owner Duane Alton, who often leads the fight locally against school levies.
Holy said at a recent debate that aired on KSPS that Dellwo’s record in the Legislature in the 1980s and 1990s made Dellwo bad for business because he voted to raise unemployment insurance benefits, the minimum wage and other workers’ benefits.
“I want to give Washington state every possible ability to allow business to grow,” Holy said.
Both candidates say they have the best plan to bring prosperity and jobs to Spokane.
“On day one I will be able to hit the ground running and be able to take the concerns of the 6th District and the greater Spokane area to Olympia and get them considered,” Dellwo said at the KSPS debate.
While Dellwo argues that legislative experience is a bonus, Holy says it’s better to give someone else a chance.
“Our state needs a fresh perspective in Olympia allowing us to look for new solutions allowing us to leave the failed past behind,” Holy said.
The following are excerpts from a 15-topic Spokesman-Review questionnaire. Each candidate was allowed up to 100 words to address each topic. They are listed in the order that they will appear on the ballot. Dellwo’s and Holy’s full questionnaires can be found attached to the candidate’s profile at spokesman.com/elections.
1. What is the first bill you hope to sponsor or co-sponsor next session?
Dellwo: I will sponsor or co-sponsor legislation that aligns college and secondary school curriculums, so that high school graduates are ready to take on a post-secondary education. We need to plan education for the jobs that are or will be available to the students when they graduate.
Holy: Business and Occupation Tax reform. Washington State’s B&O tax is based upon the gross receipts of a business, not taking into consideration business costs such as rent, equipment, wages or even the costs of materials. The current B&O tax is often imposed upon a single product multiple times as such product moves through stages of production. Multiple taxation burdens business owners and increases the cost to the consumers, who are subsidizing multiple levels of taxation even before having to pay sales tax on the product at the point of purchase. Washington business deserves better. We deserve better.
2. 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?
Dellwo: I agree with the Supreme Court. Our constitution declares that the state has a paramount duty to fully fund basic education. I do not agree with the governor’s choice to raise taxes. To raise the needed money, we must improve the economy, develop an environment that would support job creation, work to close the numerous loopholes and credits that no longer serve a good purpose, build efficiencies in the existing programs, and reduce programs that do not serve a reasonable end or are not effective.
Holy: The court stated the “state has failed to meet its duty.” Washington state’s auditor commented that less than an acceptable percentage of education funding makes it to the classroom. According to the Washington Policy Center, only 59 percent of basic education funding makes it to the classroom where it has a direct effect on student outcomes. Our children deserve better. Revenue increases are needed. Increasing taxes is a poor first choice of revenue. Providing an environment supporting business growth would increase revenues under the existing tax structure. A healthy business environment provides increased revenue to the state, without new taxes.
3. Do you support same-sex marriage?
Dellwo: I do believe that we must allow marriage equality. I believe in extending equal rights to our gay and lesbian couples and the elimination of unjustified discrimination. No longer can the opponents of marriage equality ignore the general support for this change. I support marriage equality for all loving, committed couples.
Holy: No. My Catholic formation and personal beliefs compel me to support the traditional definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman.
4. Do you support the state’s current laws relating to collective bargaining among government workers?
Dellwo: I support the rights of individuals to organize to negotiate with their employers. This is good for the employees, the employer and the State of Washington. We need living wage jobs for families to be able to afford the products of businesses we are attracting to Spokane.
Holy: Yes, for public safety. For other than public safety, I do not support collective bargaining with government employees in its current form. The most important change to be made is the return of collective bargaining with state employee unions to the Legislature, allowing such process to be open to the public. The current format of the governor negotiating with unions in secret provides opportunity for labor contracts that could only be accomplished outside of the public view, and are not in the people’s best interest.
5. Do you support the state law that allows local governments to install red light enforcement cameras?
Dellwo: Yes, red light or speed cameras are appropriate where they can demonstrate a positive impact on traffic safety. This is a decision the city must make. This option should be available for cities. The revenue generated from this should be dedicated to traffic safety.
Holy: No. After 22 years as a Spokane Police officer, I well understand the difference between that which enhances public safety, and creation of a revenue source.
6. Would you support the creation of an income tax to reduce or eliminate the business and occupation tax or cut other kinds of state taxes?
Dellwo: The voters have voted against income tax proposals that included these provisions. I believe the citizens of Washington state are not ready for this, and I will not make such a proposal. If a proposal was submitted to the voters with these reductions in other taxes built into the law, I would personally support it. If passed by the voters, then we could have a fairer system of taxation with little or no increase in the overall tax burden.
Holy: No. A lack of state income tax is one of the most notable advantages in attracting business that Washington state provides.