There isn’t much of a race for the Legislative District 6, Position 1 seat. Incumbent Republican Rep. Kevin Parker has raised 40 times the amount of money as his Democratic challenger and is a fixture at fairs, parades and other civic events. He’s also known for walking neighborhoods and ringing doorbells. If you didn’t know better, you’d think he was playing catch-up.
But the underdog is Donald Dover, a genial man who is offering only token opposition. Dover, who used to manage distance learning for Washington State University, says he entered the race because he didn’t feel it was right for Parker to run unopposed. He ran for Cheney City Council in 1983 for the same reason. Dover is knowledgeable about the issues, but he simply cannot match Parker’s passion for public service.
Parker has no illusions about the upcoming legislative session. With the Supreme Court watching carefully, he thinks lawmakers must come up with $3 billion to $6 billion to satisfy the 2018 deadline for funding basic education. The frustration, he notes, is that lawmakers can’t confer with justices to nail down a figure. Plus, he doesn’t think the court fully appreciates previous legislative efforts to meet the constitutional mandate.
McCleary, he says, will make it challenging to tackle other issues requiring significant funding. He thinks a transportation package is unlikely and says it will be more realistic to narrow the focus to existing projects, such as the North Spokane Corridor. He supports the reforms that proved to be the sticking point last session, such as forgoing the sales tax on transportation projects.
If he’s right about the prospects of a package, that’s unfortunate, because the transportation system needs significant upgrades to speed the flow of goods and to free the gridlock at ports. If that can’t be done, export business will look elsewhere along the West Coast.
Parker says it was wise to hold the line on college costs but notes it will take a significant sum that currently isn’t in the budget to continue a tuition freeze. He’s frustrated that university officials can’t provide clear answers on how much it costs to educate students.
He says he enjoys being a budget watchdog and would like to see the state issue debt forecasts that are similar to its revenue forecasts. Debt service in Washington, he says, is higher than in most states.
What separates Parker from many of his Republican colleagues is his willingness to take action to help the needy. He has gone to extraordinary lengths to listen to the concerns of the homeless, and he produced a bill that would help them secure temporary identification so they can look for work. He authored an anti-human-trafficking bill that was signed into law. Over the summer, he rounded up generators and bottled water for delivery to the Methow Valley when wildfires devastated the area.
Parker clearly loves public service and has earned a return trip to Olympia.
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