Two Republicans and a self-proclaimed Berniecrat are hoping to land a spot representing southeastern Washington in the state House.
Jennifer Goulet – who calls herself a Berniecrat because of her support of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders – is vying for a seat in the historically Republican 9th Legislative District, a sprawling, rural area in the state’s southeast corner, covering Adams, Asotin, Franklin, Garfield and Whitman counties, and southern Spokane County.
But 39-year-old Goulet, of Pasco, said she thinks there are more progressive voters in the district than people think.
“I think if we can get enough people to turn out to vote, and also get a lot of those independents, that we could change the district,” she said.
Goulet plans to focus her campaign on rallying young voters, first-time voters, and jaded voters who haven’t turned out to the polls in the past.
She wants to eliminate some corporate tax breaks to fund public schools, increase the minimum wage and supports a single-payer, universal health care system on the national level.
She’s running against incumbent Mary Dye, 54, a Garfield County Republican and longtime GOP activist who was appointed to the seat in 2015 following the resignation of Susan Fagan.
“My opponent in Pasco obviously is my opposite, my mirrored opposite, in every issue,” Dye said.
Dye and her husband operate a wheat farm near Pomeroy.
Dye said she has yet to meet her opponents and discuss the issues the Legislature will face, but she feels her voter base – largely farmers and business owners – are energized as the Aug. 2 primary approaches.
“I’ve been working on issues that are very important to them,” she said.
Dye said she wants to focus on “economic development in our small communities in Eastern Washington, and also enhancing the management of the state natural resources.”
She said she’s worked to improve wildfire response and increase load limits along corridors in her district and is working toward bringing broadband to the district.
Hailey Roemer, 21, who describes herself as a “moderate Republican” entered the race after finding herself dissatisfied with her options as a voter.
“I just graduated, and I was looking for candidates to support and I saw two extremes,” she said. “It didn’t seem like it was the best representation of District 9.”
Roemer, of Pullman, is a fourth-generation resident of the district, and a recent graduate of Washington State University, where she double-majored in business and political science.
Her platform centers heavily on education, agricultural policy reform and improving infrastructure. Namely, she wants to see improvements to state Highway 26, a stretch of highway from between Vantage and Colfax, which she said is severely underfunded and dangerous.
“It’s not built to sustain the kind of traffic it undergoes,” she said. “It’s not in a state to be able to carry the capacity that it’s subjected to.”
Roemer said that while some might see her age and political inexperience as an obstacle to a successful campaign, she said it has upsides, too. She’s been meeting with constituents and learning how she can best serve them.
“I’m most interested in representing District 9 to the best of my ability,” she said. “I think because of my youth, I’m more willing to listen to the voters and hear them out and see what they need. I’m more amendable to representing voters.”
She said that while she would be honored to work on those issues as a representative, she would continue to champion them even if she isn’t elected.
“Voters are going to keep hearing from me because these are issues I care about and I want something done,” she said.
This story was changed on Sept. 15, 2016 to correct the location of the 9th Legislative District.
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