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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

In 7th District race, Sen. Shelly Short, Karen Hardy disagree on proposed Newport smelter

By Nina Culver For The Spokesman-Review

Voters will notice something familiar about the ballot for the 7th District Senate race – it features the same two women who faced each other in a special election last November.

Democrat Karen Hardy is once again running against incumbent Republican Sen. Shelly Short, who was appointed to the position in early 2017 after serving in the House of Representatives since 2008. Short won the special election to keep her seat, taking nearly 68 percent of the vote. The race between the two may not have changed much since then; in the August primary, Short took 67 percent.

Short has been involved in politics since she worked as an aide to U.S. Rep. George Nethercutt after he was first elected. “It really wasn’t something I thought I would do long term,” she said. “I loved working for him. He never changed who he was.”

She was working as a legislative aide to Rep. Joel Kretz when she first ran for the House in 2008.

“I had to quit my job, which was no small thing,” she said. “I liked being behind the scenes.”

Short said she was proud to get legislation passed during the last session that opens up specialty care such as physical therapy and chiropractors to residents of the state. Patients are now entitled to six specialty care visits upon recommendation of their doctor. Previously even one visit required preauthorization from insurance companies. More than six visits still requires preauthorization.

Hardy, who had a long career with Delta Airlines before becoming a horse trainer, moved to the 7th District in 2013. Her love of animals prompted her to found Stevens County Animal Welfare Advocates and run for public office.

A couple of years ago a puppy mill was found in Stevens County and there also were several animal abuse and neglect cases, Hardy said. She turned first to the county commissioners, who told her that animal control laws weren’t enforced. “They said we lived under the code of the West,” Hardy said. Frustrated, Hardy said she reached out to Short but received no response. She said she’s heard the same from other people who have tried to contact Short.

“Our representatives are not responsive,” she said. “They don’t represent us. They don’t respond to us.”

Hardy also believes that Short hasn’t done enough to get district projects in the state’s capital budget. The district gets less than others, even districts that sprawl across counties like the 7th does, she said.

The Stevens County Jail is in desperate need of an upgrade, and a levy failed, Hardy said. The jail has been deemed unsafe but Short and 7th District representatives have done nothing, she said.

“They haven’t even asked for any money,” she said. “You don’t get what you don’t ask for.”

There is also a county-owned bridge near Usk, Washington, that has been declared functionally obsolete and structurally unsound, Hardy said. Load restrictions have been placed on the bridge, which means that it can be used only one at a time by logging trucks accessing the Vaagen Brothers mill.

Short said money for the bridge has to come from the transportation budget, not the capital budget, and she has supported Pend Oreille County in the past when officials requested money for the bridge. Other bridges in the district also need work, she said.

“I have been very supportive of those applications,” Short said.

She believes the applications failed because many legislators were focused on funding the North Spokane Corridor, Short said. She said she will continue to support the bridge projects if the counties reapply for funding.

Short said she is working to get funding for an elevator project at the Pend Oreille County Courthouse and the historic Keller House in Colville. She’s also helped win state money to improve emergency communications in Okanogan and Ferry counties and is working on the same for Stevens and Pend Oreille counties.

Hardy said she wants to expand Apple Care, a low-cost health insurance program run by the state, to all residents in the district as a pilot program to reduce the number of uninsured residents. That is an important part of keeping the rural hospitals open, she said.

“These hospitals have to stay open or people will die,” she said. “Everyone will be insured, everyone can go to the hospital and the doctors and hospitals will get paid. I think this would be a great place to test it. It is cost-effective to do it.”

A proposed coal-fired silicon smelter near Newport, Washington, has been making waves in the district, and Hardy said she opposes the proposed location. “They couldn’t have picked a worse place if they tried,” she said. “It’s a horse pasture.”

The land has no water, no power, no sewer and no road leading to it from Washington. “You have to go into Idaho to get there,” she said.

The site is also about 200 feet from the Pend Oreille River, and Hardy said she is concerned the river may become contaminated. “There’s definitely more appropriate places to put this than a scenic tourist town above a river,” she said.

Short said the company that wants to open the smelter first met with her about the project when she was in the House. “Obviously, jobs are hard to come by in rural communities,” she said. “I felt like I needed to work really hard on that as an opportunity.”

Short said she is supportive of the smelter with the caveat that the project must meet stringent environmental requirements. “They need to show that they can do this,” she said.

She has pledged not to interfere with the approval process, Short said. “I shouldn’t prejudge a project before it has gone through the process.”

Hardy knows she is making her second attempt against Short in a heavily Republican district. “There has not been a Democrat elected since 1990,” she said. “We’ve been doing this for 28 years, and we are at the bottom. I want to go to work.”

Short said she has the experience and relationships in the House and the Senate to do a good job for the 7th District: “I don’t shy away from big issues or controversial issues.”

It’s important to work together on issues, including the ongoing disagreement between wolf conservationists and ranchers about the management of wolf packs in the district, Short said. “It’s not an easy process, but you’ve got to be able to do that,” she said.

Short has a decisive advantage in fundraising, pairing her $40,000 left over from last year’s election with $134,000 in new donations, mostly from businesses and political action committees. Her largest contributors, who each gave $2,000, are Anheuser Busch, Avista, BNSF, Boeing and the Centene Management Co., of St. Louis.

Hardy had $880 left over from her last campaign and raised nearly $40,000 in new donations. She has contributed more than $7,000 of her own money in in-kind contributions and loans. Donors giving $2,000 each are the Kennedy Fund in Seattle and the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades.