Voters and donors aren’t backing away from incumbent 3rd District Representative Timm Ormsby, a Democrat, despite him being charged with driving under the influence in February. Since then Ormsby has apologized and said the incident was a wake-up call that caused him to quit drinking entirely.
In the August primaries Ormsby collected a commanding 64 percent of the vote against his opponent, retired Marine Lt. Col. Dave Lucas, a Republican and a political newcomer. Ormsby also holds a substantial lead in fundraising, collecting nearly triple the cash Lucas has.
Ormsby’s driving charge stemmed from a one-car rollover crash in Olympia. He pleaded guilty to reckless driving, a common downgrade in charges for first-time DUI offenders. He was fined $941, must serve two years of supervision and lost his license for 90 days. He also completed a substance abuse assessment and attended a victim impact panel.
“I made a very bad decision and apologized publicly to my constituents and my community and privately to my friends, family and colleagues,” Ormsby said. “It was very much an eye-opener for me.”
Lucas has not brought up the incident during his campaign and said he’d rather focus on legislative issues. “I think that’s between him and the people,” Lucas said. “I have not made an issue of that. That’s not who I am.”
Lucas’ background is outside of politics. After his nearly 22-year career in the Marine Corps, he and his family moved to Spokane in 2013. He thought he might get into restaurant franchising and helped launch Blaze Pizza near Gonzaga University, but then became a full-time volunteer. He is currently chairman of the Rockwood Neighborhood Council, serves on the Spokane Veterans Affairs hospital Patient and Family Advisory Committee, sits on the Inland Northwest Boy Scout Council executive board and is a Cub Scout leader.
Lucas said property crime in general and one legislative bill in particular are why he decided to challenge Ormsby for his seat. He has pushed Spokane city leaders to hire more police officers to address property crime and also wants the state to offer supervised probation for property crimes offenders.
There was such a supervision bill during the last session but Ormsby let it die, Lucas said.
“Really it’s politics as usual,” he said. “He didn’t want it. His arguments are really just political distraction. His response really angered me.”
Lucas said he thinks the bill’s failure shows that Ormsby is not looking out for his constituents.
“He really votes in lockstep with the West Side,” he said. “I don’t think he really represents us even though he says he does.”
Ormsby, however, said there’s a very good reason no law was passed. Previously there had been a bill in the Senate to add supervision to auto theft offenders in Spokane only as a pilot project. Ormsby co-sponsored a bill in the House of Representatives to add supervision to auto theft offenders in Spokane and Federal Way.
The House public safety committee, however, recommended changing Ormsby’s bill to make it a statewide program. They made that recommendation on the Thursday before the Saturday bill cut-off, Ormsby said.
There was no information on how much it would cost to make the program statewide and not enough time to figure that out, he said.
“I just thought it was irresponsible to write a blank check,” he said. “I think it’s a great model but we have a responsibility in the legislature to quantify how much it would cost.”
Ormsby said he fully expects the issue to be back during the next session and he would even be open to expanding it to more property crimes than just auto theft.
“I would love to have a conversation about corrections, sentencing and supervision,” he said.
Ormsby has served as one of the district’s two representatives for 15 years and is the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, which helps create the state budget.
“I offer myself as a candidate with 15 years experience,” he said. “It turns out I’m pretty good at it.”
During his legislative career he’s worked on a wide variety of policy and budget committees and knows how to navigate the process, Ormsby said. He’s worked to improve career and technical education in schools and said there is still more work to be done.
“This is still somewhat of a challenge,” he said. “Not everyone is cut out for a bachelor’s degree. We have made great strides in changing that expectation.”
He said the state’s sales tax system is regressive, and impacts the poor the most. He wants to add capital gains taxes as another funding source in order to tackle mental health, public safety and social services.
“That’s something that’s always going to be a public policy challenge,” he said. “We also need to structure a revenue system to pay for it. It’s not about raising taxes, it’s about changing them. It’s about restructuring so we have low rates from various sources instead of having sales tax stick out like a sore thumb.”
Lucas said it’s Ormsby’s lengthy tenure in the House that means it is time for him to go. “He’s been in office for 15 years,” he said. “We’re still one of the poorest districts in the state and the poorest ZIP code. Why do we not have term limits?”
Lucas said he wants to address the high cost of housing and said there are too many restrictions on development, which could alleviate the housing shortage. “That’s something we can work on locally,” he said.
He has the experience and skills needed to serve, Lucas said. His last posting was as the executive officer of the East Coast Marine regiment, and he knows how to manage large budgets.
“Politics as usual is not the right answer,” he said. “I think I bring a high amount of integrity that I don’t think has existed in politics.”
Lucas has raised just over $43,800 in his fight against Ormsby and his largest donor has been himself. He gave $2,000 in cash to his campaign, plus $7,520 in in-kind donations and a $2,700 loan. Colfax resident Suzanne Roberts, who works for KidZKount, a Head Start organization based in Auburn, California, gave $2,000. Former Spokane County Republican Party Chairwoman Cindy Zapotocky gave $1,500. Associated Builders and Contractors Inc., Associated Builders and Contractors Western Washington Chapter and the Inland Northwest Associated General Contractors each donated $1,000.
More than $32,000 of those donations came from individuals, with businesses and political action committees accounting for most of the rest. He has a total of 125 donors and has spent nearly $35,000, according to the most recent campaign finance documents available.
Ormsby’s re-election fund was buoyed by the nearly $26,000 he had left over from his last election campaign and he has raised an additional $79,400. He has 94 donors, the majority of which are political action committees. Businesses and unions also make up a large portion of his contributors and only $1,500 comes from individual donors. He has spent $15,400.
His largest donors, who contributed $2,000 each, include the Public School Employees of Washington, the Washington Beverage Association PAC, Avista, Mendax Inc., the Washington State Dental PAC, the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades and Laborers International of North American Local 238.