A longtime public servant and self-described “militant moderate” and a political and regional newcomer promising change are competing for the senate seat in the 19th Legislative District.
It was roughly a 60/40 split in the primary in favor of Sen. Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond, over Republican Rick Winsman, and it dealt a blow to Winsman’s support from his party.
“They were on to better and greener pastures at that point,” Winsman said. “We’ve had to scale back our campaign strategy and focus on just those areas where we have the greatest potential to pick up those votes that we need.”
That’s meant a lot of time knocking on doors and holding signs in Aberdeen, Raymond, South Bend and around Cowlitz County, often in conjunction with Cowlitz County Commission candidates and Dixie Kolditz, challenger for 19th District Rep. Dean Takko’s seat.
Now that all the ballots have been sent out, both Hatfield and Winsman are working on get-out-the-vote efforts.
Hatfield is a fourth-generation 19th District resident who grew up in Aberdeen and lives in Raymond. He said his long history in the district is one of his advantages over Winsman.
“You can become local but you pretty much have to raise your kids here up through graduation,” he said with a laugh. People in rural districts like the 19th tend to put more faith in representatives with intimate understanding of the issues, people and businesses of the area, he said.
“They feel more comfortable if they knew your parents or your grandparents … There’s still a few women who were nurses for my great-grandpa,” Hatfield said.
He started his public service career as a legislative assistant to late senators Arlie DeJarnatt and Sid Snyder, where Hatfield says he learned the ways to make a difference. In 1994, he was elected to the state House of Representatives, a position he held for six years, before resigning to become the liaison for legislative and community relations for Lt. Gov. Brad Owen.
In 2006, he returned to the Legislature, taking the state senate seat of his former mentors.
He’s since risen through the ranks to become chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Water & Rural Economic Development Committee. He also sits on the budget-writing Ways & Means Committee.
In April, Hatfield helped shepherd $4 million in state funding to bring a sewer line from the city of Elma to the Satsop Business Park, which could help attract new employers.
“That’s very important for the industrial park up there as well as for the community,” Hatfield said.
His work on the Community Economic and Revitalization Board has already included helping to fund a new warehouse for the Port of Willapa Harbor. He also helped convince the board to forgive part of a loan given to the Grays Harbor PUD in the wake of the closure of Grays Harbor Paper.
The board is one avenue where Hatfield is pursuing in his main goal of creating rural jobs. Helping with grants and low-interest loans can help counties and municipalities make infrastructure improvements or changes that can help them win over businesses.
“It might be that final $200,000 to $1 million that helps land that business that wants to come there. I think that shows the state commitment to them succeeding, which is important,” he said.
Winsman argues that government can’t create jobs, and should focus on making regulations less onerous for businesses.
“If government can take credit for anything, it’s hindering the expansion of jobs. They get in the way, they don’t understand what works,” Winsman said.
He suggested the Legislature should spend more time wording the specifics of its laws rather than passing the details on to departmental bureaucrats. He said the Department of Ecology employs 43 people “who do absolutely nothing every day but write new rules and regulations or revise current regulations.”
Winsman said all regulations should have a sunset requiring the Legislature to take another look in a few years to ensure that all regulations are necessary and functional.
“If not, we’re going to get rid of it because businesses spend too much of their time complying with regulations,” he said.
Winsman sees his role as an outsider as an advantage: He’s lived and worked all over the country, born in New York, moving through the southern U.S. and in Southern California.
“I’ve been able to see what works and more importantly what doesn’t work in different parts of the country,” Winsman said.
Recently, Winsman retired as chief executive officer of the Kelso Longview Chamber of Commerce, after six years of service. Winsman began his career as a piping design engineer for Proctor and Gamble. Then, for 15 years, he worked with public affairs for the National Association of Manufacturers.
He also owned a small business in Santa Clarita, Calif., that created Americans with Disabilities signs and had four employees before he sold it. During his time in Santa Clarita, he served for two years as a planning commissioner for the city.
Winsman called Hatfield out of touch with his constituents on social issues — as an example, all the 19th District’s representatives, including Hatfield, voted in favor of the state’s same-sex marriage law.
“The only thing that bill did was change the definition of marriage from one man and one woman to two people,” Winsman said. “Quite frankly this whole smokescreen that they put up that ‘we want more rights’ is just a bunch of B.S.”
Winsman noted many churches he’s visited have appreciated his opposition to the bill, but mostly he’s heard from residents about jobs and education, not social issues.
Hatfield’s vote came after a lot of careful consideration, he said. Mostly the feedback he’s received from constituents has been positive. He recalled seeing the group Parents, Friends & Families of Lesbians and Gays marching at an event in Cathlamet.
“I don’t think that’s something you would have seen even 10 years ago. So times are changing. But for me, it’s a tough vote. I know a lot of people on the other side of that, they’re good people and they have strong beliefs,” Hatfield said.
Ultimately, the vote came down to a belief in the separation of church and state, although he did work to add amendments protecting churches and other organizations from lawsuits. He said he doesn’t expect it to impact the vote in his race very much, partly because Referendum 74 made it on the ballot.
“I think the folks that would be the most upset by a yes vote will still have the chance to vote on it themselves,” Hatfield said.
In most instances, Hatfield is a centrist Democrat, a founding member of the Roadkill Caucus. That group has advocated for a voice for voters in between the extremes on the left and right.