Legislative candidates face off at forum


An Independent candidate seeking to unseat state Sen. Jim Hargrove accused the incumbent of failing to protect victims of rape and pedophiles by not allowing a piece of legislation to move forward in the committee Hargrove chairs.

“I want you to ask in your heart of hearts, ‘which person would I rather have looking after my kids and my neighbor’s kids?’ ” retired Navy master chief Larry Carter of Port Ludlow told a few dozen people during a legislative candidates forum at Grays Harbor College Thursday night.

Sen. Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, called the notion ludicrous and noted he was just recently honored as legislator of the year for the third time by the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs.

“If you think my actions are unreasonable, they don’t think my actions are unreasonable to take another look at that issue,” Hargrove told Carter.

After the forum, Carter clarified that Hargrove “could look after my kids any day. He’s a good man. What I meant is if the senator is looking after our kids’ interest.”

The forum will later be broadcast on the public access channel Eagle TV on Comcast and North Beach Community TV for the Coast Communications cable system. Thursday’s forum also featured 19th District races between Sen. Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond, and challenger his challenger, Rick Winsman, a Republican from Longview. The other candidates at the forum were state Rep. Brian Blake, D-Aberdeen, and successful write-in candidate Tim Sutinen, an Independent from Longview.

Another forum has been scheduled for 7 tonight at the Bishop Center for Performing Arts at Grays Harbor College featuring candidates for county commission, Grays Harbor PUD and other state representative candidates from the 19th District and 24th District.

Winsman characterized Hatfield as a career politician, while Sutinen said Blake was relying too much on political donations from “mega corporations.” Hatfield and Blake said they are trying to do the best for a community they know has fallen on rough times.

Carter repeatedly mentioned his support for legislation that would remove the statute of limitations for victims of child rape. The bill was approved unanimously by the state House in 2011, but as chairman of the Senate Human Services & Corrections Committee, Hargrove decided not to give the bill a hearing. The legislation was re-introduced this year, but didn’t get anywhere.

The current law states that if a victim is under 14 years of age and the rape is reported within one year of it happening, the statute of limitations runs until the victim’s 28th birthday. The proposed bill allowed rape of a victim under the age of 18 to be prosecuted at any time.

“My opponent refused to submit that bill,” Carter said. “Even more disappointingly, he didn’t even offer to make amendments to it. So that will be the first piece of legislation I introduce, to eliminate the statute of limitations for rape of a child by an adult in our state.”

Carter said that if Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, a convicted serial child molester, had committed his crimes in Washington state, he may have walked away from his crimes.

Hargrove said there were “concerns brought by prosecutors and victims boards that we might be creating more victims if we do this.” Hargrove noted that any legislator at any time could have brought the bill up for a vote on the floor of the Senate, but that didn’t happen. Instead, Hargrove and other legislators sent the issue to a sex offender policy board to come up with recommendations

“I am full well ready to introduce legislation that adopts the recommendations that they make,” Hargrove said.”How can anyone say I’m defending pedophiles? What constituency is that?”

Both Carter and Hargrove said their top issues would be education. Carter said he supports charter schools. Hargrove said he supports some of the concept of charter schools, but not the actual creation of the system.

Hargrove, a professional forester, also said he adamantly opposed the federal Wild Olympics legislation because it doesn’t do enough to help the timber industry.

HATFIELD-WINSMAN

Sen. Hatfield has been in the state Senate since 2006. Prior to that, he served a decade in the state House of Representatives and worked as a legislative assistant and for the Lieutenant Governor’s Office.

He’s currently chairman of the Agriculture & Rural Economic Development Committee, a group with equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats.

“And that’s the way I like it,” Hatfield told the forum, to show his bi-partisan nature.

Winsman told the forum he’s always worked in the private sector, most recently retiring as chief executive officer of the Kelso Longview Chamber of Commerce.

“We’ve got people who are out of work and people who need jobs and it’s that kind of private sector experience I want to bring to the state Legislature,” Winsman said.

Winsman, 65, said he was raised with “a strong work ethic and strong family values” in upstate New York. He also owned a small business in California that created Americans with Disabilities signs and had four employees before he sold it.

Winsman’s priorities would be to tackle “out of control spending,” fully fund education and look at the “tax preferences” being given out and determine which “has a direct relationship with job creation.”

“We have to get rid of the log jam of regulations that are starving our businesses to the point where they can’t move forward,” Winsman added.

Hatfield said his top priority is education funding. On a committee level, he said he’d also like to see more emphasis put on economic development in rural areas.

“It’s so important we have an infrastructure that’s ready,” Hatfield said, specifically citing the $4 million given to the Satsop Business Park to upgrade its sewer access. “We need to continue to make sure the Ports have the infrastructure. … There are a number of things we can do as the state partners with private business.”

Winsman said he feels “government makes the mistake by saying it can create jobs.” Yet, at the same time, Winsman said he was in favor of the “public-private partnership” that make up the pontoon construction project in Aberdeen. The multi-million dollar project is funded by state tax dollars and was awarded to a private contractor creating the pontoons for the 520 floating bridge in Seattle.

After the forum, Winsman was asked if he felt the government had helped create the jobs for the pontoon project?

“It’s a public project to replace a bridge and came out of a capital budget on a state level,” Winsman said. “… On the surface, it looks great, it’s a public-private partnership, but unfortunately, it didn’t do what it normally would do,” Winsman said. “It didn’t provide long-term, sustainable family-wage jobs for the area.”

SUTINEN-BLAKE

Sutinen, who owns a small technology consulting business in the Longview area, repeatedly criticized Rep. Blake, who has been in office for a decade, for taking political donations from “out-of-town mega corporations.”

“What do Anheuser-Busch beer company out of Van Nuys, California, Monsanto Agricultural Company and Philip Morris Tobacco company out of Richmond, Virginia. have in common? They’re all donors to my opponent. … I challenge you to sign a pledge not to take that money from special interest groups or out-of-state corporations and return all of the money you have taken from them.”

Sutinen alleges that Blake is part of a larger political machine run by large corporations and doesn’t focus on small businesses.

“Until we stop taking the lobbyists’ money that puts the big corporations first and get our small businesses going we are going to be in this jobs malaise,” Sutinen said.

Blake never replied to Sutinen’s allegations. After the forum, when asked about it, Blake called it all nonsense and “not worth the time to respond to it.” He also noted that he was one of the few legislators to vote against legislation supported by Philip Morris taxing U-Count Tobacco shops, including one in Aberdeen.

Sutinen also said the state’s regulatory system needs change because there are “thousands of laws that make it more difficult” to run a business.

“We need to continue to look to refine our regulatory structure,” Blake said. “…There are some who say if we just remove government, these businesses will come and it’s good for all of us. And if we remove regulations everything will be better. But who doesn’t remember the scenes during the Olympics in China where they don’t have regulations and the athletes were wearing smog masks to compete? That’s not the future I want. I believe we can maintain our environmental protections and expedite permitting.”