The candidates vying for the 19th Legislative District’s Position 1 seat in the state House of Representatives have striking differences in style. Four-term Democratic Rep. Dean Takko specializes in detail-oriented policymaking in sometimes overlooked problems, while Republican challenger Dixie Kolditz speaks in broad strokes about big issues.
Takko has a nuanced understanding of local government issues as a retired Cowlitz County Assessor, and sits on the House Local Government Committee.
As a member of the House Transportation Committee, the Longview Democrat helped shepherd legislation critical to continuing construction of pontoons in Aberdeen. Without the Legislature intervening and approving an exemption to the Shoreline Management Act in the wake of environmental appeals that ultimately were rejected, the project would have grounded to a halt.
“Those are jobs. I hear people say that government doesn’t create jobs. Well, go ask those 250 or 300 people working on the pontoons if that’s a job or not,” he said.
Takko also worked on gun rights legislation this past session, trying to protect existing shooting ranges from nuisance complaints, although the bill didn’t pass.
“A lot of the things I work on are kind of wonky type stuff, they’re not the big ‘let’s solve healthcare or school funding,’ ” Takko said. He cited a multi-year effort that recently passed the Legislature called the Underground Utilities Damage Prevention Act. Takko said it took a lot of coordination with utilities on the safety and reporting requirements for entities that work with or near underground utilities.
“It’s one of those things that most people don’t even think about until someone digs into a gas pipeline and there’s a big explosion. That’s the kind of thing I like to work on, policy stuff,” Takko explained.
Kolditz, by contrast, said she’s looking to clear out many rules governing business, many of which are redundant. She said in talking with other business owners, that’s one of the main complaints she’s heard, along with unduly lengthy permitting processes.
“I’m not saying you cut corners, I’m just saying that a lot of our permitting process in a lot of ways, it takes too long,” Kolditz said. She said Oregon, for example, often has much simpler permitting.
“The sooner we fix that, the sooner we can help business so they can hire more people,” she said.
In her businesses, particularly the one focused on providing residential care to people with disabilities, Kolditz said she’s been struck time and again by government training requirements for her staff. Often, they’ve already trained on that topic, she said, but not through the government program, so Kolditz has been forced to re-train her staff on the same topics.
“There’s a lot of redundancy in the rules,” she said. “That is what I would love to work on, is finding those rules that are not working and take the ones that are working and say, ‘How can we make this better?’ ”
Kolditz, a Cathlamet Republican, was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, during apartheid. In 1995, she received a scholarship to attend Brigham Young University in Utah, where she met and married her husband. She owns two businesses, and first got involved in politics in 2010. Kolditz was invited by Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler to testify in front of Congress about her life and business experiences.
Kolditz said focusing on reforming government, particularly in areas like Worker’s Compensation, could free up millions to be used toward other issues, like fully funding education. In this year’s budget, Kolditz said she isn’t convinced the $1 billion infusion to education will fix the problem because there hasn’t been enough research on just what the state’s issue is.
“Nobody’s explained to us what really is the problem,” she said. “Why are our schools not doing well, where is this $1 billion going? I don’t think that’s fair to tell the taxpayers, ‘Hey you have to come up with this $1 billion,’ without really telling us what we’re fixing.”
Takko said he’s been working in his caucus to help find a solution, but a lot would depend on what happens in this election. In the past several budgets, he said, the Legislature has made the easy cuts, and then some.
“This budget coming up in this next biennium is going to be tougher than the ones we had before,” Takko said. “We’ve cut everything there is to cut that’s reasonable as far as I’m concerned, and now we’re going to have to cut a couple billion more.”
He said revenue might be something the Legislature has to look at down the road.
Recently, Takko has been working with local governments on their issues. At a recent forum hosted by the Association of Washington Cities, he said the top two issues seemed to be public defense costs and onerous public records requests.
“There’s some real horror stories. Gold Bar is considering unincorporating just to get out from under, I think it’s about $250,000 in costs to do a public records request,” he said. “It’s very easy to make a records request that would be very onerous on the jurisdiction.”
He said he’s working on a narrowly tailored bill for court review of some requests.
Kolditz is focusing on doorbelling and phone banks in the run-up to the election. She said she’s encouraging the people she talks to to get involved in the processes of government any way they can.
“We’re in the mess that we are because a lot of us are not involved. When we’re not involved with our government, our government goes amok,” she said. “If you’re not involved, you deserve what you get.”