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Hope, Reardon face off at Marysville Tulalip Chamber meeting
TULALIP — What began as a comparison of policy ideas and accomplishments in office between the two candidates for Snohomish County Executive dipped into the territory of character attacks near the end of their joint appearance in front of the Greater Marysville Tulalip Chamber of Commerce on Sept. 30.
Republican challenger Mike Hope pressed Democratic incumbent Aaron Reardon about alleged transgressions by Reardon’s employees, and singled out Kevin Hulten, whom Hope accused of filing a complaint against Hope’s campaign that the state recently dismissed. While Reardon noted that he’d fired a number of his employees for failing to live up to his expectations, he defended Hulten, who remains on the county payroll, since the complaint was actually filed by Seattle resident John Chambers, who knows Hulten.
“It turned out that he didn’t do what you accused him of,” Reardon said. “Don’t accuse me of a lack of integrity when you don’t always understand what that is yourself.”
Reardon commended Hope for his focus on law enforcement during the three years that he’s served in the state Legislature, but also questioned what qualifications Hope could point to on economic issues, which Hope focused most of his remarks on that morning.
“I’ve worked in a bipartisan way with the Legislature, sometimes even going against my own party,” said Hope, who touted his support for reducing the costs to businesses of hiring new employees and for providing tax breaks for those looking to own their first homes.
“Giving a thumbs-up or pushing a button to vote isn’t leadership,” Reardon said.
One of the few subjects on which Reardon and Hope did agree was the importance of creating jobs in Snohomish County, although even then, their opinions obviously differed on how well the county has managed this feat during Reardon’s tenure as County Executive. Reardon cited job growth in Snohomish County that he summed up as twice the statewide average, with 10,000 jobs gained within the past year alone, 6,000 of them in aerospace. By contrast, Hope contrasted a roughly 8 percent unemployment average across the state with rates of 9 to 11 percent within the county.
“I have a five-point job plan that’s been endorsed by several mayors because it aims to maximize the strengths of each community,” Hope said. “We need to communicate with these communities to develop our growth plan.”
Reardon asserted that recent annexations have proceeded according to a schedule designed to minimize impacts on cities and the county alike, for which he credited Snohomish County Tomorrow and former Marysville Mayor Dennis Kendall. Hope warned that such annexations would lead to increased tax rates for a number of county residents, and noted his own partnership with Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson to bring a Washington State University campus to Everett.
“Aerospace is a multiplier,” said Reardon, who’s placed a priority on convincing Boeing to build the 737MAX in Snohomish County. “When we can recruit the highest skilled workers, the rest of the economy can grow around them. We’ve also taken the politics out of agriculture. Our farmlands are more productive than ever before.”
“We need to stop buying up farms so we can flood them out,” said Hope, who’s garnered an endorsement from the Washington Education Association and emphasized the importance of diversifying the county’s businesses. “And as much as we wanted to counter Boeing’s offer from South Carolina, its second line still went there.”
On the matter of commercial aviation at Paine Field, Hope pledged to consult environmental impact studies and solicit input from figures such as Mukilteo Mayor Joe Marine. Reardon offered a more mixed opinion, declaring his personal qualms with such a move while also acknowledging that it’s now a matter for the FAA.
“We can be a bright spot in the economy,” Hope said.
“What you have here is record versus rhetoric,” Reardon said.
The all-mail general election is Nov. 8.