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State economy and U.S. 2 on minds of legislative candidates

Incumbents and their challengers in the 44th and 39th legislative districts debated their positions at a forum in Tulalip Oct. 3. From left is State Rep. Liz Loomis, State Senator Val Stevens, debate moderator David Toyer, and challengers Mike Hope and Fred Walser -
Incumbents and their challengers in the 44th and 39th legislative districts debated their positions at a forum in Tulalip Oct. 3. From left is State Rep. Liz Loomis, State Senator Val Stevens, debate moderator David Toyer, and challengers Mike Hope and Fred Walser
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TULALIP — The economy, U.S. 2, and who raised whose taxes were among the main points of contention Oct. 3 when the Greater Marysville Tulalip Chamber of Commerce sponsored a debate for candidates running in the 44th and 39th state legislative districts.

In the 39th District, incumbent Republican State Sen. Val Stevens and challenger Democrat Fred Walser most sharply disagreed on whether Olympia has paid enough attention to safety questions revolving around U.S. 2.

A former Sultan police chief, Walser said he was largely inspired to run by what he sees as a lack of concern regarding the issue coming from Stevens. Walser said the number of deaths on the freeway is simply unacceptable and that Stevens failed to show up for any meeting of the U.S. 2 safety group of which he is a member.

For her part, Stevens insisted she has attended numerous forums on the roadway and numerous public events throughout her district, including in Sultan.

Stevens’ other comments touched several times on the economy, saying her litmus test for any legislation includes whether the state can pay for that legislation with existing dollars.

Adding she felt almost embarrassed to bring it up, Stevens nevertheless clashed with Walser over the circumstances of his conviction for providing false information to a public official while he was Sultan police chief.

Walser pled guilty to the charge, a gross misdemeanor, in June. According to Walser, the case stems from an investigation into his own secretary, an investigation he said he requested. Walser said he simply forgot about some information regarding the case. Stevens basically argued anyone charged with enforcing the law should not forget how to follow it.

If Walser and Stevens traded some mild barbs, a few sparks definitely flared between Democratic State Rep. Liz Loomis and Republican challenger Mike Hope.

Hope repeatedly accused Loomis of raising taxes by millions of dollars since she was appointed to the state House in January of this year.

Loomis insisted voting for certain bills doesn’t translate to tax increases. She further forcefully refuted Hope’s claims she received pay from certain development companies while in office, referring to Hope’s statements as “half-truths.”

On the issue of placing a branch campus of the University of Washington in Marysville, the various candidates headed in various directions. Loomis said the new school is critical, but didn’t state a site preference.

Marysville is in competition primarily with Everett for the possible new campus.

Hope also described the new school as a priority, but added support for the Marysville location. Stevens stopped short of saying the new campus is not needed, but said the University of Washington Bothell campus is nowhere near capacity in terms of students. She also questioned funding for a new school.

Walser stated bluntly that he is not convinced a new four-year school is needed.

For those who would like to see the entire forum, the roughly 90 minute exchange will be shown on Marysville TV, Comcast cable channel 21, at 4 p.m., 7 p.m. and 11 p.m., Oct. 8-14.

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