Gary Alexander and Greg Hartman are having new experiences in their race to decide which one of them will serve the Second District as a state representative.
Alexander, a Republican, has been a state legislator since 1996 and well-versed in political campaigning. But he’s courting a new set of voters this year as a result of redistricting that put him in the Second, which now includes Thurston County, where he lives, and Pierce County.
Hartman, a Democrat who lives in Graham and is a chief in the Renton Fire Department, is a first-time candidate.
Voters in the district are choosing between Alexander and Hartman for Position 1 in the general election, which ends Nov. 6, the deadline for returning ballots. The district’s other state representative (Position 2) has virtually been decided already, as the incumbent, J.T. Wilcox, is running unopposed.
Alexander and Hartman were the only candidates for their race in the primary election in August. Alexander received 60 percent of the votes.
To help inform voters about the candidates, The Dispatch sent them a questionnaire about their positions and background.
The Dispatch: Tell us about your civic or community involvement and your personal background.
Alexander: I live in rural Thurston County. I am 68 years old and married to Donna. I have a BA in business administration from the University of Washington and a MBA from Pacific Lutheran University. I am currently serving my 12th year as deputy auditor for finance for Thurston County. Prior employment includes 25 years as a finance manager with state government and nine years as an industrial engineer and chief financial officer in private industry. I was elected as a Port of Olympia Commissioner in 1993 and to the state House of Representatives in 1996. I serve on the board of directors for the Washington State Historical Society, Thurston County Boys and Girls Club, and PLU Business School. I am a member of North Thurston Kiwanis.
Hartman: I’m a past volunteer for United Way information and referral (a service of the Crisis Clinic), Northwest Burn Foundation, volunteer instructor for the Interurban Center for the Arts, president, vice president and trustee of IAFF (International Association of Firefighters) Local 864, vice president, Board of Directors IAFF local 864 Firefighter Benevolent Association, Muscular Dystrophy Association volunteer, and LUPUS Walk supporter.
Dispatch: In your background and experience relevant to serving in the Legislature, what sets you apart from your opponent?
Alexander: I have been involved with developing governmental budgets and related policies, including the state budget, for over three decades in both the executive branch and legislative branch. I am the ranking Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee and was instrumental in negotiating the last budget addressing our $2 billion dollar. I currently serve on the Education Funding Task Force and on the Joint Legislative and Audit Review Committee. According to my peers on both sides of the aisle, I am one of, if not the most, knowledgeable persons on understanding and building a sustainable budget in our Legislature. I have a strong list of endorsements from both business and labor. I believe this strong fiscal experience sets me apart from my opponent.
Hartman: The skills I possess as a fire battalion chief helps set me apart from my opponent. They are a unique blend of team-building, problem identification and problem resolution. The combination of critical thinking, combined with continuous leadership development, forms the backbone of our modern-day emergency services agencies. Success on the emergency scene is dependent on communications, trust, competence and team unity – all traits that command officers learn over time and implement on a daily basis. These skill sets are utilized during station activities, training scenarios, community events and of course during emergencies. As an elected official, I will bring leadership and the willingness to compromise, the communications skills necessary to negotiate, and the clear understanding that identified problems require solutions, not politics as usual. My goal will be to get positive results.
Dispatch: What do you hope to accomplish if you’re elected?
Alexander: I am continuing to seek re-election because I believe strongly that I can lead an effort to develop a sustainable budget with no new general taxes or fees that protects the freedom of market-based choices in our healthcare system, protects private property rights, fully funds our paramount responsibility of basic education, and seeks policies that will enable infrastructure development in our rural communities that create economic development and corresponding job growth. I have been appointed to the task force that will develop a funding plan to meet our public education needs and comply with the recent McCleary decision – one of my major goals.
Hartman: What I hope to accomplish is being a part of an elected body that has a clear understanding of their objectives and responsibilities. That places value on clarity, trust and an honest desire to problem-solve, utilizing the best solutions available regardless of party affiliation. I understand that these may seem unachievable during our current political climate, but I believe for our Legislature to be successful and gain the trust and confidence of our constituents, we must work together to make the very best decisions collectively that we can. I want to build bridges, plan for the future and make decisions that will carry our great state to the next level. I want to help create the reputation that politicians can be successful and that politics can be a worthwhile endeavor.
Dispatch: What are the issues you feel strongest about, and how will you address them as a legislator?
Alexander: The most important issues in the Second District are education and jobs. With our high unemployment, getting Washington working again is a critical issue. I have several bills to help our small businesses, one of which is to require a fiscal note on impacts to businesses for new bills, not just government. The second issue is to fully fund our paramount responsibility – K-12 education. I released the first minority budget that set forth priorities, including funding education first, and why I am serving on the task force to hopefully address this important issue. The third issue is to bring back using the priorities of government to determine what are our most important obligations, including protecting our most vulnerable populations and family safety, and reforming delivery of government services, including contracting our services that can be better provided by private or non-profit organizations.
Hartman: Several issues that I feel strongly about are education, healthcare and human services. These issues and their associated cost are not new, and I am not unique in expressing my concerns and desires to see them elevated to prominent stature on our priority list. It is my thought that education serves as a foundation, a basis for our future success as a state and as a culture. Having an educated workforce supports jobs, family and our state economy. When we undersell education, it costs our state’s economy in the long run. To maximize educational opportunities, we must have strong, healthy and safe children. This is where education, healthcare and human services flow together and become a unified concern. When we invest early, it pays returns like a strong economy. It develops our future leaders, competitive workers, increases family values and enhances our culture.