By Pat Jenkins
Marilyn Rasmussen and Jim McCune, opponents in a race two years ago for the Legislature, are election foes again – this time for the Pierce County Council in November’s election. It’s new territory for them after a combined 34 years in elected office. But they each see that experience as one of the reasons voters should now trust them to help lead the county.
RASMUSSEN: ‘I’ll work hard’
Marilyn Rasmussen starts her tractor and expertly uses the frontloader to pick up a bale of hay, then drives into a pasture at her farm to feed her cattle. It’s her daily routine. It’s also a metaphor for her approach to being a Pierce County Council member.
She says she would bring to county government the work ethic that comes from living at and running a farm, as she has most of her life.
“There’s always work to do,” she said of the 180-acre spread on State Route 7 near Eatonville. “”You can’t wait on problems. If the cows get out, you don’t have tomorrow to do something about it. Same thing with being on the council. If there’s a problem, it should be treated like a 9-1-1 emergency. Get started on it right away.”
Rasmussen, 73, is a few weeks away from the conclusion of her race with Jim McCune for the District 3 seat on the council. The incumbent, Roger Bush, can’t run for re-election because of term limits.
Rasmussen held elected office for a combined 28 years, first with the Eatonville School Board and then in the Legislature, before losing a re-election bid for state Senate four years ago. She is attempting a second political comeback. The first one, also with McCune as her opponent, was in 2010, when she challenged him for state representative. He won re-election.
Rasmussen considers her council contest less about another rematch with McCune and more about “putting the best person for the job in office.”
She’s a Democrat, McCune’s a Republican. But partisanship is secondary to representing constituents at the county level, she reasoned. Although her background politically is helpful, she counts her experience as a farmer, property owner and “community member,” plus her work ethic and the government know-how she’s gained over the years as her primary strengths to represent the public.
“I have a lot of energy to help solve problems and hold the county accountable for spending tax dollars,” Rasmussen said. “I’ll always be accessible to people. If they need something or have something that bothers them, they just have to call. I’ll work hard for them.”
Rasmussen worked her way through college as a meat wrapper for a butcher. Her mother died when she was 14, leaving her with a 5-year-old brother to help raise. “He’s still my best friend,” she said.
The farm where she has lived since 1960 and raised her seven children (who have given her 19 grandchildren) has been in her family as long as she can remember. It’s where she herself learned to walk as an infant, and where today she regularly babysits two grandkids overnight while their mother works in Tacoma as a hospital nurse.
“This place is a wonderful heritage for us,” Rasmussen said as she stood behind her house, looking at the pastures and timberland.
She was elected to the School Board in 1980 and to the state House of Representatives in 1986. She moved on to the Senate in 1992.
She promises voters that if she returns to office, this time for the county, her priorities will include public safety, improving roads, completing the Cross Base Highway, protect jobs and making the county “a beautiful and healthy place to live.”
McCUNE: ‘I’m in it for the liberty’
After serving seven years in the Legislature, Jim McCune is looking forward to what he hopes will be a new chapter in his political career as a Pierce County Council member.
The change he’s trying to accomplish in the general election in November wasn’t entirely his idea. Redistricting removed him from the Second Legislative District, where he’s been a state representative. So he turned his attention to the council.
In his race against Democrat Marilyn Rasmussen, who he defeated two years ago for another term in the Legislature, McCune, a Republican, is talking about issues such as taxes and government spending (he opposes tax increases and wants government to spend within its means), crime (he believes “moral and political failure” has led to a judicial process that’s too soft on criminals), and transportation (he’s an advocate for projects such as State Route 162 between Orting and Sumner, the Cross-Base Highway and the Yelm bypass).
Matters such as those are what drives him into public service, McCune said.
“When I started paying attention to issues, that’s what shaped my views,” he said. “I love freedom. We’re losing our liberties. If that’s important to you, then you have to get involved in the process. It’s a tough job in the Legislature. Unless you’re in the majority (political party), it’s hard to make the kind of change you want. It might be a little easier with the county. There are fewer (council) members than in the Legislature.”
Certain county codes “may be overreaching. Some reform is needed,” he said, explaining one of the reasons he’s running for the council.
McCune is involved in the fishing industry as a salmon distributor and hopes to start a seafood business in Graham, where he lives.
“I don’t need a job,” he said when asked about his motivation for becoming a council member. “I don’t need any headaches. I’m a servant of the people. They’re the boss.”
Being out on the campaign trail again renews his enjoyment of “meeting people and hearing their concerns. They’re always interesting.”
Similarly, visiting yard sales in the summer is a favorite pastime. “You meet a lot of people that way,” he said.
Playing basketball, a sport he once coached for Seattle Christian High School, is another leisure pursuit. “I haven’t had much time for it lately,” he said.
Past occupations for McCune have included canstruction. At 62, he has no plans to stop working. “I’m not a guy who thinks about retiring – ever,” he said.
He also won’t withdraw from the issues that matter most to him if voters decide to give him at least a temporary retirement from elected office by electing Rasmussen.
“I’ll stay involved,” he said. “I can’t tell you how, but I won’t go away. I’m in it for the liberty.”
McCune would be the second consecutive council member for District 3 to come from the Legislature. He’d follow in the footsteps of Roger Bush, who’s prevented by term limits from running for re-election this year.
“Roger has shared a lot with me” about county issues, McCune said. “That’s helpful. There will be a lot to do if I’m elected, a lot of department heads to become acquainted with and a lot of issues.”