By Pat Jenkins
An incumbent Republican, a Libertarian Party member and a candidate whose political affiliation is identified with marijuana are the choices for voters in the contest for state representative in the Second Legislative District in the primary election.
In voting that will end Aug. 5, Rep. J.T. Wilcox, who has risen to a Republican leadership position in his four years in office, is seeking a third two-year term. Hoping to unseat him are Steven Nielson, an Orting resident who is running as a Libertarian, and Rick Payne, who lives in Graham and self-professed member of the Marijuana Party. The top two finishers will advance to the general election in November.
Already headed for a November showdown are the lone two candidates for the Second District’s other position in the House of Representatives. Graham Hunt, a Republican who was appointed to the post earlier this year, will face Democrat Greg Hartman.
Wilcox is the minority party floor leader for the Republicans in the House. Before entering elected politics four years ago, he was chief financial officer for Wilcox Farms, a family-owned business.
A Yelm resident, Wilcox has been active in the community with civic groups and as a volunteer firefighter.
Wilcox is an advocate of reducing any unnecessary regulations for businesses. He also is a staunch supporter of property rights and holding down government spending. During the 2014 session of the Legislature earlier this year, he promoted legislation that he considered environmentally and fiscally responsible.
Wilcox has said that his experience helping run Wilcox Farms taught him lessons about dealing with difficult times and keeping budgets in balance.
Nielson has been active within the Republican Party at the precinct committee level, but is running under the Libertarian banner in support of limited taxes, private property rights and local government, which he calls essential elements for “economic freedom.”
On his campaign’s Facebook page, Nielson has called the state Department of Transportation “grossly mismanaged” in its spending, and he has vowed to oppose any increases of the state’s gasoline tax. He also has written that the state must stop “wasteful mismanagement” and should “leave our wallets alone.”
Nielson’s community involvement includes serving as a member of the Orting Parks and Recreation Commission and support of the Washington Trails Association.
Payne, a former candidate for Bethel School Board, said he is running for the Legislature because he is dissatisfied with the state’s progress in starting the retail marijuana industry that voters statewide approved in 2012. He lists his occupation as a marijuana grower, and he said it’s an enterprise that will help provide tax revenue and employment opportunities.
He describes himself as being from the “school of hard knocks” and having been “around the block” with state and local government agencies “that don’t or won’t help small business get started and off the ground.”