YAKIMA, Wash. -- For the first time since 2010, state Rep. Bruce Chandler is facing a challenger for his Position 1 seat representing Washington’s 15th Legislative District.
Democrat Jack McEntire hopes to unseat Chandler — who is finishing up his 20th year in the post — in next month’s general election.
Chandler has not had a challenger since 2010 when he defeated Democrat Paul Spencer in that year’s general election.
The 15th District covers parts or all of Selah, Yakima, Terrace Heights, Moxee, Union Gap, Wapato, Toppenish, Zillah, Granger, Sunnyside, Grandview and Mabton. As of 2010, about 133,000 people lived in the district. Chandler, a fruit grower, is from Granger; while McEntire, a sculptor, lives in Selah.
In August’s primary election, Chandler won 66.9 percent of the vote. McEntire won 33.6 percent.
Ballots for the election will be mailed out Oct. 19. They will need to be postmarked or dropped off at one of several ballot drop boxes in the county by 8 p.m. Nov. 6. Voters in the 15th Legislative District will also decide the outcome of a race for the district’s Position 2 House seat, and a race for the district’s single state Senate seat.
For this race, the Yakima Herald-Republic asked each candidate for their positions on issues that will likely arise in the next legislative session.
In light of higher teacher salaries and less local funding, what else needs to be done with the McCleary ruling?
Chandler: The challenge is that you have a different fiscal year for school districts and local governments than you do for the state. That creates a little bit of a gap in cash flow that we have to make sure we work through. It’s important for us to be able to demonstrate that the money that goes away in local levies — that is, the local levy dollars that were previously used to fund basic education — will be replaced from the increase in the state property tax. That transition is awkward partly because of the different fiscal years, and partly because the differences among the 295 school districts in the state. We anticipated that in adopting the current budget, and it will take the next two budgets to really make sure that we have addressed all of the issues for all of the different school districts.
McEntire: We need to pay attention to the fact that we need more counselors in schools. We need to pay attention to class size as well. I’m also for universal higher education — if the kid can pass the entrance exam, they should get into the college or vocational school of their choice. McCleary was a good start, but we need to do more for the public education of our kids. There is nothing better that we can invest in than the education of our kids. Children need access to mental health professionals when appropriate, and I don’t think teachers should be responsible for buying school supplies.
If voters turn down the carbon tax initiative, what should be the Legislature’s next step? What if voters approve it?
Chandler: If they turn it down, I think that will be the last step. When the voters reject the carbon tax, which they’ve done repeatedly in various research surveys, I think we have to move on. The voters have the right to approve it, but I don’t believe they will.
McEntire: I was trained in science and I definitely believe in the importance of protecting our environment. If it gets turned down, then, at least in our local area, we need to encourage recycling. We should make it easier to recycle and encourage recycling, at least. If we approve the initiative, then we need to see its effect. This is an exciting moment in that Washington state could be showing the way for others to move forward. But, if enacted, we need to be careful and analyze the effect of this law. I think the effect will be positive, and that it will help our state and area prosper.
Should the Legislature comply with the state’s Public Records Act? Will you support recommendations coming out of the Public Records Task Force?
Chandler: It depends on who you’re talking to as to what the public disclosure act is saying. I believe, first of all, that the Legislature failed to — in good faith — follow the standard legislative process in deliberating it last year. I believe it needs to be done thoughtfully and has to take into consideration the interests of our constituents. I don’t know what the task force is coming up with, I don’t think they’ve concluded their work. But that will certainly be the starting point for doing that work. I think there is public disclosure, it’s not enough to satisfy everybody. Everybody wants to know something that nobody else knows, but we’re going to do the best we can without compromising the interests of our constituents.
McEntire: Definitely. The legislators work for the people. We are their employees. When doing the people’s business, we need to be as transparent and open as we can. If the recommendations coming out of the task force are for increased transparency, I would support them.
What can be done to reduce polarization and improve bipartisanship in the Legislature?
Chandler: There are times when both the Senate and the House are polarized, but overall I think it’s been a lot less so than the way it’s depicted. I think the differences aren’t so much partisan as they are demographic. People in certain urban and metropolitan communities have become isolated from both the quality and nature of life in the rest of the state.
McEntire: We need to elect people who have lived the life of the majority of people in our area. We need working class people: Those who have worried about having to pay mortgages and worried about saving money to buy Christmas gifts for their children. People coming from that background understand what needs to be done and are willing to work beyond labels. If you don’t have the background of the common man, I think you’re less likely to be willing to compromise and do what we have to do to protect our future.
What can you do to respect gun rights while limiting gun violence? Do you favor regulating sales of ammunition or banning large-capacity magazines?
Chandler: I have not seen a proposal up to now that would improve safety or restrict people’s right to own a firearm. I haven’t seen any proposal that would justify compromising the constitutional rights of my constituents. I do not support regulating sales of ammunition or banning large-capacity magazines.
McEntire: We need universal gun registration, at least. I believe Second Amendment rights need some protection, but universal registration, a ban on bump stocks and raising the age to purchase a firearm to 21 seem to be rather reasonable measures to me. Regulating sales of ammunition and banning large-capacity magazines are marginal issues. I’d rather pay more attention to things that affect the people here in the Yakima area.