Islanders meet the candidates; here’s what they said | Friday Harbor candidates forum

Top photo: Islanders listen to a candidate
Top photo: Islanders listen to a candidate's response to a question at the League of Women Voters candidates forum, July 16 at Mullis Community Senior Center. Middle photo: Nancy Wight of the League keeps candidates on track with their responses. Bottom photo: Superintendent of Schools Rick Thompson listens to a candidate's response to a question.
— image credit: Scott Rasmussen

Islanders on Lopez, Orcas and San Juan met and questioned candidates for sheriff, Legislature and Congress, July 16 and 17 at forums hosted by the League of Women Voters.

The sheriff's race was the big draw. About 200 people attended the forum July 16 at Mullis Community Senior Center; the audience decreased to 50 after the sheriff's candidates were finished.

The two top vote-getters — regardless of party affiliation — in the Aug. 17 primary advance to the Nov. 2 general election.

Here's what candidates had to say on July 16 in Friday Harbor.

San Juan County Sheriff
Issue: Experience and priorities

— Jeff Asher, sheriff’s deputy: Was hired by San Juan County 25 years ago. "What I love about our work, as deputies, is that although we're trained to use considerable force when warranted, we are really 'peacekeepers,' and that's our role. I'm passionate about our mission as peacekeepers, and I'm good at it."

He said law enforcement could be improved by partnering with state, local and federal law enforcement agencies, creating a reserve officers corps to support the department’s full-time deputies, training on island rather than on the mainland, limiting prisoner flights, and re-evaluating equipment purchases.

— Brad Fincher, adult probation officer: Was hired by the county in 1999 as work crew supervisor, in 2001 became adult probation officer. Has managed more than 1,000 offenders.

"My management style is to develop relationships by listening, validating others and offering mutual respect. My vision of the future is a community that works with the sheriff's office to cut off the sources of illegal drugs and to educate our families about alcohol use and prescription drug abuse."

Managing the budget will be of "paramount" importance.

"The sheriff will have to be creative with his resources to keep the community safe within the boundaries of that budget," he said. "An aggressive grant-writing program and efficient use of available resources, and a sheriff that will fight to keep those resources available, will be essential in the years to come."

— Brent Johnson, lead sheriff’s detective: Has more than 35 years as a law enforcement officer, 13 as a supervisor. San Juan County's lead detective for eight years. Chairman of the the San Juan County Veterans Advisory Board.

"I'm involved in over five different volunteer organizations on the islands and each of those organizations have different personalities and different agendas. And you've got to speak with them and communicate with them. Community policing? That's part of my blood. I've been involved in community policing forever, and that's not a new concept for me."

Fighting drug and alcohol abuse would be a top priority.

"Drug and alcohol needs to be like a little triangle. It has education on one side, and health on one side, and also putting our drug dealers in jail."

— Felix Menjivar, sheriff’s deputy and Friday Harbor Town Council member: He and his family came to the islands in 2002. He joined the Marine Corps out of high school. Is a volunteer firefighter, and is serving his second term as president of the Deputies and Dispatchers Guild. "I believe that shows I have earned the trust and the respect of my coworkers. My agenda is simple. In this time of dwindling budgets, we have to maximize every single dollar we have. We cannot reduce service."

— Rob Nou, sheriff’s deputy, former Burns, Ore. police chief: Has lived on Lopez Island for 2.5 years. Has 20 years of experience in supervision in law enforcement; is a graduate of the FBI Academy.

"San Juan County is at a critical juncture in a very difficult economic time. Resources are tight, and the future is uncertain. I believe that all of us are smarter than any one of us. It is by working together that we can maintain the livability and way of life that is unique to our island communities."

"It is my intention to maximize the return on your law enforcement dollar by building the best trained and most cohesive sheriff's office as possible."

U.S. Congress, District 2
Issue: Priorities

— Larry Kalb, president of Health Care for All: Advocates cutting military spending by 20 percent and turning military bases and facilities overseas into universities and campuses, ending foreign wars and renegotiating or pulling out of treaties such as WTO, CAFTA, etc. Opposes recent healthcare reform legislation and U.S. policies that send jobs overseas.

“I’m tired of taking a backseat to more of the same. My No. 1 priority when I am in Congress is to make sure we have jobs here in the United States of America. And when we make products, I want those products stamped with ‘Made in America’ by Americans, and for Americans.”

— Rick Larsen, incumbent: Two priorities — economy and jobs. He’s working on legislation to extend unemployment insurance benefits. “There are over 18,000 folks in our state alone who need this extension of unemployment insurance benefits passed just to keep food on their table or the lights on.”

He supports the Wall Street Transparency and Accountability Act; Congress approved it July 15 and the president is expected to sign it this week.

“We say to Wall Street that if you want to drive yourself over the cliff in the future, you’re free to do so. But no longer will you, the American people, be trapped in the passenger seat while they go over the cliff.”

— Diana McGinniss, retired insurance fraud investigator: “In 2005 and in 2007, Mr. Larsen got his donations — 86.3 percent of them — from people outside his district. And I want to know who he works for — them, or our district.”

“Foreclosures are a huge problem in our district. Skagit and Snohomish counties are in what is considered foreclosure crisis.”

State House, Position 1
Issue: Education funding

— Thomas Boucher, former aide to Congressman Rick Larsen: Money for education can be found by eliminating outdated tax incentive programs and tax loopholes.

— Chuck Carrell, field training officer and defensive tactics instructor for the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office: Funding can be found for schools by reducing spending in other areas. “We have a spending problem in Olympia, not a taxation problem.”

— Dusty Gulleson, owner of a technology company: Reduce state spending by getting the state out of the liquor business and the printing business, and reform Labor & Industries.

— Kristine Lytton, president of the Anacortes School Board: During her tenure as school board president, her school district was able to hang onto a 5 percent cash reserve in its budget despite tight economic times. She touts that as evidence of an ability to make public education a priority in Olympia.

— Mike Newman, Mount Vernon real estate agent: No. 1 priority is job creation. “With more jobs comes more revenue for the state. State needs to quit robbing employee pension funds and reduce its debt.”

— Tom Pasma, farmer and rancher in Bow: Supports statewide initiative that would place an income tax on high-earners, and eliminating tax breaks and tax incentives that benefit only a few.

State House, Position 2
Issue: Economy and state spending

— Howard Pellett, retired IRS agent: Did not attend. Tom Munsey read his statement. “Olympia won’t change until people change the way they vote.” Pellett advocates publicly-financed elections as a way to get corporate influence out of campaigns and elections.

— Jeff Morris, incumbent and House speaker pro tem: Did not attend. Victoria Compton of the San Juan County Economic Development Council read a prepared statement on his behalf. Morris has been appointed to a group that will be working on a reform package for Washington State Ferries. The group will look for ways to restore funding lost by elimination of the state motor vehicle excise tax, and possibly putting management of the ferry system out to bid under a six-year contract.

— John Swapp, manufacturer: State taxes and regulations work against the ability of most business owners to create jobs. “I know how to create jobs.”

“The days of tax-and-spend need to be over today. You can look anywhere in government and see too many people.”

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