Two challengers versus incumbent in 47th

The incumbent has two challengers in a race in the Aug. 19 primary election for state representative in the 47th District.

Geoff Simpson, a veteran legislator, is drawing criticism from a fellow Democrat and a Republican

The incumbent has two challengers in a race in the Aug. 19 primary election for state representative in the 47th District.

Rep. Geoff Simpson, a Democrat, is seeking another two-year term in Position 1. His opponents are Democrat Leslie Kae Hamada and Republican Mark Hargrove. All three are residents of Covington, which is part of the district along with Black Diamond and some Kent and Renton areas.

Under Washington’s new top-two system for primaries, the first and second-place finishers will advance to the general election in November, regardless of political party affiliation.

In their responses to a Reporter questionnaire about their candidacies, Hamada and Hargrove said Simpson isn’t in step with the interests of the district’s constituents. Hamada called him “out of touch,” while Hargrove said Simpson seems more interested in Seattle-based concerns.

Simpson, in his questionnaire responses, defended positions he’s taken in the Legislature on issues such as healthcare, education and transportation.

Simpson, a former Covington City Council member, has been in the Legislature since 2000. He’s a firefigher with the Kent Fire Departnent.

Hamada has been a longtime volunteer in community activities.

Hargrove, like Hamada a first-time candidate for public office, is a Boeing pilot instructor and an Air Force veteran.

Reporter: Why did you decide to run for office?

Hamada: I passionately care about the communities I have lived in. I’ve worked 40 years volunteering in the schools, churches and service clubs, and in 2005 I was awarded the South King County Spirit of Caring Award. I strongly felt (the incumbent) was out of touch with his constituents by voting with eight other reps in the 2007 legislative session to remove the cap on property taxes, and again going against his constituents when he also voted against a major budget item primarily going for education. Luckily, his votes were overturned by legislators who understood the needs of the people they serve.

Hargrove: My neighbors and friends have told me that they are tired of being represented in Olympia by somebody who doesn’t share their priorities or values and instead strictly votes the agenda of Seattle-based special-interest groups. Despite 1,600 bills being introduced in Olympia this past legislative session, our biggest problems still exist or weren’t even addressed. My neighbors and I want our priorities addressed first – traffic congestion relief, fair property taxes, restrained government spending, and far more efficient use of the quarter-million dollars we spend per classroom so we actually achieve results.

Simpson: I’m running for re-election because the families in our community need public servants who are focused on what matters most – access to affordable healthcare, good jobs, a strong economy, excellent public schools and a transportation system that works.

Reporter: What can the Legislature do to help people deal with the slumping economy?

Hamada: Focus on getting the business environment in this state on the most stable ground by maximizing the efficiency of our transportation system –roads, buses and trains – to keep commerce thriving. This provides jobs. Jobs translate into a good tax base from which we can maintain our infrastructure, build upon our education system, draw the high-tech and latest medical fields to bring their business here. We have to fight for affordable housing and reduction in energy costs. We have to prioritize keeping our public safety and a crime-free environment.

Hargrove: Government’s job is to protect people so that they are free to take care of themselves, which includes providing for their families through employment or even starting a business. Too often, government meddles too much in the business community and interferes with businesses being able to compete and thrive. Limiting taxes and regulatory burdens on businesses needs to be a priority. Our state should be a beacon for entrepreneurs from all over and known as a place where the government supports the ability of small business to make fair profits. Profits create growth, and growth creates jobs.

Simpson: One of the reasons that Washington’s economy is doing much better than most states around the nation is that we’ve made huge investments in infrastructure in recent years, creating jobs, stimulating the economy and making Washington a great place to live, work, raise a family and run a business – and those investments are continuing to pay dividends. I was instrumental in securing $900,000 in the state capital budget to complete Kent Station, which has become an economic engine and transportation hub for south King County, and I will continue to advocate for smart investments that stimulate our economy. I have worked to help families and consumers by holding accountable insurers that unfairly deny legitimate claims, guaranteeing healthcare for every child in our state and enacting one of the best patient’s bill of rights in the nation. I look forward to continuing to rein in unscrupulous lenders and price-gouging oil companies next session, and to finding solutions to the real problems folks here are facing with skyrocketing property taxes and access to affordable healthcare.

Reporter: Many of your prospective constituents commute long distances to get to work. What ideas do you have to improve transportation in your district?

Hamada: Concentrate on removing the bottleneck areas in our roads. Get the existing transit system routes to better accommodate residents in the south King County areas. Encourage companies to let more employees work from home if at all possible on some days. Encourage the implementation of the four-day, 10-hour work week. Implementing another major east-west access route could help the mounting backup on Kent-Kangley Road/Maple Valley Road.

Hargrove: Transit solutions that work nicely in high-density urban areas like Seattle aren’t effective in lower-density suburban or rural areas like in this district. We need representation that is concerned for our problems, not Seattle’s. Numerous studies show that traffic congestion can be significantly reduced without raising taxes, simply by reprioritizing how the money is spent. While work needs to be done to fully integrate our mass-transit system, placing a priority on certain specific road improvements can significantly improve our congestion now.

Simpson: As a member of the House Transportation Committee, I have championed desperately needed investments in our transportation system and sponsored legislation that requires (the state) to meet certain goals and be more accountable and more efficient with the tax dollars they receive. Construction is now underway on hundreds of new projects around the state and many right here in our area that will make our roads safer, lessen congestion and spur the economy. But with the state facing a huge budget shortfall next year, I will be fighting to make sure the vital transportation projects for our area remain funded, and I’ll be looking for opportunities to complete even more transportation projects in south King County. I’m spearheading a new effort in the Legislature to improve the way we plan and implement transportation in our communities so that the system works better, gives us more options, encourages housing that’s affordable for working families, creates high-paying jobs and reduces congestion and pollution.

Reporter: What other issues are priorities for you?

Hamada: We must maintain affordable housing for all. We must seek answers to our rising energy costs by encouraging more alternatives for fuel – natural gas-fueled cars, buses and trucks. Encourage tax incentives for solar and wind power. Continue the emphasis on Early Childhood Education and improve our existing school systems. We need to fight for better payment to our physicians by Medicare. This state has a real problem, as the doctors here are compensated less for Medicare than most states, which results in more doctors refusing to take on any more Medicare patients. I strongly feel that each person in this state should have equal opportunity to thrive in the way they choose, and I will get up each day and work hard to help them

achieve their dreams and make them believe that this world is one to believe in again.Hargrove: Taxes and spending. Our Legislature has turned the largest reserve in state history into what is projected to be a nearly $3 billion deficit in the next legislative session. Limiting this obviously out-of-control spending, and the resulting pressure to increase taxes to make up for it, is urgent.

Education. When seven states were offered millions of dollars in grants for improving math and science education, our state was the only one to decline the $13.2 million offer. Our current bureaucratic system wouldn’t allow teachers to get extra pay for extra work. I say our priorities are way out of whack. We need to seriously consider how to get more of the nearly $11,500 dollars we spend per student per year on education in the hands of the actual school system administrators and teachers who do the real work. With our support, they can use that money to teach students effectively and reward the educators who best accomplish that goal.

Property rights. In the balance of private property rights and community rights, we have strayed too far from the key importance that the Founding Fathers placed on protecting private property rights. The Growth Management Act is badly flawed. Even though it has been revised nearly every session since its implementation, it remains flawed since it clearly still infringes on private property rights that are protected in our state and federal constitutions.

Simpson: As a full-time professional firefighter in my everyday job, I see firsthand the devastation families endure when they are victims of criminal activity, when they suffer from chronic health conditions, medical emergencies or fires. While we need to continue to be ever vigilant in making sure that government operates as efficiently and frugally as possible, I will continue to work to make sure our criminal justice and public health systems receive the resources necessary to carry out their mission. Without adequate resources, police can’t prevent crimes or adequately enforce existing laws, much less get tougher where we need to. As a father, I’m concerned about protecting children from violence and exploitation, and I’ll continue to be tough on crime.