Candidates for state office stake out their positions before Auburn crowd

47th and 31st Legislative districts represented at chamber-backed event

Incumbents who represent Auburn residents and candidates who want to replace them in Olympia appeared before the Auburn Area Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday afternoon at the Community & Event Center in Les Gove Park.

Each candidate had five minutes to explain where they come, from, why they believe their values mesh with voters in their districts and why voters should support them in the Nov. 6 general election.

Note: This article is limited to candidates for office in the 47th and 31st Legislative districts.

State Senator, 31st District

Current office holder: Phil Fortunato, R-Auburn

Fortunato, whom the King County Council appointed to fill the position formerly occupied by Pam Roach, is standing for election to the seat for the first time.

Fortunato, a local businessman, described two of his top issues.

Number one, he wants to take the existing sales tax from the sale of motor vehicles and use it to fund transportation projects.

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that people are using more efficient cars, more electric cars, things like that. Gas tax revenue is flat, the cost of construction is going up at a 30-degree angle. In 7½ years we project we are going to run out of money to make the bond payments on transportation projects. All I am trying to do is get money for bridges – we’ve got so many bridges in the 31st District,” Fortunato said.

Number two, Fortunato is pushing for a formation of a new county that excludes Seattle.

“We hear a lot of Seattle-centric stuff. … Seattle could be King County, we would be something else. They could do whatever they want with their own money, they just couldn’t do it with our money,” Fortunato said.

Fortunato’s Democratic challenger, Immaculata Ferreria, was not at the forum.

State Senator, 47th District,

Joe Fain, incumbent, R-Auburn

Fain said he is running for reelection to lower property taxes and make housing more affordable for working families. He said he supports balanced, fiscally-responsible budgets, seeks to foster private sector job growth and expanded job training, and supports police, fire and first responders.

In the Legislature, Fain said, he has demonstrated the ability and willingness to step away from the political tribalism of the moment and work across the aisle to get things done.

“We know these are generational problems that we face, and when you face generational problems, you maybe have to take a step back from the issues for a second, and see what are the cultural elements that are allowing you to succeed or fail,” Fain said.

Mona Das, R-Covington

Born in India, Mona Das immigrated to the United States with her family when she was 8 months old, and her family had only $6 in its collective pocket. In the teeth of hardships, Das attended graduate school.

In 2004, Das said, she started her ow mortgage business, and thereafter devoted her energies to empowering and teaching first-time homebuyers. In 2009, she attended Pinchot University, from which she graduated with an MBA in sustainable business. She has been a member of the board of the Women’s Business Exchange and the Women’s Network for a Sustainable future. She lives in Covington.

“(My family) lives that American hope and dream of promise, and that’s one thing that drives me every day: to give back to the community and the country that helped my family thrive,” Das said.

47th District, House Position 1

Incumbent Mark Hargrove

Hargrove, a Boeing instructor pilot and a Covington resident, said his top legislative priority is transportation, and he is keen to rein in out-of-control car tab fees, tolling and gas taxes. He wants to see property taxes decrease and to provide parents the choices in school they need to increase their children’s graduation rates, fully preparing them for careers or for affordable higher education.

“The first state biennial budget after I got elected (2009) was about $30 billion, and I believe the last one was about $45 billion, a 50 percent increase over last year’s. Have you gotten a 50 percent pay raise over the last eight years? Probably not, but that money comes from someplace, and it’s us, we the people. I think we need to exercise some restraint there,” Hargrove said.

Hargrove’s Democratic opponent, Debra Entenman, did not attend the forum.

47th District, House Position 2

Pat Sullivan, incumbent, D-Covington

Sullivan, a former mayor of Covington, has been a member of the Economic Development Council and the Kent Communities in Schools board, was co-president of the Covington Elementary PTA and has coached youth soccer and T-ball.

Sullivan’s reason for seeking reelection, he said, is to make government more effective, more efficient and more accountable to the people.

An advocate for public education, Sullivan said, he has fought to maintain high academic standards, lower class sizes and make college tuition and textbooks affordable. Recently, he worked across the political aisle to create a bipartisan plan that addressed the McCleary decision, which required lawmakers in Olympia to fully fund basic education,

One of Sullivan’s top priorities will be to grow business to create jobs. For that reason, he said, he supports investments in transportation infrastructure and reforming the Washington State Department of Transportation.

And he described some of the ways he has helped the hometown folks.

“A number of years ago, I was able to pass a local infrastructure financing bill that allowed Auburn to retain part of its sales tax to build infrastructure in downtown Auburn and help bring in new development. Those are partnerships that worked very well,” Sullivan said.

Ted Cooke, R-Kent

Cooke, a software tester for Microsoft and a first-time candidate for elected office, is concerned that state government is appropriating to itself more power than the U.S. Constitution actually gives it.

“I am running because I think government has become a little bloated, and I would like to see less regulation. I think for the next 30 years, we could remove two regulations for every regulation we put on the book, and we’d still have a huge (Revised Code of Washington),” Cooke said.

Cooke said he supports lower taxes and would like to see more money put to general-use lanes.

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