By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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PORT TOWNSEND — Streamlining government, dealing with declining budgets and the statute of limitations regarding sex crimes against children were among the topics discussed at the final scheduled candidate forum of the Nov. 6 election in Jefferson County.
It also was the only Jefferson County forum to include all of the candidates for 24th District state representative: Craig Durgan and Kevin Van De Wege vying for Position 1, and Steve Gale and Steve Tharinger for Position 2.
Tharinger, 61, and Van De Wege, 38, both of Sequim, are incumbent Democrats.
Gale, 45, of Sequim is a Republican, and Durgan, 64 and a Port Ludlow resident, is running as an independent.
40 in attendance
About 40 people attended the event, sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the American Association of University Women.
About a third of the audience had left by the forum's second half.
“We've had to decrease the size of government and cut a lot of services that probably shouldn't have been cut,” Van De Wege said in his opening statement.
“Right now, we have about as a streamlined and efficient government as we can get, but we are always making sure that the things we're funding are funded properly and money is not wasted,” he said.
Durgan, who ran against Van De Wege in the 2010 primary, said Van De Wege's promise to create jobs at that time was not fulfilled.
“I'd like to know where these jobs are,” said Durgan, who did not file for the office but was put on the ballot after getting sufficient write-in votes in the August primary.
“Talk is cheap. Last time I ran, [Van De Wege] talked about the 100 jobs created at Peninsula Plywood,” Durgan said.
“They are now bankrupt and are tearing the place down.”
The candidates agreed that working together and compromise were important.
“The most important thing is just working with people and not shutting them down,” Durgan said.
“I've never been a party member; I don't subscribe to all of this party politics.
“I think there is room for negotiation and to come up with something that everyone can live with,” he said.
“Olympia is not Washington, D.C.,” Van De Wege said.
“Most of the bills we pass have little or no opposition, and we have a system that works.”
“I've heard information that if [former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry] Sandusky was prosecuted in Washington state, there would have been no convictions,” Durgan said in response to a question about lifting the statute of limitations for sex crimes against children.
“Children being raped is disgusting, and it causes them a lot of psychological problems that may take them a long time before they are resolved where they can bring charges.
“A statute of limitations does not serve the public very well and certainly does not serve the victims at all.”
“I haven't heard that Sandusky allegation [that there would have been no convictions], and I highly doubt that's true,” Van De Wege said.
“Obviously no one wants children to be raped, but when there is a crime that is 20 or 30 years old, it can be a real headache to go back and prosecute.
“There is legislation under consideration that has not passed for some good reason, but it is now under review by an independent commission,” Van De Wege added.
“We should wait to hear their results because, obviously, they have the best interests of the community in mind.”
Tharinger, Gale differ
Tharinger and Gale differed on two issues: abortion rights and the Citizens United decision.
“I'm totally supportive of a woman's right to choose and access to health care,” Tharinger said.
“I grew up with five sisters and learned a whole lot about these kinds of issues, so I don't think there's any question about it.”
Gale responded: “Having witnessed how abortions are performed, I think it's a tragedy.
“There are times when it is certainly appropriate, such as when it is a result of violence, but I do not agree with abortions at will.
“What I do support is personal responsibility from everyone involved so we don't run into a case where we have to perform abortions.”
Tharinger said he opposes the idea that corporations are people but probably would not actively push a resolution supporting this through the Legislature.
“I think this is something that needs to be changed on a federal level,” Tharinger said,
“A number of us are signed onto this statement, but the question is whether I'm going to spend my legislative capital on this when it doesn't have as much importance as issues like funding K-12 education.”
Gale said: “I do believe that corporations are people.
“But there are bigger issues to lead on right now to get things on track.”
State income tax
The candidates also differed in support of a state income tax, though Tharinger said it would be “difficult politically” to establish it.
“I've supported an income tax because I feel it would balance our revenue picture,” Tharinger said.
“I think a corporate income tax that replaces the [business and occupations tax is a good idea.
“The idea that the B&O tax is based on gross receipts is crazy. If you are going to buy equipment or do marketing or the other things you need to do to stay in business, you are taxed,” Tharinger continued.
“A corporate tax based on net receipts would make a lot of sense.”
Gale said he thought the B&O tax was adequate and advocates scaling back fees to businesses.
“We are at a point where the money paid to government agencies in the form of fees is giving us diminishing returns,” he said.
“If we can scale those back and wait for the economy to get better, the revenue to the state will go up.
“We need to ask what value government is adding to our communities. We can't afford to just fund this huge machine that doesn't actually deliver; the government is very good at not delivering value for the money spent.”
Ballots were mailed out Oct. 17 and are due at the Auditor's Office by 8 p.m. Nov. 6.
Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at email@example.com.