3 candidates emerge to replace Jerome Delvin in state Senate

By Michelle Dupler, Tri-City HeraldJanuary 18, 2013 

Reps. Larry Haler and Brad Klippert and Kennewick Mayor Pro Tem Sharon Brown topped local Republicans' list of potential replacements for Jerome Delvin in the state Senate on Thursday.

The Benton County GOP met in Richland to narrow the field from six candidates to three, with the Benton County Commissioners having the final choice on whom to send to Olympia.

Haler, R-Richland, is the senior 8th District representative to the state House of Representatives, having served in the position since 2004.

In a brief speech to party members, he touted his experience and work on education and energy issues as well as the recent introductions of constitutional amendments requiring a balanced state budget, recognizing hydropower as a renewable energy source and requiring a two-thirds vote in the Legislature to raise or create taxes.

Haler also told the 8th District precinct officers voting on nominees that he has the backing of new Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, whom Haler said offered him his choice of Senate committee assignments if he gets the seat.

"It helps having the new coalition leader call up and say, 'I support you,'" Haler said.

Klippert was tied up in Olympia on Thursday and couldn't attend the GOP meeting, but State Committee Woman Waylon Funk spoke in his stead and talked about Klippert's experience in the military, as a Benton County Sheriff's deputy and his background in education. Klippert is a school resource officer for the sheriff's department and holds a master's degree in education.

Klippert, R-Kennewick, has built a reputation as a conservative Christian lawmaker in his two terms in the 8th District. He was sworn in for his third term earlier this week.

Brown is an attorney who has served on the Kennewick City Council. She has served as mayor pro tem since being sworn in.

Brown, whom party officials said had registered in a past election as a Democrat, defended her Republican identity by pointing out that she was selected to introduce former presidential candidate Rick Santorum and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie -- both national Republican figures -- at campaign events in 2012.

She also said she's pro-gun, a member of the National Rifle Association, and against same-sex marriage and abortion.

Other applicants for the appointment were Tony Benegas, a West Richland city councilman and national vice chairman of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly; Patrick McBurney, a Tri-City lawyer and former Benton County GOP chairman; and Rob Miles, an engineer and contract officer for North Wind Inc., an environmental consulting firm in Richland.

Delvin was elected in November to replace Leo Bowman on the Benton County Commission.

Bowman chose not to run for another term.

Delvin was sworn in as a commissioner in late December, but planned to hold onto his Senate seat for the first few weeks of the legislative session. The legislative session started Monday and is scheduled to end in late April.

The process for filling a legislative vacancy according to the state constitution is for the local party committee to take applications from potential candidates, and then for the party precinct officers in the legislative district to narrow the field to three names.

County commissioners in the legislative district then appoint one of the three, likely at a meeting at the end of this month. The person appointed then has to run for election this year to keep the seat.

The 8th District includes Richland, West Richland and most of Kennewick, all in Benton County.

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