The race between Democrat Jennifer Goulet and Republican Mary Dye to represent Washington’s Ninth Legislative District in the state house offers voters a clear choice between political priorities, not personalities.
Dye, the incumbent, is a wheat and sheep farmer from Pomeroy who graduated from the University of Idaho and served in the Peace Corps. Goulet is a Pasco resident who works at the HAMMER Federal Training Center in Richland.
Dye and Goulet were the top finishers in the Aug. 2 primary. Dye received nearly 58 percent of the vote and Goulet 30 percent. The third candidate, Republican Hailey Roemer, received 12 percent.
The Ninth Legislative District covers Franklin, Adams, Whitman, Garfield, Spokane and Asotin Counties.
Dye is married with three daughters. A conservative activist, she was appointed to the seat in 2015 after her predecessor resigned amidst an ethics investigation. She was formally elected in November.
Dye said she’s spent her first year in office listening and learning about how Olympia works.
In that time, she has been a reliable vote for Republican interests. She is chiefly interested in issues affecting agriculture. Her top priorities include broadband service in rural areas and boosting wildfire budgets to protect the state’s valuable forests.
She is a reliable anti-tax vote as well. She voted against the $16 billion transportation bill in 2015. She told the Tri-City Herald editorial board that she objected to the gas tax to the amount of money dedicated to Puget Sound transit projects. She generally supports investments in transportation infrastructure.
In her first year, Dye cast a “yea” vote on a bill to authorize charter schools and “no” votes on almost every major bill, including body cameras for police, supplemental budget, education funding, automatic voter registration, amending election procedures and amending regulations regarding recreational marijuana use.
Goulet has two daughters, including one living at home. She is co-founder and president of the Tri-City Freethinkers. She serves on the board of Planned Parenthood as well. This is her first run for public office.
She described herself as a progressive who aligns with the Democratic Party for practical purposes. She said she will not automatically vote with the party.
Corporate tax breaks and funding education are her top priorities. She wants to evaluate the billions in tax breaks Washington awards to keep businesses. She said she doesn’t want to repeal tax breaks bringing real benefits to the state, but she believes reforming some tax credits could bring in needed revenue to support education.
Both candidates share the expectation that the 2017 legislative session will be dominated by solving the education funding challenges raised by the state supreme court’s McCleary ruling. It held that the state is failing in its constitutional duty to amply provide for the education of all students.
They agree the state could save money by reducing the number of standardized tests students take, but they differ on other solutions.
Dye said the state can meet the constitutional duty with its existing resources and pledged to oppose any tax increases in support of education.
“The amount of money we have will be enough,” she said.
Goulet countered that education is being shortchanged by $3.5 billion, a gap that can be closed if the state better scrutinizes corporate tax breaks.
“We have to find new revenue somewhere,” she said.
Goulet is endorsed by the Democratic Committees of both Benton and Franklin County, NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, Democracy for America and other organizations.
Dye is endorsed by the Franklin County Republican Party U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., the National Federation of Independent Business, the Association of Washington Business and other organizations.
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