The two men running for the 16th Legislative District senate seat disagree on several of the major issues facing voters on the Nov. 6 ballot -- gay marriage and charter schools.
The race is between Democratic newcomer Scott Nettles of Waitsburg and longtime incumbent Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla.
Hewitt, 66, is running for his fourth term as state senator.
"I still feel like I'm effective. I do not feel 66 years old and with the state not out of a critical dimension, it would be a bad time to lose 12 years of history," he said.
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Hewitt says he works well with Democrats and is especially proud of the work the two parties did two sessions ago when they were able to agree on a bipartisan budget.
"It didn't work out as well this past session but I'm optimistic for the next," he said.
Nettles, 46, said he decided to challenge Hewitt after looking into his opponent's voting record.
"I found he has a record of voting along big business lines more and more often while ignoring the working family, for the most part.
"He has voted against payday loan industry regulation to protect those that may need a short-term loan to help out, against consumer protection laws that would have protected new home buyers, working family tax exemptions, and health insurance company rate oversight by the Washington State Insurance Commissioner in the past," Nettles said in an email to the Herald.
Nettles, who serves on the Waitsburg City Council, feels he has a good grasp of what it takes create a balanced budget.
"Some have scoffed at my service as a councilman for in a small community," he stated. "What they don't realize is that by dealing with such a tight budget I have learned to live within our means on a municipal level.
"We have everything a state budget has just on a smaller scale. Also, being a small community one learns to work with everyone. From listening and responding to the person on the street to working with other council members who may disagree with your opinion."
The two candidates are split on some of the major state ballot measures but would likely vote no on Initiative 502, legalizing medical marijuana.
Hewitt said he's torn on the issue because the state and federal laws are in conflict.
"I voted for the (it) originally because police officers were confused whether they could or could not arrest. But the language of the initiative, which is 12 to 14 pages long, is confusing. I very likely would vote no on that issue," he said.
Nettles agreed, stating, "The argument that moneys will be raised by taxing it are bogus. People will just grow their own and not pay the tax. This will lead to more problems without the tax base to deal with said problems."
As for Referendum 74, affirming legislation legalizing same-sex marriage, Hewitt said he's against seeing a change in the language defining marriage.
Nettles stated, "This as gay marriage, as it is defined in R74, is just that, a definition. They enjoy most of the benefits of marriage without being married in name only. R74 grants a legal standing only."
"And quite simply, same sex marriage does not have any effect on those that are not involved," Nettles stated.
The candidates also are split on the question of charter schools.
Hewitt is for them, saying, "I believe in competition and believe, if you're a good teacher, you will not have to worry about this one bit."
Nettles, on the other hand, is against the idea.
"I feel that, if there is money to put into charter schools, then let's use that same money to fund public schools. The biggest problem in my mind is that we have, as government often does, spent too much money on administration. What we need are more classrooms, more qualified teachers, and more funding both," Nettles states.
"When I was in school," Nettles stated, "if there were those that needed help with reading or math there were, what were then called, special ed programs and teachers to help those students during the day. Today we try to mainstream everyone. While that may work in some cases, there are others it obviously does not."