A Richland business and civic leader failed to unseat longtime state House Rep. Larry Haler on Tuesday.
Haler, a Richland Republican, vehemently denied that his unexpected vote against a $16 billion transportation package in 2015 hurt the Tri-Cities when it came to funding local projects such as Richland’s $38 million Duportail Bridge.
But the vote drew an election challenge from restaurant owner Steve Simmons, who maintained it did hurt the community. Both men are Republicans.
Tuesday, voters opted to stay with Haler, sending him back to represent the 8th District in the Washington House of Representatives for a seventh, two-year term.
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With an estimated 54 percent of 87,000 ballots cast counted, Haler received 19,871 votes to Simmons’ 13,145, or 60 percent to 40 percent.
“This election has been interesting locally, as well as nationwide. What I’m looking forward to doing is I will be working on two capital project budgets,” Haler said Tuesday night.
The first is to create an educational center at the LIGO center in Richland to promote science education, akin to the LIGO center in Louisiana. He also will work on a project with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to get capital dollars to build an advanced materials facility with multimillion dollar research magnets.
He’s also working on efforts to modernize three reservoirs to support Washington agriculture.
Like his opponent, Haler has pledged to be a business-friendly voice in Olympia while acknowledging that the coming 2017 session will spend much of its time focused on complying with the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision, which holds that Washington is failing its constitutional duty to amply fund education.
Haler, who is recovering from knee replacement surgery, is a former Richland city councilman who has served in the Legislature since 2004.