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Mary Dye of Pomeroy fills 9th District legislative seat

Neither of Franklin County’s nominees were chosen to replace Susan Fagan as the new state representative for District 9.

Former Franklin County Sheriff Richard Lathim received three votes at a special meeting Friday in Colfax. Patrick Guettner of Pasco got one.

Mary Dye of Pomeroy was selected by 13 of the 17 commissioners from six southeastern Washington counties who voted. She was sworn in afterward.

Dye, who operates a 3,000-acre wheat farm with her husband, is only assured of serving in the seat until November, when a special election will be held for the last year of the term formerly held by Fagan, a Republican from Pullman who resigned last week over allegations she falsified travel expense reports.

Franklin County Commissioners Brad Peck and Rick Miller voted for Lathim. Fellow Commissioner Bob Koch, who was attending a state risk pool meeting, was the only one of the 18 commissioners in the counties to not vote either in person or over the telephone.

Lathim, who received the largest amount of support at a meeting of district Republican officials Wednesday, is likely to file next week to run in the special election for the seat, he said.

Filing for the Nov. 3 election will be May 11-15. If three or more people file, they will have to run in the Aug. 4 primary.

“I felt it was a good opportunity for our area,” Lathim said. “Of all the counties, I think we have the largest population in the district. I felt we deserve that recognition.”

Franklin County spans two legislative districts, but none of the two senators and four House members that represent it are from the county.

Guettner will base his decision on whether to enter the special election on how the competition stacks up, he said.

Dye admitted during the question and answer session with commissioners that she still needs to learn more about Franklin County. But she said afterward that she is familiar with many of the issues affecting the area.

“I just need to meet more people and understand who the key people in industry and business in the area are, and what makes it tick,” she said.

Dye’s agricultural experience is crucial to Franklin County, she said. She also cited her involvement with the Save Our Dams campaign to keep shipping open along the Snake River.

Lathim served as Franklin County sheriff for 28 years before losing a close election to Jim Raymond in 2014. The lifelong Franklin County resident was in law enforcement for 37 years. He cited his electability as a reason for the commissioners to support him.

Guettner, vice chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party, ran unsuccessfully against Rep. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla, in 2006.

Increasing state funding to counties, and changing a law that allows them to only increase property taxes by 1 percent a year were among the issues commissioners brought up in their questioning.

Dye would not support a tax increase to meet a mandate in the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision unless it lessens the state’s influence on education, she said.

“Every penny of that funding had better be attached to something allowing more local control,” she said.

Decreasing class size sounds nice, but adding teachers means more schools must be built, something seen recently in Pasco, Lathim said.

“That takes an exorbitant amount of money,” he said.

Problems caused by overcrowded schools might be exaggerated, Guettner said.

“I was raised in an overcrowded school,” he said. “But we learned, some of us even excelled. Eighty-two percent of my graduating class went to college.”

All the candidates criticized state spending, attacking the possibility of carbon or income taxes.

“It’s like your teenager driving a $45,000 pickup and making $600 payments for six years,” Guettner said. “These people need to take a Dave Ramsey course.”

Dye criticized the curved design of the state Department of Agriculture building in Olympia, which features “flying buttresses.”

“I think we can be more frugal without having these edifices of grandeur for ourselves,” she said.

The state needs to stimulate business before it considers raising taxes, Lathim said.

“I think you have to get to the point where you streamline and spend wisely,” he said. “I think that’s the only time I could support raising taxes.”

The House Appropriations Committee meets as part of the Legislature's special session starting May 14, with the next floor action scheduled for May 20.

"We'll do everything we can to get her up to speed," said Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, Dye's fellow 9th District House member.

Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, praised the work of precinct committee members and commissioners in choosing Fagan’s replacement.

Their work, in a district the size of Connecticut, was in “stark contrast” to delays from King County officials last year in appointing a replacement for the late state Rep. Roger Freeman, D-Federal Way.

Dye’s appointment is good news for the 9th District, Schoesler, who also represents the district, said in a statement.

“I’ve known Mary Dye for 30 years and know she will represent the interests and values of the people of Adams, Asotin, Garfield, Franklin and Whitman counties well,” he said.

“Her knowledge and experience in agriculture and her family’s deep roots in Garfield County make her a natural leader on issues important to the 9th District.”

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