With the Washington Legislature facing an education-focused session, a local school board president is attempting to unseat a long-term incumbent.
Rick Jansons, president of the Richland School Board, is challenging four-term incumbent Brad Klippert in the race to represent the Eighth District, position 1, in the state House of Representatives.
The district covers northern Benton County, including Kennewick, Richland and West Richland.
Klippert, a Kennewick resident, is a Benton County sheriff’s deputy and a military veteran who was recently promoted to commander of the Washington State Guard.
Jansons is a 15-year member of the Richland School Board who resigned as executive director of Tri-County Partners Habitat for Humanity to run for office. He too is a military veteran, having served in the Navy’s submarine service.
Jansons and Klippert are both Republicans and emerged as the top two finishers in the Aug. 2 primary. Klippert received 54.3 percent of the primary votes and Jansons 31.6 percent.
Jansons is interested in economic development, such as pushing for small-scale nuclear reactors, but education is his top issue.
Jansons ran to bring the state-level education policy work he’s done as former chair of the Washington State School Directors Legislative Committee to bear on the Legislature as it wrestles with the Supreme Court’s McCleary ruling that Washington is failing its constitutional mandate to adequately fund basic education, he said.
Klippert is seeking a fifth term as a part-time lawmaker because of his love of public service and an interest in promoting economic growth, he said. He too is eager to resolve the McCleary issue.
Jansons tackles McCleary at the base by questioning the definition of “basic education.” He said the state is too focused on college prep, at the expense of serving students headed to vocational or other training programs.
“Throwing more money at the problem is not the solution,” Jansons said. “We have the wrong definition of basic education.”
Klippert said he appreciates the McCleary ruling, but argues the Legislature has to write a budget that meets the needs of all three branches of government. His solution is to increase revenue by increasing productivity.
He cites the proposed $680 million Millennium Bulk Terminals coal-export proposal for Longview as an example of opportunities for economic expansion. The final environmental impact statement on the controversial project is due in 2017.
The state should embrace investments that will produce jobs and tax revenue that can in turn support government, Klippert said.
“I’m going to work very hard for opportunities,” he said.
Klippert is a reliable Republic vote on most issues. In 2016, he supported legislation authorizing public charter schools and establishing policies for the use of police body cameras.
He opposed a supplemental budget, amending education funding and automatic voter registration. In 2015, he voted against the $16 billion transportation package, citing opposition registered in an informal poll of participants in a town hall gathering.
In 2016, he introduced bills to restrict the kinds of flags flown on state ferries, a move that was inspired by rainbow flags raised during Seattle Pride week.
He also sponsored legislation to override a state rule requiring public buildings to allow transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice, and supported forming a task force to investigate replacing Oregon and Washington with two new states divided by the Cascades.
Jansons opposes dividing the states along the Cascade range. He would have supported the transportation vote and faulted Klippert for being guided by such a small poll, rather than the needs of the community.
“A town hall call is a very self-selected thing. It is not a good basis to do that,” Jansons said.
As an elected school board member, Jansons helped lead the school district as it adapts to enrollment growing by an estimated 600 students per year and a major building program.
During his time on the board, Richland voters approved two bonds that together upgraded almost every building in the district and built new ones as well.
A $98 million bond approved in 2013 supported a new middle school and the Jefferson Elementary School rebuild. In February, the district will ask voters to support a $99 million bond to build two additional elementary schools and replace two others.
His school board term expires in 2017.
Jansons has raised $15,270, according to the most recent filings with the Washington Public Disclosure Commission. Top supporters are IBEW Local Union 112 (Kennewick), Plumbers and Steamfitters Local Union 598 PAC (Pasco), Washington Education Association PAC (Federal Way), Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters (Kent) and Robert J. Thompson (Richland mayor).
Klippert has raised $40,595, according to the commission. Top supporters are the Boeing Company PAC, Council of Police PAC (Olympia), National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund (Fairfax, Va.), Potato PAC (Pasco) and Washington Affordable Housing Council (Olympia).
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