Two area Republican mainstays have their sights set on the job 4th District Rep. Larry Crouse held for nearly two decades.
However, Diana Wilhite and Bob McCaslin Jr. will have to get past Leonard Christian, who Spokane County commissioners appointed to replace Crouse in the state House of Representatives earlier this year.
Voters will have their say in the Aug. 5 primary, and the two top vote-getters will move on to the November general election.
Christian – who served in the Air Force for 20 years and a holder of a degree in business administration -- is no stranger to politics He ran – and lost – to county Auditor Vicky Dalton in 2010.
Wilhite served on the Spokane Valley City Council from 2002 to 2009, when she lost to Brenda Grassel. Wilhite was mayor of the city from 2005 to 2007. She is a longtime area businesswoman and active in GOP politics.
McCaslin Jr. has the benefit of sharing the surname of Bob Sr., who was a 4th District state senator for 30 years. The younger McCaslin is an educator and a member of the Spokane Valley Planning Commission.
How long have you lived in District 4? I joined the Air Force just days after graduating Ferris High School in 1984 and returned home to Spokane in April 2005 after serving on active duty for almost 21 years.
Why did you decide to file for this office at this time? While serving in the military you are not allowed to be involved in politics, so after retirement I called and invited my representative (Larry Crouse) out to lunch and asked him how I could get involved. He suggested that I run for my neighborhood precinct committee officer (PCO), so I filed on the ballot and won that election. Then Rep. Crouse suggested that I run for the district leader position that I also won. Being a district leader allowed me to help out on many campaigns over the years and become familiar with current issues. When Rep. Crouse decided to retire last December, I realized it was my opportunity to step up and fulfill a dream to use the leadership skills learned in the Air Force to become an impactful leader for our community.
Why should voters choose you over your opponents? As the current incumbent I now have a voting record that shows I'm a conservative Republican that believes in smaller government and lower taxes with a focus on helping our business grow with less regulation. Because I have taken the time this session to listen to the people I serve, I have earned the endorsements of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), the Washington Realtors and even the Spokane Valley Fire Fighters, just to name a few. Talk is cheap, and my opponents claim they will serve the community if elected, but I have a proven record of serving starting at 18 years old with my oath to protect and defend the constitution and our country.
What issues do you feel are most pertinent to Spokane Valley-area residents going into the next legislative session? The 2015 legislative session is projecting to have $2.8 billion more in the revenue forecast mainly because of a 10-percent increase in exports and better than expected hiring. However, there are many legislators on the west side of the state that would still like to raise fees and taxes to cover possible funding shortfall for education, transportation, public safety and the newly created health-care exchange. I believe we need to prioritize spending and not do anything that would stop the fragile economic recovery in our state.
What surprising issues are people bringing up as you door-knock or meet folks at campaign stops? Spokane is one of the best places in the country to live, work and raise a family because of our outstanding schools, safe communities and reasonable cost of living. As I talk with voters on their porches many are expressing their frustration with criminals being released back into our communities some times before the officer completes their paperwork. Our police and sheriff departments are doing a great job of catching the criminals, but they simply do not have the room in our jails to keep them in. The justice system only works if law enforcement has the ability to punish the criminals when they catch them and I believe it's time for city, county and state elected officials to work together to formulate a cost effective solution.
Bob McCaslin Jr.
How long have you lived in District 4? 42 years.
Why did you decide to file for this office at this time? I have served the community here in Spokane for 19 years as a teacher, nine years as a volunteer chaplain at Spokane County Juvenile Hall and almost two years as a city of Spokane Valley planning commissioner. I know that those skills will serve me well in the Washington state Legislature; it’s basic people skills, and I’ve been successful at it.
Why should voters choose you over your opponents? I am the only candidate in this race who is endorsed by our two 4th District elected legislators: Sen. Mike Padden and Rep. Matt Shea. I am honored that they would want me to work with them! We already have a good working relationship, which will serve people in our district well. I also won the vote for being appointed to this office by a two-thirds majority on the first ballot by our 4th District Precinct Committee officers this last December. Voters may wonder why am I not the incumbent right now -- I was the only candidate who, when interviewed by the county commissioners, made it clear that I wouldn’t vote for an increase in the gas tax. Citizens of the 4th District can make their own conclusions about that.
What issues do you feel are most pertinent to Spokane Valley-area residents going into the next legislative session? There are three main issues: government reform, the economy and jobs and education. Our state doesn’t have a revenue problem; it has a spending problem. We need to seek common sense reforms that address how the state spends money. The “spend it or lose it” budget habits of state agencies has to stop; I am committed to sponsoring legislation that will allow them to carry over budget surpluses from one year to the next. Then the Legislature can reward them for being frugal by giving them priority in the next budget year. We can allow our economy to thrive by allowing our small businesses to thrive in our state. We do this by reducing regulations and costs, which will allow businesses to hire more people here. People on the west side don’t understand that we lose a lot of businesses to Idaho because it is so much easier and less costly to do business there. Last of all, we need to fund education intelligently and continue to attract and keep good teachers here in Washington State. We need a consistent revenue stream to do that. We can, as over 30 other states have done: get control of our public lands from the federal government (see americanlandscouncil.org).
What surprising issues are people bringing up as you door-knock or meet folks at campaign stops? People consistently talk to me about the need to shrink government and work on saying no to additional taxes and spending. Many of these people are retired and on fixed incomes. They also say, “What happened to following the Constitution?” I plan on doing just that; the state Constitution is relevant because human nature hasn’t changed a bit since it was written in 1889. I love that it was written with this in mind: “All political power is inherent in the people, and governments derive their just power from the consent of the governed, and are established to protect and maintain individual rights” (Article 1, Declaration of Rights). I promise to keep that first in mind as I serve in the state House of Representatives.
Age? I am a grandmother with two grandchildren, ages 13 and 5 months.
How long have you lived in District 4? I have lived in the 4th District for over 35 years.
Why did you decide to file for this office at this time? In serving on the Spokane Valley City Council, I found that it gave me great satisfaction helping citizens solve problems affecting their lives. It would be an honor to assist all citizens in the 4th Legislative District in the same manner. When Rep. Larry Crouse told me he was not planning on running in 2014 and encouraged me to run, I decided to file for his seat in July 2013.
Why should voters choose you over your opponents? I have a passion to make a contribution to my community and country. There are many important issues that the Legislature needs to resolve. Some of those are solving the education issues raised by the McCleary decision, securing transportation dollars for Eastern Washington and improving the business climate by reducing over regulation. As an elected city official for seven years, I gained extensive knowledge of state legislative matters. I have the background, qualifications and experience that neither of my opponents have. For the last 30 years I have been involved in community affairs, education issues and governmental concerns. As a member of the National Federation of Independent Business I lobbied the Legislature on small business topics and testified before legislative committees. I was chair of the public policy committee for the Greater Spokane Chamber of Commerce. I have also chaired the Spokane Workforce Development Council, served as a member of the chamber’s transportation committee and the Ag Bureau Council. My years of business ownership, where I was responsible for outside sales, has honed my skills as an excellent listener and a creative problem solver. I learned how to deal with all types of personalities and use innovative ideas to solve issues.
What issues do you feel are most pertinent to Spokane Valley-area residents going into the next legislative session? Issues such as the impact of the McCleary decision on education, common core requirements and teacher salaries are of great concern to many citizens. 4th District residents are worried about taxes and spending by the state. They are tired of legislators wasting money by not working together to solve these matters.
What surprising issues are people bringing up as you door-knock or meet folks at campaign stops? People have expressed frustration over health-care issues and problems they had accessing the system. They are upset regarding the governor’s decision to force standards for water and air quality that currently cannot be measured scientifically to show that progress has been made.