By Isaac Bonnell
Going into the primary, it was a five-way race to fill the seat left by state Rep. Doug Ericksen, who is campaigning to become a state senator. From the melee emerged Jason Overstreet, a Blaine City Councilman, and Al Jensen, a Bellingham Police Detective.
Both candidates have experience in politics: Overstreet was elected to the Blaine City Council in 2005 and re-elected in 2007; Jensen ran for this House seat in 1998 and narrowly lost to Doug Ericksen.
Like most elections in the state this year, the budget and the economy are the top campaign issues — and both candidates appear well-versed on these topics. Both agree that the state is going to have to make cuts and prioritize its spending.
But the candidates differ on the best way to do that, especially when it comes to privatization and restructuring the tax system.
Overstreet is pushing for the state to privatize some of its operations, lower taxes and create a simplified taxing structure that would be friendlier to businesses.
“Our problem is not a lack of taxation, it’s a lack of understanding and a lack of privatization,” Overstreet said. “Raising taxes on people who are struggling to keep business alive is a lack of common sense.”
Jensen on the other hand is against privatization in general and is opposed to the initiatives that would open up liquor sales and workers’ compensation insurance to the private market.
“I think there’s problems with the [liquor] system, but they are problems that can be fixed. Privatization is not the solution,” Jensen said about I-1100 and I-1105.
The one initiative that Jensen supports is I-1098, which would create a state income tax for individuals who make more than $200,000 a year and exempt many small businesses from the business and occupation (B&O) tax.
“We’ve got one of the most regressive tax systems in this state,” Jensen said. “The vote on that is going to be the litmus test on what the voters want and how they want the tax system redone.”
Overstreet is opposed to the initiative because he said he fears it will eventually turn into an income tax on all residents. He also described the B&O tax exemption as merely a carrot dangled in front of voters, rather than a solution to the complicated tax structure.
“Washington consistently ranks as one of the more tax friendly states, not because we have such a great tax structure, but because we don’t have an income tax,” Overstreet said.
Jason Overstreet: Republican Party candidate
Bio: Overstreet grew up in Lynden and has been a professional firefighter for 10 years. He has served on the Blaine City Council since 2005.
Notable endorsements: Washington Farm Bureau PAC, Human Life PAC, National Federation of Independent Business
Al Jensen: Democratic Party candidate
Bio: Jensen grew up in Ferndale and has worked for the Bellingham Police Department for 33 years. He ran for this seat in 1998.
Notable endorsements: Washington State Labor Council, Northwest Washington Building and Construction Trade Council, Washington Educational Association