Pflug defends 5th District seat against newcomer Huster
October 1, 2008
By Jon Savelle
Cheryl Pflug’s entry into politics was not glamorous, but it certainly will sound familiar to legions of other citizens who have sought elected office.
“I had started volunteering on the Rossi campaign,” she said. “But if you show up with any regularity, you are going to be in charge.”
In that role, Pflug got acquainted with many Republican state legislators. And they, in turn, convinced her that one person can make a difference.
“So, I ran,” she said. She was elected to the House, where she served for five years, and then was appointed to fill Dino Rossi’s Senate seat when he ran for governor. When that term expired, Pflug ran for election and the voters returned her to office.
She is nothing if not energetic, managing a 10-year political career while also raising four children. Along the way, Pflug has also been active in numerous civic groups, chambers of commerce, cultural and church organizations.
Born on Vashon Island, Pflug has lived in the Hobart area for the last 38 years. She has three sons, ages 23, 21 and 18, and a 16-year-old daughter.
In the Legislature, she has found that some 90 percent of legislation is passed without controversy. But the other 10 percent “we really wrassle over.”
She has had her share of successes and failures, but with Republicans in the minority in both houses and not present in the governor’s office, passing legislation is a challenge. Nonetheless, some bills Pflug co-sponsored in the 2007 and 2008 sessions did pass and were signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire:
- Senate Bill 6685, 2008, regarding the ethical use of e-mail for legislative updates.
- Senate Resolution 8638, recognizing service in the Peace Corps.
- SB 5533, 2007, recognizing that many individuals who are arrested for criminal behavior have mental illness, and they may be better served by treatment than by incarceration.
“I’ve had some good successes in healthcare,” Pflug said. “Sometimes, it helps to take my bill and patch it onto the freshman Democrat’s bill.”
Healthcare is the subject for which Pflug is most passionate. She said she would like to see universal access to healthcare, but at “private quality,” and she would like to see the state identify which kinds of outcomes it wants and then support them.
Otherwise, her list of big issues includes energy, the economy, the state budget and how to maintain economic growth. A looming budget deficit of $3.2 billion is a top priority.
“We are going to have a very serious discussion about the budget in January,” she said. “The deficit is based on the assumption of the economy growing at 8 percent per year, and that housing would bottom in the second quarter of 2008.”
Transportation, a constant headache for 5th District residents, should be approached from a big-picture perspective: Focus on what government is trying to deliver, then how to do it, she said. She added that she favors investing in more regional bus service while also consolidating the several agencies that provide it.
Like the districts’ other Republican legislators, Pflug is critical of the majority Democrats’ spending policies.
“One of the really important questions is, how did we spend an additional $8 billion over the last four years and somehow we forgot schools and roads?” she said.
Pflug said she is aware that she has to work with Democrats if she wants to accomplish anything. And she said she is moderate.
“I have no problem working across the aisle,” she said. “I represent a community, not a party. As a suburban Republican, I am kind of in a minority in my caucus. I have to make some hard decisions. I will talk to anybody, and I often find that the best answer is somewhere closer to the middle.”
Pflug is endorsed by various business, education, healthcare and professional associations. Among them are the Washington Education Association, the Washington Biotechnology and Biomedical Association, the United Subcontractors’ Association, the Washington Software Alliance and the Washington State Nurses Association.
She has been rated “very good” by the Municipal League, a nonpartisan association that conducts the equivalent of job interviews with candidates in King County and rates them on their capacity to serve effectively.
In its annual Legislative Scorecard, in which it ranks legislators’ votes according to their support for the environment, the nonprofit Washington Conservation Voters gave Pflug a score of 46 percent. By their accounting, she voted the wrong way on preserving agricultural lands, climate change, tolling policy, urban forestry and protection of the Maury Island aquatic reserve.
Pflug voted with them on protection for Puget Sound, clean fuels, local farms, elimination of PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers, used as flame retardants) and toxic toys.
Reach Reporter Jon Savelle at 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Jon Savelle
Phyllis Huster is a newcomer to state politics, but the Snoqualmie Democrat is eager to get into the action.
“My dad was a big Democrat,” she said in a recent interview. “All my friends were surprised
that it took me 42 years to get into politics.”
Huster is challenging incumbent Sen. Cheryl Pflug, R-Maple Valley, for the 5th District seat. She has been actively going out into the district to meet people, ring doorbells and make herself known.
“What I’m hearing loud and clear from the 5th District is, they are not happy about what either the Democrats or the Republicans are doing,” Huster said. “They are asking, where’s the education funding, where are my transportation choices? I hear a lot about healthcare — their healthcare bill is really breaking the bank. And the economy. People are just generally upset.”
Born in Chicago, Huster lived there until age 5, when her family moved to Decatur, Ga. That was her home until she reached her mid-30s and had established herself as a telecommunications executive. The work took her to New Jersey, Holland, Sweden and finally to T-Mobile in Bellevue.
But something was missing.
“Make money, come home — that’s boring,” Huster said. “I wanted to do something different.”
Besides taking the plunge into politics, Huster has signed up as a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Puget Sound, through which she spends time with a child three or four times a month. Someday, she said, she would like to adopt.
In her leisure time, Huster enjoys photography and outdoor recreation, particularly hiking, cycling and kayaking. She has published a book about e-mail and the Internet.
Huster’s campaign stresses what she calls three Es and a T — education, environment, economy and transportation. For education, Huster said she wants to see higher graduation rates, higher academic standards, higher pay for teachers and a redistribution of school funding to put more money in growth areas.
Her environmental priorities are to establish incentives to reduce the state’s carbon footprint (its contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and global warming); encourage nonautomotive transportation; prevent urban sprawl; and protect natural areas.
Similarly, her approach to the economy stresses energy independence and the creation of environmentally sustainable jobs; fiscal accountability; attracting new businesses to the state; and providing citizens choices in transportation and healthcare.
Huster counts economic development as one of her top priorities. She said she wants to attract clean industries to the district’s cities, creating well-paying jobs close to housing.
“If you don’t generate that income, it’s just a matter of which programs do you cut every year,” Huster said.
She cites her expertise in the telecom industry as an asset in working with business. According to her campaign Web site, she has managed $500 million programs for AT&T, T-Mobile and Microsoft, and has been a member of boards of directors for Fortune 500 companies. She said she believes the Democrats can do more to control state spending while also funding education, transportation and environmental protection.
“When you are spending $67 billion, that’s more than enough,” Huster said. “We need to subsidize what we want more of, and tax what we want less of.”
One idea Huster favors is to increase revenues from tourism, but she doesn’t advocate an income tax.
“I’m a little shocked that Washington state hasn’t already gone there,” she said. “But I’m not going to be the one who waves that flag.”
On the transportation front, Huster said she would like to see the state Department of Transportation consider road improvements to alleviate congestion on county roads. She suggested that state Route 900, which connects Issaquah to Renton, could be extended to Maple Valley, too — thereby taking a huge volume of traffic off of Issaquah-Hobart Road.
So far, no one else has advocated for this idea, but Huster said she intends to propose it to the Department of Transportation.
Huster is supported by the 5th District Democrats, the Stonewall Democrats (a network of gay and lesbian Democratic clubs and individuals), NARAL Pro-Choice America, the American Federation of Teachers, the Young Democrats of Washington, Eastside Fire & Rescue Local 2878 Firefighters Union; and the National Women’s Political Caucus.
Locally, she has been endorsed by Issaquah City Council members Maureen McCarry and David Kappler, and activist Nancy San Carlos.
The Municipal League of King County, a nonpartisan association that conducts the equivalent of job interviews with candidates in King County and rates them on their capacity to serve effectively, gave Huster a rating of “very good.”
Huster said her primary motivation in running is to make representative democracy work. She noted that all of her campaign literature bears her telephone number and e-mail address, and said she would continue to be accessible if elected.
“I will work 100 percent to represent my district,” Huster said.