Newcomer, old foe challenge Rep. Glenn Anderson
July 27, 2010
By Warren Kagarise
Issaquah and other 5th Legislative District voters must narrow the field of state House of Representatives candidates from three to two in the Aug. 17 primary election. The top vote-getters advance to the November general election.
The race comes as a rematch of sorts for the incumbent, Glenn Anderson, and his 2008 opponent, David Spring. But newcomer Dean Willard hopes to clinch the GOP-held seat for the Democrats.
To understand just how much Democrats yearn to topple Anderson, rewind to the campaign kickoff for Willard.
In a clip immortalized on YouTube, state Rep. Geoff Simpson said “there is no one in the Legislature who is more despised by Democrats” than Anderson.
But Anderson, a Fall City Republican first elected to a 5th District seat a decade ago, shrugged off the partisan jab.
“I wish I had that kind of power,” he cracked.
Make no mistake: Democrats intend to pick up the seat, but the battle-tested Anderson remains a stubborn obstacle.
Constituents in Issaquah and other Eastside communities returned Anderson to the statehouse with comfortable margins in the last four elections.
Though the August and November elections could be bad for incumbents, Anderson described his experience as a benefit.
“There’s no on-the-job training required,” he said.
Though Anderson, 52, has been stuck in the minority since he arrived in Olympia as a freshman, he credited his backslapping style for helping him build relationships in the factitious Legislature.
“That’s what I’m known for — being honest, being direct and focusing on problem solving,” he said.
On the campaign trail, Anderson focuses on job creation. He proposed less business regulation as the elixir to bring more manufacturing jobs — and revenue — to the state.
He has a dire prediction for opponents of deep cuts to state spending.
“The state is headed toward a California-style bankruptcy implosion,” he said. “It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.”
Anderson dismissed descriptions of Republican lawmakers as obstructionists, and said the minority party should act as a conservative counterweight to the Democrats in power.
“When it’s a really bad idea, yes, you should obstruct it,” he said.
The last contest for the 5th District seat pivoted on about 2,200 votes — enough to bring the contest to a nail-biting finish for Anderson and Spring. Only 19 votes separated them on election night.
In the end, Anderson pulled far ahead. The defeated Spring continued advocating for education, as he had throughout the campaign.
Since then, the North Bend Democrat said he has trekked door-to-door and talked to more than 10,000 East King County residents about how the state pays for education.
Spring — the only candidate with a child in a 5th District public school — has again made education the backbone of his campaign.
But the race differs from the 2008 contest. Though Spring opted to appear on the ballot as a Democrat, the local party organization bypassed Spring and endorsed Willard for the seat.
Under state election rules, candidates can declare a preference for a party — even if the party prefers someone else.
But Spring, 58, could be a possible thorn in the side of Democrats in Olympia. He decried what he described as “corporate corruption” in both parties.
“I didn’t sign on to rubber-stamp Democratic Party policies,” he said. “I signed on to represent the children and families of East King County.”
He called for legislators to reform what he described as the onerous tax burden for middle-class homeowners.
“I will vote no for any budget that does not solve this problem,” he said.
Spring hailed Initiative 1098 — a November ballot measure to impose a state income tax on the wealthy, plus cut property and some business taxes — as a step toward fixing education funding.
“We need to come up with solutions to these problems,” he said. “Otherwise, we’re going to be laying off thousands of school teachers in the next two years.”
Democrats hope the newcomer in the race, Willard, has the money and the high-tech pedigree to unseat Anderson.
Willard, a Sammamish information technology consultant and a former executive at Bellevue-based T-Mobile, brings a business background to the race.
Willard, 46, said a quality education system acts as the foundation for a high-skill, high-wage workforce. Though he lauded Anderson for supporting measures to improve education, Willard faulted him for not doing more to fund schools.
“Where Glenn has failed to show any leadership is failing to deliver the resources for the system to do what it’s intended to do,” Willard said.
Before he entered the race, Willard kept active in local politics. He helped a T-Mobile colleague, Joe Mallahan, in a failed bid for Seattle mayor last year.
Though the race includes Spring, the last Democrat to take on Anderson, the party has endorsed first-time candidate Willard in the upcoming election.
Willard brushed aside possible threats posed by the better-known challenger. Spring could siphon crucial votes from Willard in the primary.
“Name recognition is a very fragile thing in an election,” Willard said.
Willard said the district no longer shares the same conservative values as Anderson, a minority Republican in a capital dominated by Democrats.
District voters last elected a Democrat — former state Sen. Kathleen Drew — in 1992. Dino Rossi edged out Drew four years later. Republicans rode to victory in ensuing elections for the statehouse seats.
But the district has changed since Anderson ascended to the House in 2000. Issaquah and other cities in the district ballooned as the tech industry boomed and housing construction kept pace.
Willard said he could be a more effective representative for 5th District residents as a freshman Democrat.
“Their voices will be heard in the group that has to agree to anything of significance happening in the legislative process,” he said.
About the 5th Legislative District
The district encompasses most of Issaquah, including downtown and the Issaquah Highlands. The district boundary splits the city from the neighboring 41st Legislative District at 12th Avenue Northwest.
Beyond city limits, the district includes a large swath of unincorporated King County, as well as all of North Bend and Snoqualmie. Parts of Maple Valley and Sammamish also fall within the district.
On the Web
Learn more about the 5th Legislative District candidates online.
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.