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Two Islanders in race for 41st Senate seat

A story about the race for State Representative in the 41st District between Marcie Maxwell and Steve Litzow was printed in the Reporter on Oct. 8.

Something may seem familiar to Islanders about this year’s campaign for the 41st District’s state Senate seat. It seems like it is contest for the Mercer Island City Council.

Actually, both candidates on the ballot have run for the Island’s Council in the past. Fred Jarrett is a former Mercer Island City Councilmember, mayor, School Board member and state representative. Islander Bob Baker challenged Mayor Jim Pearman for the Council three years ago.

Though he lost his bid for the Council, Baker has remained active in politics since then, promoting initiatives on immigration reform.

Baker, 55, is a commercial airline captain who previously tested and piloted Navy fighter jets. The pilot said he became interested in politics during his days in the Navy when he was stationed in Washington, D.C. He decided to run for the Senate as a Republican this year to work toward reducing state spending.

“I’m concerned about the deficit. There’s no surprise there,” Baker said on Friday. “State spending is the problem in my mind. No business could sustain [the 33 percent] increase we have had in the past four years.”

Baker is challenging a well-known, solutions-oriented politician respected in Olympia for his ability to work with both sides of the aisle. During his eight years in Olympia, Jarrett, 59, has been recognized by members of both parties for his work and was awarded the Public Official of the Year in 2007 by the nonpartisan Municipal League of King County.

“I have a good record of delivering improvements in education and transportation while promoting the efficiency and effectiveness of government,” Jarrett said of his qualifications for the Senate.

As a Republican, Jarrett successfully won four two-year terms as state representative. Last year, in midterm, he changed parties and announced he would run for the Senate as a Democrat. He also served 16 years on the Island’s City Council, with four as the mayor. Jarrett is a former member of the Air Force and Boeing manager. He is also a graduate of Mercer Island High School. As a state senator, he said he would look to balance the budget by cutting or reducing services that are not working.

“In down times, the state builds capacity to do new things by making the government — the legislature and the bureaucracy — find out what’s not working,” Jarrett said.

Both Jarrett and his opponent expressed their support for the work of State Auditor Brian Sonntag. Jarrett hopes that the auditor’s efforts will enable the legislature to determine what needs to be cut to best balance the budget. Baker agrees that the state’s audits show where the government should be checked.

“I’m excited about his performance audits,” Baker said regarding his discussions with Sonntag. “I like to say he’s my favorite Democrat.”

In addition to cutting spending — which Olympia has increased by a third in the past four years — Baker said he is looking forward to improving the state government by promoting free-enterprise solutions for many of the state’s problems.

“At the core, government doesn’t have the constraints the market has,” Baker said. “Left to its own devices, it tends to get larger. I think the people have to be the restraint on government.”

Much of the change that Baker would like to see in Olympia is the current approach to resolving traffic congestion, health care and the economy. He is critical of a cross-lake route for light rail and states that more lane capacity on local freeways would reduce congestion and help the economy by transporting goods faster. While both Jarrett and Baker said they oppose tolls on I-90, Jarrett said he was supportive of the research being completed by the Tolling Commission.

“None of us supports tolling on I-90,” Jarrett said of Islander politicians. “But it would be foolish to not look at the data. If there is not going to be tolling, then what will be the impacts? Will we be able to get on I-90? Will the highway’s capacity be filled by outlying commuters? If there is a tolling regime on 520 and the consequence is a push to I-90, that might not be the best solution.”

Baker said the state should be building more roads to reduce congestion, not light rail.

“The DOT [Department of Transportation] took traffic congestion relief off its list of priorities. And Sound Transit’s charter reads that their main goal is to increase ridership. Well, to increase ridership you need congestion. It’s outrageous.”

In the next issue, the Reporter will have coverage of the League of Women Voters annual voter forum that took place last night at Islander Middle School (after deadline). Ballots arrived in Island mailboxes last weekend. They must be postmarked before Nov. 4 to count. For more information on the Senate candidates, go to their Web sites: www.voteforbaker.com and www.vote4fred.org.

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