Election 2022: 26th District House candidates campaign in swing district

FILE — The Washington State Capitol in Olympia.
FILE — The Washington State Capitol in Olympia.
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New faces are on the campaign trail in the 26th District, with incumbent state Rep. Jesse Young choosing instead to contest Emily Randall for that district's Senate seat.

With Young out of the race, former Gig Harbor City Council member Spencer Hutchins, a Republican, is facing off against attorney Adison Richards for the Position 1 House seat. Democrat Matt Macklin is contesting longtime incumbent Rep. Michelle Caldier, a Republican, for the Position 2 seat.

After the redistricting this year, the 26th District now includes part of west Bremerton, Gorst, Port Orchard and Gig Harbor. The district's 2012 boundary didn't include Gorst and some areas in the west Bremerton that used to belong to the 35th District before redistricting following the 2020 Census.

26th District, Position 1

The Aug. 2 primary results for the Position 1 seat saw the closest margin of any other race on the ballots of Kitsap County voters. Richards topped Hutchins by just 116 votes, with 50.07% of the vote to Huchins' 49.84%.

If Richards sees the same results on Nov. 8, Democrats in Olympia will add a seat currently in Republican control in the state House. Currently, Democrats have 57 seats and Republicans have 41 seats.

Adison Richards
Adison Richards

Richards attributes his primary success to his message, which he says is using his experience as a lawyer to focus on issues like public safety and the rising cost of living.

"We've been working really hard, and we're not taking anything for granted," Richards said.

A resident of the Key Peninsula in Pierce County, Richards is a lawyer who works with victims of domestic violence, human trafficking and hate crimes in Kitsap County and Pierce County to obtain protection orders, he said.

Richards said his experience helps him understand people who are suffering from crime and poverty and has been what has motivated him to run for the seat.

"I've been representing people who feel like the system isn't working for them, people who feel like they're up against the system, and otherwise would be without effective representation," Richards said. "I want to bring that experience to represent my home."

Watching his father run a local landscape company growing up ignited a passion to help small business owners thrive, he said.

"I know so many of our small business owners...they're living their dream. And I want to help make it a little bit easier on them as a representative," Richards said.

Richards said his top priority for the Legislature is improving public safety. He would like to increase funding for first responders and provide them training to respond to individuals with mental health or substance abuse disorders. He wants to lower the cost of living. He also wants to focus on infrastructure, citing the traffic chokepoint at Gorst as an example.

"We just got some money for Gorst but we need a lot more because it's a national security risk," Richards said. "It's a bottleneck for moving goods and services and getting people up and down the peninsula."

Richards holds a law degree from Villanova University in Pennsylvania and is a graduate of the University of Washington and Peninsula High School.

Hutchins said he's not surprised with the primary results. The close margin between him and Richards only strengthened his passion for running for the position, he said, adding that he's eager to lessen the Democratic majority's hold on the state.

Spencer Hutchins
Spencer Hutchins

"...if they (voters) are concerned about the direction Washington is going in, we need to bring balance to the state of Washington to the Legislature," Hutchins said. "And I represent that balance."

Living in Gig Harbor, Hutchins is a co-owner of a local real estate company that has offices in Port Orchard, Silverdale and Gig Harbor.

Hutchins served on the Gig Harbor City Council from 2017 to 2019. He has experience working as a congressional staffer and in Olympia as a legislative staff member before he studied and graduated from the University of Washington's law school, Hutchins said.

Hutchins is a graduate of Gonzaga University and Gig Harbor High School.

Having two children, Rory, 3, and Sabrina, 1, Hutchins said he and his wife, Christie, are concerned about the changes in the community. He claims crime is going up and says that the rising cost of living and increased taxes and fees are a concern. He claims that people and businesses are moving out of Washington state for better opportunities elsewhere.

Hutchins said he wants to see the community going in a more prosperous and positive direction.

"The people in this community helped raise me and are helping raise my children. And I cannot think of anything more meaningful in my life than stepping forward to serve my friends and neighbors throughout this community," Hutchins said.

If elected, Hutchins's priority in the Legislature would be to repeal the police pursuit bill, which stops law enforcement from chasing a suspect in a vehicle unless there’s reasonable suspicion to believe the driver is impaired or probable cause to believe they’re an escaped felon or have committed a violent crime or a sex crime. He wants to repeal the drug laws following the Supreme Court's Blake decision, which makes it "virtually impossible" for law enforcement to arrest and prosecute drug possession, he said.

Hutchins thinks more funding should go to law enforcement to encourage high-quality candidates to join the ranks of law enforcement and first responders.

Also, putting funding into mental health and drug rehabilitation programs should be a priority, as the state is in "dire need" of getting people who struggle with mental health crises and drug addictions off the streets and into treatment, Hutchins said.

Hutchins is in favor of rolling back Washington's recently approved capital gains tax, which is a 7% tax on capital gains above $250,000 a year from stocks or business sales for an individual, of which there are exceptions. It was approved by the Legislature in 2021 and found unconstitutional by a lower state court. That decision was appealed to the state Supreme Court by the attorney general.

Hutchins also favors rolling back the long-term care payroll tax, which is levied on employees in the state to pay for long-term care benefits. That tax is on hold until 2023 while the Legislature makes adjustments to the program. He also favors reducing the state gas tax. All this will make Washington's economy more competitive, he said.

Both candidates said they will continue to talk to people to make sure their messages are reaching voters ahead of when they cast ballots.

"Politics isn't rocket science," Richards said. "It's about building relationships and friendships and showing people that you're going to be a partner and really work hard for them."

Hutchins said he's confident about November's election.

"We know we have a horse race on our hands here in the general election and we are working hard," Hutchins said.

26th District, Position 2

While the Position 1 race was close in the August primary, incumbent Caldier, first elected in 2014, held a more comfortable lead over Democratic challenger Macklin, with 54.91% of the vote to 44.92%.

Caldier said she's proud of her showing in the August race, particularly when another high-profile race with a Republican incumbent lawmaker — Young versus Randall — had Young trailing, with 44.36% of the vote to Randall's 51.52%.

Michelle Caldier
Michelle Caldier

"I think a lot of that has to do with how responsive that I am, and that I work very well across the aisle. And even when I disagree, I try to be as respectful as possible," Caldier said of the primary results.

As a first-time candidate challenging Caldier, Macklin said his vote rate has exceeded what former Democratic candidate Joy Stanford got in the two primaries when she challenged Caldier in 2020 and 2018. Stanford got 42.92% votes in the 2020 primary and 41.77% in the 2018 primary.

Considering his campaign budget and being new to competing against an eight-year incumbent, Macklin likes the nearly 45% vote he got, he said. As of Sept. 29, Caldier has spent $102,750, nearly five times more than Macklin's spending, $20,940, for the election, according to the state Public Disclosure Commission.

Macklin said he's working hard to reach voters in the community.

"The name of the game is talking to more people, getting people to know who I am and my views as a moderate...to give them the comfort level they need to know that I'm their guy and not a do-nothing kind of Republican, existing politician," Macklin said.

Macklin is a nursing home administrator, working in the field for 15 years, and a healthcare business attorney, helping small business owners with their operations and business practices, he said.

Matt Macklin
Matt Macklin

Living in Port Orchard, Macklin and his wife, Amanda, a nurse practitioner, have three sons, ages 5, 9 and 15, and a 3-year-old daughter.

As a business attorney, Macklin handles disputes and negotiations among members and other parties and businesses, which would be relevant skills needed in the Legislature, he said.

Seeing the fracture of healthcare over the past 15 years and especially how nursing facilities struggled with COVID-19 and its effect on staffing, Macklin decided to run for the seat to "get things done." He said he wants to create opportunities and improve the healthcare situation for the community.

The overturn of Roe v. Wade and attempts to roll back women's rights to reproductive freedom across the country further motivated him to step out for the position, Macklin said.

"It's ever important that we both remain a state that acknowledges human rights and individual rights and freedoms. And, we double down to make sure that those are unalienable and concrete in our constitution," Macklin said.

Macklin holds an MBA degree from Walden University and got his law degree and undergraduate degree from Loyola University in Chicago.

If elected, Macklin's priority would be getting funding to train more healthcare professionals to ease shortages in the industry and work to fund apprenticeship programs for high school students, he said.

Macklin wants to ensure the ferry system is funded appropriately to serve the growing population in the area and ensure that broadband services are available to people in his district, Macklin said.

"We have seen a huge reduction in the lack of return of ferry services from Bremerton to Seattle, but that hasn't been the same impact to Bainbridge Island. And, it raises a lot of eyebrows when we talk about the equity issue there," Macklin said.

For Caldier, fixing crime, responding to the state Supreme Court's Blake decision regarding drug posession and addressing homelessness are top of mind for a fifth term. Caldier said she is studying a program in Austin, Texas, that presents possible ways to respond to homelessness in rural areas.

"We need to figure out how we can get people in areas that are less expensive, that we can get the services to them," Caldier said.

Caldier said she wants to take a closer look at the factors that went into a July 28 ferry crash at the Fauntleroy terminal and work to restore the workforce of the ferry system.

On education, Caldier said she wants to address the learning gap that developed during the pandemic. As a foster mother, she wants to make sure enough support is given to children in the foster-care system.

Prior to serving in the Legislature, Caldier was a dentist and taught as an affiliate professor at the University of Washington for over 10 years, where she also earned her doctorate of dental surgery and undergraduate degrees. She's also a graduate of Olympic College and Central Kitsap High School.

More: Service restored to Triangle route after morning crash into ferry dock piling

Caldier said her focus on the remaining weeks of the campaign season is helping with Hutchins' campaign.

"I'm friends with Spencer. And I think we'll work great and Olympia together," Caldier said.

Reach breaking news reporter Peiyu Lin at pei-yu.lin@kitsapsun.com or on Twitter @peiyulintw.

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This article originally appeared on Kitsap Sun: Election 2022: 26th District House candidates campaign in swing district