The Daily News – Tom Paulu [email protected]
Since 1947, only one Republican has been elected to the state House of Representatives in the 19th District – and he had an advantage because in the 1980s the district was split into sections that favored conservatives.
Even though that split is long gone, Jim Walsh of Aberdeen says he can reverse the Democratic string of victories.
Walsh, 51, is an early entrant into the race for the seat held by JD Rossetti of Longview, who was appointed last month. The next election for the House will take place in November next year.
Walsh said that the 19th District, which includes Kelso and Longview and extends to the coast, is actually more conservative than voting history indicates.
“I think voters are starting to figure out that they’re more conservative than their fathers and their grandfathers told them they were,” he said. “They may not think they’re Republicans — yet — but they think they’re conservatives.”
The recent trend of how 19th District voters cast their ballots on statewide initiatives, such as the legalization of gay marriage and gun laws, shows a conservative bent, he said.
“I think the ground has changed — the psychological ground,” Walsh said.
Walsh also discounts the conventional wisdom that the industrial roots of many 19th District workers favor the Democratic party. Though public sector union members – and especially teachers – favor Democrats, many unionized workers in the private sector are more conservative, Walsh said.
Walsh is chairman of the Grays Harbor County Republican Party and vice-chair of the state Republican Party. He is a graduate of Amherst College, a Massachusetts school that is one of the leading liberal arts colleges in the nation. He owns a company that specializes in technical publications and manuals.
Walsh belongs to the Republican Liberty Caucus and describes his philosophy as Libertarian.
In keeping with Libertarian values, Walsh said he’s not opposed to marijuana legalization, though he’d like to change the state’s system of taxing it so medical marijuana patients don’t have to pay as much tax are recreational users.
The price of other drugs are high, too, he said. “We need to do something about how we cost pharmaceuticals,” he said, acknowledging that state government has limited effect on this.
Walsh isn’t opposed to the recent 7 cents a gallon gas tax increase (an additional 4.9 cents will be added next year), though he said voters have complained that they think too much of the increased revenue is going to projects in the Seattle area.
He objects to that city’s clout in state politics. “King County gets what they want because we let them get what they want,” he said. One reason for that is that Seattle-area legislators work the political process better than do those in other areas of the state, he said.
Walsh said the state should get the private sector to pay for a higher percentage of the cost of infrastructure improvements such as the planned Oregon Way-Industrial Way improvements. (The Legislature last session agreed to contribute $85 million toward that project, but the full cost is expected to exceed $300 million.)
As for the environmental debate about the proposed Millennium Bulk Terminals coal export terminal, Walsh said, “I’m not an anti-green guy and I don’t want to get into an ad hominem fight (a character attack) with environmentalists,” but he said permitting is too strict.
Walsh called basing water quality standards on how much fish people consume “an artificial metric.” The state clean water act is “almost a blank check to write any kind of regulation,” he said.
Walsh said the state Supreme Court’s decision to hold the Legislature in contempt over school funding is “outrageous.” However, he agrees with the Supreme Court that the Legislature needs to make school funding a priority. After schools are funded, across-the-board funding cuts would be needed, he said.
Walsh said funding for health care could be cut if the definition of what constitutes mental health care is made narrower. “I would not gut mental health spending, but I think it may need to not be able grow as fast as it’s grown,” he said.
Walsh said he favors more local control of state public lands. However, some national forests like the Gifford Pinchot in Southwest Washington need to stay under federal control, he said.
Walsh expects plenty of competition in the race for Rossetti’s seat, from both Republicans and Democrats. “It’s entirely possible there could be six or seven or eight candidates in this race,” he said.