Candidates fight for senate seat
April 30, 2009 · Updated 12:18 PM
By Dennis Box-The Courier-Herald
The general election is around the corner and the guns are blazing in the rough and rowdy 31st District State Senate race.
Democrat Yvonne Ward, a trial lawyer from Auburn, is challenging incumbent Republican Pam Roach, also an Auburn resident.
The campaigns are locked in a trench war and sources from both parties said internal polls show the race is a dead heat.
Ward is challenging Roach for the second time. The two candidates squared off in 2002 with Roach coming out on top, garnering 51.7 percent of the vote to Ward's 48.3 percent.
The race was Roach's closest call since winning the seat in 1990 over Mike Todd by 345 votes.
Roach has lost one race in her political career, in 1988 when Todd beat her for the 31st District State House Position 1.
The senator is known as a tough campaigner, but Ward has brought her guns to the duel and both have accused the other of political smears and personal attacks.
On the issues, Roach points to the budget, taxes and education.
“It is really important we address budget issues,” Roach said. “We have to watch spending and put first things first. Keeping taxes down is No. 1 and capping property taxes is a big issue.”
Roach said she supports English as the official language of the state and she will propose legislation encouraging elementary students to become fluent in a second language. The senator introduced a second language bill in the last session.
“Our world is a global economy now,” Roach said. “We must be prepared.”
Ward said controlling growth and transportation are top issue, as is a cap on property taxes and assessments.
“Controlling growth is a big issues for our area,” Ward said. “These big developers come in and local governments are unwilling or unable to control them. I would like to make it easier for communities to control developers and not allow something like Cascadia to happen.”
Cascadia is a 6,500 home development located in the southern Plateau region near Bonney Lake.
Ward said Bonney Lake should file a lawsuit against Pierce County and Cascadia to stop the project.
“It's the 800 pound gorilla in the living room,” Ward said. “There is no way the area can sustain that many homes. You have to stand up for communities. That's what I do (in my law practice). I take on the very powerful and I win.”
The two candidates have taken direct shots at each other as the race turns for the wire.
Roach accuses Ward of getting all her financial support from trial lawyers.
“She has one special interest supporting her,” Roach said. “Yvonne has spent her career suing cities, police departments and schools.”
Ward's Public Disclosure Commission contribution report shows many contributions from lawyers, but others as well.
“It's an honor that so many of my colleagues have respect for my work,” Ward said. “Trial lawyers represent regular people against the powerful. I love that work.”
Ward counters that Roach's support comes from developers and political action committees.
“Pam has few individual donors for a 16-year incumbent,” Ward said. “She gets all her money from pharmaceutical companies, oil companies, PACs and big developers.”
Roach's contribution form does show developers, but also a wide array of other contributors.
“I have a broad base of support from large businesses to labor unions,” Roach said. “Look at my PDC. I have contributions from individuals, BP Oil Corporation and the Northwest Dairymen's (PAC). I have balanced contributions.”
At an Enumclaw Chamber of Commerce forum Thursday, Roach came out firing. She questioned Ward's integrity and accused her of being possibly cited for obstruction during a code-violation incident where a man was arrested for an outstanding warrant in Auburn.
The police report made no indication of a citation and Ward said she was not cited.
“I did nothing illegal,” Ward said. “I was standing up for my client and I had the right to be there.”
Roach also accused Ward's campaign of smearing her with a volunteer call. The senator said a Ward phone volunteer called her house, asked for her husband Jim and was recorded on voice mail Oct. 12 stating Roach is lying in (political) mailings about Ward.
Ward said volunteers are calling people in the district, but should be following a script that does not call Roach a liar, but questioned her tactics.
The two candidates will meet in a senatorial debate sponsored by The Courier-Herald at 7 tonight, Wednesday, in the Enumclaw High School auditorium, 226 Semanski St.
A state House legislative debate is scheduled for 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Thursday in the auditorium of the White River School District administration building, 240 North A St. (behind Wally's Drive-In restaurant).
The first hour of the legislative debate will feature incumbent Dan Roach, R-Bonney Lake, and Democrat Karen Willard from the Wilkeson area, who are seeking the House Position 1 seat.
The second hour will feature Democratic challenger Chris Hurst, from Greenwater, and incumbent Jan Shabro, R-Lake Tapps, for Position 2.