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Democrats sign up

31st District to see a full slate of Democrats and Republicans vying for legislature

By Dennis Box

The Courier-Herald

It may be early, but the sweet smell of political trench war is in the air.

Republicans and Democrats are gearing up for a full slate of candidates to run in the 31st Legislative District.

The 31st has been Republican in both the House of Representatives and the Senate since 2002 when Jan Shabro, R-Lake Tapps, took over Position 2.

The last Democrat to get a whiff of the House was Chris Hurst, who chose not to seek re-election to his Position 2 seat in 2002.

Returning to the ring this year, Hurst is challenging Shabro for his former seat after she has run unopposed in her last two terms.

The former representative described the 31st as a battleground where he hopes to “do more for veterans returning to Washington. I don't want a single person to come back and lose their job because of problems.”

Hurst said responsible growth will be another point of his campaign, “but not houses from the top of the hill to the bottom.”

Shabro has earned her political notches advocating for education and transportation in the Legislature and as one of the founders of the Lake Tapps Task Force.

Democrat Karen Willard, from the Wilkeson area, is running against Rep. Dan Roach, R-Bonney Lake. Roach has held the No. 1 seat since 2000. This is Willard's first attempt at a legislative office.

“I don't keep to a party line,” Willard said. “I'm more like the district in that respect. I'm an independent thinker.”

Roach said his campaign will be based on his commitment to “no new taxes and smaller government. I feel I still have a lot to do.”

The main card will be a rematch between Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, and Democrat Yvonne Ward, also of Auburn.

The two squared off in 2002 and Ward gave Roach her stoutest test since 1990.

Roach beat Ward 51.69 percent to 48.31 percent, gaining 18,017 votes to Ward's 16,842.

In 1998, Roach dispatched George Tracy 58.24 percent to 41.76 percent and in 1994 she beat Tina Aguilar 57.77 percent to 42.23 percent.

The 1990 senate race was a rematch between Roach for the Republicans and Democrat Mike Todd.

Roach and Todd had met in the ballot box in 1988 for State Representative Seat No. 1, which was Roach's first attempt at a district office.

Roach lost in 1988 to Todd 55.44 percent to 44.56 percent.

When state Senator Frank Warnke stepped down in 1990, Todd and Roach matched up again for the vacant senate seat. This time Roach won 50.69 percent to 49.31 percent, beating Todd by a thin 345 votes of about 24,000 cast.

Roach, along with Chris Vance, who won Statehouse seat No. 2 the same year, became the first Republicans to win a race in the 31st.

In 1990 the 31st District was weighted more toward King County with a portion of Kent in the district and most of the Bonney Lake area was not in the district.

The ‘90 senate race had Todd carrying Pierce County with 1,212 votes to Roach's 1,127. It was King County that put Roach over the top with 11,474 votes for the senator and 11,044 lining up for Todd.

The 2000-01 redistricting of the 31st brought the Bonney Lake, Lake Tapps area and Sumner into the district and lopped off Kent.

Since the 2000-01 redistricting a Democrat has not won a seat in the 31st, which the party hopes to change in November.

Jean Brooks, chairman on the Democratic Party in Pierce County, said there hasn't been “much attention from the state party in this district, which is part of the issue. We plan on that changing.”

Ward called the 31st a “targeted district” for the Democrats during this election cycle.

“This is a top priority (for the party),” Ward said. “We think everything is aligning perfectly for a full-slate win. We need credibility in the Legislature and the skills I bring are my background as a lawyer and as a community advocate.”

Sen. Roach said prior to the beginning of the legislative session she had raised money for her next campaign run and was looking forward to another successful run for office.

Incumbents are prohibited by state law from raising money for a campaign during the legislative session.

“The district has become more Republican as it has grown with young families that want to know how their tax dollars are being spent,” Roach said. “I like to think I work hard at doing a good job finding community issues and fighting for people.”

The Roaches have proved to be tough to beat in the 31st. Both Pam Roach and son Dan lost their first attempt and won on their second try.

Rep. Roach said when he won the race in 2000, beating incumbent Mike Stenson, it was first time in recent history a Republican beat an incumbent Democrat, and redistricting has played a part in the Republican run.

“Bonney Lake and Lake Tapps have become a central part of the district because of growth,” Roach said. “Prior to redistricting about half the area along (state Route) 410 was not in the district.”

The Republican shift in the 31st District was evident in the 2004 presidential election when Pierce County voted 50.43 percent for Democrat John Kerry to 48.05 percent for Republican George Bush.

In the 31st Bush won 51.82 percent of the vote to 46.66 for Kerry. The Pierce County portion of the district went heavily for Bush.

The district also went for Dino Rossi in the governor's race over Democrat Christine Gregoire, the eventual winner.

Rossi took 55.70 percent and Gregoire 42.22 percent.

Ward said Bush's problems at the top of the ticket will trickle down to the 2006 legislative races and Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell's bid for a second term will pay dividends to the Democrats in turnout.

“The ethical problems in the (Republican) national party has brought attention to the fact a lot needs to be cleaned up in government,” Ward said. “The Democrats have a lot to offer.”

Dennis Box can be reached at dbox@courierherald.com.

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