ELECTION 2018: Representative race crowded

(STAFF REPORTS/Chewelah Independent)

Joel Kretz addressed the crowd at the Chewelah Candidates Meet and Greet last Thursday. Each candidate gave a short speech. (Brandon Hansen photo)

Rep. Joel Kretz faces three challengers in 2018 election…

The race for the 7th Legislative District representative seat is surprisingly crowded this year with incumbent Joel Kretz, a Republican running against two Democrats and one Independent.

The challenger list is varied. Mike Bell is a retired navy vet who is a Democrat and also an accountant along with being a business owner. Crystal Oliver is the owner of Finest Cannabis and is also a Democrat.

The independent challenger is Christine Ives who comes from the Colville Confederated Tribes where she worked as a paralegal.

Kretz has served the 7th District for 14 years and stated in the voters’ guide that his top priorities include restoring a healthy economic climate and jobs, reducing tax and regulatory burdens while protecting schools and essential services.

“I’ve worked hard to build strong working relationships on both sides of the aisle and educate urban legislators on Eastern Washington issues which I believe is essential to getting things done for the people of the 7th District,” Kretz said in the voters guide.

At the Chewelah Candidate’s Meet and Greet last Thursday, Kretz focused on the Hirst Decision and firefighting.

“As many of you know, the Supreme Court took away the right to drill for water; that was a big thing we worked on this. We were able to get bipartisan legislation to reverse that,” Kretz said

He then moved onto the topic of wildfires.

“In Waucanda we put out our own fires because we’re so far out. We don’t see a whole lot of help a lot of the time, but I’ve been involved in mid-range ones too,” Kretz said.

The fire seasons in 2014 and 2015 that saw a half a million acres burn each year and then seemingly the entire district after that really drove home to Kretz how important fighting fires was.

“I was in the middle of that and saw a lot of things go right and a lot of things go wrong,” he said. “I worked on trying to fix fire culture in the state.”

Kretz said that the district has great first responders in local citizens, local fire districts and local departments, but at times it’s more than they can handle and that is where state resources come in. Another issue is forest management, he said, pointing to a project in Okanogan where forests were thinned, local businesses were used and prescribed burns were performed to make things more fire resilient.

“We’re not done, I’ve got more ideas to work on I’d like to go back and do more.”

CRYSTAL OLIVER
Crystal Oliver, owner of Washington’s Finest Cannabis, is running as a Democrat. She is saying things need to be change in Olympia after navigating the state’s regulatory landscape and engaging fellow farmers. She is a member of Spokane County’s Voluntary Stewardship Program Workgroup and Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board Cannabis Advisory Council. She also is a volunteer for Washington NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) and served on the State Building Code Council Technical Advisory Group and Spokane Clean Air Agency’s Marijuana Advisory Committee.

“I’ve spent the last five years navigating the regulatory landscape and engaging my fellow farmers in direct advocacy for fair, community-led policy that makes space for small businesses in rural Washington,” she said in the voters guide.

CHRISTINE IVES
Christine Ives, running as an independent, is the former secretary of the Colville Tribal Bar Association.

She has also worked as Paralegal/Spokesperson (member Colville Tribal Bar) with the Colville Confederated Tribes’ Legal Office, Colville Tribal Court, Paralegal/Spokesperson for Wynne Law Firm, Paralegal for Benjamin & Healey, LLC. (member of Puyallup Tribal Bar, near Joint Base Lewis-McChord), and U.S. Patent Law Offices of Ronald A. Anderson.

Ives also has a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary studies with a major in Public Administration and minors in Sociology and Anthropology from Heritage University. She also has an associate of arts and sciences from Wenatchee Valley College.

“I was born and raised in Okanogan County,” Ives said in the voters guide. “Received my degrees and immediately started working with Tribal Politics as an Intern and than onto my Paralegal field. I am a mother of a nine year old and have the aspiration to make our State’s legislation reflect the needs of the people.”

Ives’ platform is to have accessible health care and make public education a priority along with keeping Social Security, public programs, public safety, gun rights, agriculture, civil rights, mental health, deal with the homelessness problem and raise teachers pay along with improving school safety.

MIKE BELL
(This profile was written by Colin Haffner of the Chewelah Independent after he sat down with us at The Indpeendent office)
Candidate Mike Bell seeks to make positive changes, and says he will absolutely do it without taking corporate contributions, allowing him to work under one rule: make laws in the best interest of the people.

For that reason, the Democrat from Nine Mile Falls says he is running for the state’s 7th Legislative District Position 2.

Bell said he is a retired CPA and not a career politician.

“I don’t need a job, but I do need a legislator who represents the people and not corporate interests,” Bell said.

He feels his new calling is to serve the community in a way he felt the calling to serve as a hospital corpsman in the Navy, and as a CPA working with rural hospitals for over 40 years, Bell says.
He has had a wonderful life, but he’s not done yet, Bell said.

To solve the issues of the 7th legislative district, Bell said he intends to use the hard work ethic and high moral standards that he was raised on.

Bell cites one of his main focuses will be on tax reform, saying that Washington has the most regressive tax system in the country. He hopes to change that, and Bell says he can do so because he does not take corporate contributions, something he said his opponent and current state representative, Joel Kretz can’t do because of the corporate donations Kretz has received.

Bell said he would like to see a more balanced and equitable tax system.

Currently, Bell says the bottom 20 percent of the population, which includes senior citizens and veterans pays about 17 percent of their income in taxes, while the top of the tax bracket pay only 3 percent. Tax reform will not include an income tax.

Bell said “my opponent has not mentioned this issue in his 14 years as a legislator because his corporate backers have publicly stated that the current tax system is “perfect” just the way it is.”

Healthcare is another critical issue for Bell, and he says he has worked with almost every hospital and clinic in the 7th District at one time or another.

Just before he retired seven years ago, each of these hospitals was on the brink of financial disaster because of escalating uncompensated care, Bell said, adding that the Affordable Care Act reduced uncompensated care by over 65% in two years; thereby, putting the hospitals on solid footing again. He is now seeing signs of an increase in uncompensated care again, and if that continues, it may force hospitals to close in the next couple of years, Bell said.

Closures would mean medical professionals could leave the communities and likely not return, Bell said, and for every hospital job lost, there could be up to three other jobs in the community lost.
And, there is plenty of work to do.

In addition to tax reform and healthcare, Bell mentioned he would also like to focus on people issues in the 7th district, such as opioid addiction, availability of mental health services, rural ambulance transport, education funding, and reducing the unemployment rate.

Bell says he believes that the problem-solving skills he learned while serving in the submarine service and more than 40 years working with rural healthcare systems will help him address these and other problems and develop solutions to get the 7th legislative district back on track.

Bell asks, “We’ve had 14 years of Joel Kretz and his corporate cronies. Isn’t it time to get back to We the People, not we the corporations?”

It all starts by being able to give people a choice of who their next state representative will be, Bell said.


CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS TO JOEL KRETZ
(Source www.pdc.wa.gov)

CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS TO MIKE BELL
(Source www.pdc.wa.gov)

CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS TO CRYSTAL OLIVER
(Source www.pdc.wa.gov)

CHRISTINE IVES
No contributions have been reported by this campaign per PDC