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0000017b-f971-ddf0-a17b-fd73f3950000Election coverage from SPR and the Northwest News Network:Statewide Election: WashingtonSpokane County ElectionStatewide Election: IdahoStatewide Election: OregonU.S. House and Senate

Funding and Campaign Finance Big Players For Sixth District Senate

Washington State Legislature; Rich Cowan

The sixth-legislative-district senate race was the most expensive in state history in 2010. The district includes rural and urban voters, spanning from Spokane’s south hill west to Medical Lake. This year, Democrat Rich Cowan has challenged Republican incumbent Michael Baumgartner.

Baumgartner - a Harvard grad and military consultant- and Cowan - a business owner and filmmaker - both ran unsuccessfully for federal positions in 2012. Baumgartner for U-S Senate, Cowan for U-S Congress. This year the party-majority in Washington state’s senate is up for grabs. But, the sixth district has only had one democratic senator since 1940- and Baumgartner unseated Chris Marr in 2010. Cowan isn’t phased.

Cowan: “Right now the state senate is basically at a stand still.”

Cowan says the republican-led senate didn’t pass a state transportation package, which he says could have provided jobs on the unfinished North Spokane Corridor. Cowan says his priority is creating family wage jobs.

Cowan: “The average salary for somebody who is actually working full time is in that 37-40,000 dollar range, and that doesn’t give people enough disposable income to drive our economy.”

Baumgartner says the majority-coalition caucus has concentrated on creating balanced, bi-partisan, budgets. As for his priorities, he’s focused on college education.

Baumgartner: “I’m very proud to have spearheaded the effort to freeze college tuition for the first time in 30 years. So for the last two years college students have not had an increase in tuition.”

McCleary Decision:

But the biggest priority for the legislature this year will be meeting the Supreme Court mandate to fully fund basic education. Cowan says the justices are doing their job by enforcing school funding. He says money could come by way of putting sunset clauses on some of the 600 plus tax loopholes.

Cowan: “There’s one for oil refineries that’s about 53-million dollars. I don’t think our oil companies need that kind of tax rebate.”

Baumgartner has different ideas. When asked how he would fund education, he instead suggested the Supreme Court should use a different definition of basic education.

Baumgartner: “That basic definition of education, doesn’t have anything to say about pre-K. And I would argue to you that the next dollar we spend on education, instead of spending it on a third grader in Mercer Island, I would rather spend it on a three or four year old in Hillyard, or Sunnyside or Federal Way.”

As for funding, he says the state wastes money on things like back-office IT spending, and a state printing office.

Medical School and statewide issues:

Both candidates are advocates for one school – WSU’s proposed medical school in Spokane. In order for it become a reality the legislature needs to approve it, and Baumgartner says he will write that bill. Cowan gives credit for the medical school planning to city leaders over the past 30 years, and calls a new Baumgartner ad “disingenuous” in which the senator says he brought a new medical school to Spokane.

Climate topics also divide the candidates. Cowan says global warming is happening and he agrees with Governor Inslee’s plans to move the state away from coal power. Baumgartner says he sees no logic in the governor’s low-carbon emission goals. On marijuana, Cowan thinks tax revenue brought in by sales should go to education, and Baumgartner thinks it should go toward law enforcement.

Firearms are a topic where the candidates find some agreement. On initiative 594 which would expand the background check requirements for gun sales, both say it is overreaching and they won’t support it. On I-591 which would bar extra background check laws, Cowan is against it, but Baumgartner wouldn’t say either way. The measure is sponsored by the National Rifle Association, from which Baumgartner has received campaign contributions.

Republican senator Baumgartner has raised about $430,000 so far. Democratic candidate Cowan has raised about $220,000, for a total of more than half-a-million dollars going into this race.

Cowan is running in hopes to bring funding for education and transportation. Baumgartner rallies support by warning against Seattle liberals, and advocating for more affordable higher education.

Copyright 2014 Spokane Public Radio

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