Walsh, Purcell differ on how to best serve 19th district

Walsh and Purcell differ widely regarding how they would go about improving things.

James Walsh of Aberdeen, a Republican, and Teresa Purcell of Longview, a Democrat, both want to represent Washington’s 19th Legislative District and replace incumbent Rep. JD Rossetti, also a Democrat, who was appointed to the seat about a year ago but didn’t make it past the primary.

Walsh and Purcell differ widely regarding how they would go about improving things in the 19th District, which includes portions of Grays Harbor, Lewis, and Cowlitz as well as Pacific and Wahkiakum counties. Their views about how the region should prepare for the future also contrast.

“When we get into that mindset that success is based on how much money we get from the federal government or how many grants we’re awarded,” Walsh said, “it’s sure we’ll continue to fail.”

When the timber industry began to decline in the 1980s the area looked to the government for assistance and that was a bad bargain, Walsh said. Waiting for the next grants and allocations continues to undermine the region’s leaders’ attempts to foster growth and leaves the district to deal from a position of “weakness” and “supplication,” he said.

Spurring private investment that would turn the economy around requires governments to get out of the way, he said. “What commercial development abhors is uncertainty.”

Potential new businesses start the development process only to find regulatory demands that resemble “an open-ended book” that results in commercial developments being “stuck in limbo.”

Purcell believes government has a role in helping fund infrastructure improvements to make the area more attractive to private investment.

“We don’t have the infrastructure we need,” she said. And “we have to have amenities. … We have to be able to compete to find industry.”

Improvements are needed on what she referred to as the “digital highway” as well as actual roads and bridges. Schools also need to be properly funded, she said.

And she disagrees with Walsh on the notion of dismantling regulations. That “would put nature-based industries in peril,” she said. She mentioned the Millennium Bulk Terminals project proposed for coal in Longview. She is an opponent and questions the value of the number of permanent jobs it will bring to the area, versus the risk to the environment and the number of jobs that could be lost because of environmental degradation. Walsh said that the 170 or so jobs estimated to run the facility could just be the beginning of additional phases.

Walsh said the Army Corps of Engineers determined it wasn’t a project that would cause great harm in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement and that opponents “were trying to run out the clock” on the project so it won’t occur. And he said Purcell was “cherry-picking stats” regarding the project.

Purcell said tourism could be a growing part of the economy. Walsh said tourism and the jobs it creates don’t measure up to other industries that pay higher wages.

Both have strong opinions about Initiative Measure 1491. This proposal on the Nov. 8 General Election ballot seeks to allow courts to issue “extreme risk” protection orders to prevent someone from obtaining firearms temporarily if they pose harm to themselves or others.

Walsh is against 1491, saying people could have their guns taken away without constitutionally guaranteed due process. A judge would make the determination at a hearing, but Walsh said there is no requirement that the subject of the hearing be present.

Purcell is in favor of it and describes it as “a common-sense measure.”

Both are against state Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s plan to ask for a bill that would ban the sale of assault weapons and high capacity magazines. Walsh called it a “cynical” political move designed to appeal to people’s emotions.

The types of shootings this measure addresses have a variety of root causes, according to the candidates.

Walsh said many societal problems are attributed to cultural decline.

“We have to encourage people to look after their kin. We have to make people feel individually responsible to the world they’re in,” he said. “Engineering of community is troubling.”

Purcell said providing a sound and well-rounded societal safety net will help those who are mentally ill or homeless, for example, and even help make the region more attractive to new industries.

These candidates have some views in common. Both are against increasing revenues by establishing a state income tax and believe funding education according to the McCleary decision should be a high priority.

They also believe state-level political decisions are based more often on geography than party, that urban needs are given more attention than rural. But each believes they are more capable of serving their constituents.

Walsh said the next person in this seat needs to negotiate from a position of strength in building consensus to help rural communities be heard. Purcell believes in consensus-building through persuasion to address various needs of rural residents.