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Rolfes stepping up to challenge Woods

Christine Rolfes -
Christine Rolfes
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The council alum promises a nonpartisan approach to tackling the state’s problems.

Former councilwoman Christine Rolfes is pledging a nonpartisan approach to improving state education and health care as she embarks on a campaign for the state Legislature.

“I think I’m good at moving things forward and pulling people together,” Rolfes said Monday. “Some people play partisan politics, others keep their nose to the grindstone.”

Rolfes, who served six years on the Bainbridge City Council, will run as a Democrat in her bid to unseat Rep. Beverly Woods, a Kingston Republican who has represented the 23rd Legislative District for three terms.

If elected in November, Rolfes said she’ll apply many of the lessons she learned while serving on the council.

“A benefit I had serving on the council was to work with a diversity of opinions,” she said. “I learned you don’t get your way. You work toward a solution together.”

Rolfes says no particular issues are driving her bid for a House seat. Rather, it’s her desire to jump back into the thick of public policy, where she feels she is most effective.

“I left the council saying I need to get some sleep,” she said, listing one of the many reasons – including a desire to spend more time with family and a promise to voters not to run again after two terms – she opted not to seek reelection last November.

Former diplomat Chris Snow was elected unopposed to Rolfes’ former south ward post.

“After I left (the council), I started doing my resume and networking,” said Rolfes of her efforts early this year to find a job in international development, a field in which she worked before her service on the council.

“But when I started looking for work, I realized what I loved doing best was what I did on the council. Public policy is my passion.”

Also desiring more time with her two young daughters, Rolfes believes a House seat will allow her to work from home when not in Olympia during the two to four months each year when the Legislature is in session.

“I also think it’s important to have parents on elected bodies,” she said. “They contribute a different voice.”

One voice, familiar as the state’s most prominent mom-turned-stateswoman, offered Rolfes encouragement.

“Patty Murray said it can be done,” Rolfes said of a discussion with the senator about how to successfully fill the dual roles of parent and policy-maker. “I think I can work hard on legislative issues from home and still carpool the kids to soccer practice and get them to Brownies meetings.”

Other regional elected officials and many islanders had urged Rolfes to run for a higher office long before she left the council, she said.

Rolfes has made a name for herself beyond Bainbridge during her service with the Kitsap Regional Council, the Puget Sound Regional Council’s Economic Development District, the Kitsap County Board of Health and the Kitsap Public Facilities District.

With a combination of related professional training, council experience and regional board involvement, Rolfes believes she will be a “credible candidate” in a “closely watched race.”

Rolfes said she is not that familiar with her opponent, but said she appreciates Wood’s service.

“I don’t know her very well, but I respect anyone who will serve and I respect the office,” she said.

The race

Woods, contacted in Olympia on Monday, also expressed unfamiliarity with her challenger.

“I expect an opponent every election – this will be my fourth – so it doesn’t come as a surprise to have an opponent,” she said. “I look forward to the debate. I think I represent the people well in the district and expect to be reelected.”

While Woods won a decisive victory in 2004, her challenger, Democrat Terry Ducheane, managed to draw almost 43 percent of the vote despite having little political experience or party support and having appeared in few public events or debates.

Woods, who serves on the House’s transportation and local government committees, said she aims to “promote measures that help create jobs, protect taxpayers and vulnerable citizens and give people reason to have confidence in their government.”

During the 2006 session, Woods championed expanded passenger-only ferry service, tuition waivers for veterans and opening carpool lanes to other drivers during off-peak hours.

She has opposed ferry fare hikes, the loss of revenue for roads improvements and higher state automobile emissions standards.

Rolfes said her priorities will likely center around education and healthcare issues. She aims to explore alternative-funding sources – such as low-interest loans – for capital improvements benefiting public schools.

Tackling the issue of class size and its relationship to teacher pay is also on Rolfes’ legislative docket.

Her family’s experience seeking care for grandparents has sparked an interest in finding ways to avoid sending the elderly to nursing homes by boosting in-home care support and safety.

“I want to talk to people all around the region about successful models,” Rolfes said. “That’s what’s fun about public service: hearing good ideas and helping to move them forward.”

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