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Zellinsky: Bring on the bucks for Kitsap

"To paraphrase the line about the significance of location in real estate, veteran legislator Paul Zellinsky says he offers voters of the 23rd District experience, experience and experience.And the independent, write-in candidate claims he can use that experience and non-aligned status to cut a better deal for Kitsap County in Olympia than can his opponents, Republican incumbent Beverly Woods of Poulsbo or Democratic challenger David Harrison of Bainbridge Island.I've been in the caucuses, both of them, the Democrat-turned-Republican told the Review in an interview Monday. The governor is a good friend of mine. As an independent, I will be in a position to do a lot of good things for Kitsap County.The former seven-term legislator threw his hat into the ring last week, announcing that he would run as a write-in candidate for Position 2 in the 23rd legislative district, which includes Bainbridge Island and the northern portions of the Kitsap Peninsula.Hailing from Bremerton, the 67-year-old car dealer served the district as a Democrat from 1982 to 1994, then turned Republican in 1996 and beat Bainbridge Island's Phil Rockefeller. In 1998, Rockefeller won the seat in a three-way race with Zellinsky and American Heritage candidate Jim Almond, whose roughly 8 per cent vote was believed to have come mostly at Zellinsky's expense.Despite promptings from Republican Party officials, Zellinsky declined to face Rockefeller a third time, and instead filed for the other seat from the 23rd District. The reason, he says, is Rockefeller's performance in office.He's doing a good job, and he's learning, Zellinsky said of Rockefeller. It sounds easy, but it's not.So if he passed on Rockefeller's seat because he thinks Rockefeller is doing a good job, does his challenge mean he thinks Woods is doing a bad job?She's a freshman. There hasn't been enough time, Zellinsky said. But obviously, if I thought she was doing really well I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing.Woods, in fact, had less than a full term. She was appointed in November to fill the unexpired term of Republican Karen Schmidt of Bainbridge Island, who resigned to take a full-time job as executive director of the Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board, a state transportation-planning agency.Zellinsky said his top priorities are ferry service, education and law enforcement.I was a prime sponsor of new ferries, said Zellinsky, who spent 13 years on the House Transportation Committee. I don't know what the solution is, but it's going to take a lot of persuading to convince those folks in the legislature that we need to maintain the system.On education, Zellinsky believes the state needs to provide more money for school construction. And on criminal justice, he thinks the state can play a role by providing training facilities. Those things will all cost money, Zellinsky concedes, and he doesn't know exactly where the money will come from.There are going to have to be some creative efforts, he said. Local taxes may have to be imposed to fund some things. But people have to understand that if you want to dance, you've got to pay for the music.Zellinsky said he would keep the interests of his constituents at the forefront of his activities.If there is a capital budget, my job is to get as much spent on Kitsap County as possible, he said.And to that end, he sees an advantage in running as an independent, particularly in a closely divided legislative chamber. Currently, the state House of Representatives is evenly divided, with 49 members of each party.Committee chairs are chosen from the party with the largest number of representatives joining the caucus. And that's where Zellinsky believes he could make an impact, by having the freedom to join either the Democrats or the Republicans.A prerequisite to which one I would join would depend on how good a deal I could get for the county, he said. Similarly, he thinks that if his vote was critical on any single issue, he would be in a better position to bargain hard to protect the county's interests.For their part, neither Woods nor Harrison said that Zellinsky's entry into the race would make much difference.A lot of people are saying that he will take votes away from me, Woods said this week. But in talking to folks, I'm not that concerned.He was a Democrat for a lot longer than he was a Republican, and his voting record is closer to the Democrats, Woods said.Specifically, Woods said her priorities include regulatory reform, property rights and government efficiency. I don't see any of those in Paul's record, she said.Harrison reacted similarly.It does not change my campaign focus, he said. Lots of people are persuaded that it advantages me, but I thought I had a good chance all along, and I still do.Like Zellinsky, Harrison cited transportation and education as priorities, but he also stressed environmental protection and preservation.The Legislature must reverse the deterioration of Puget Sound, he said.Zellinsky needs to get 1 percent of the votes in September's primary to appear on the November general-election ballot. And he admits that his campaign will be an uphill fight.I know I won't see a lot of dollars, he said. The PACs aren't going to give to me."

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