Appleton: Government provides what constituents want

After ringing over 9,000 doorbells during her campaign, Sherry Appleton has learned one thing – voters aren’t as engaged in state-level politics this year as they have been in the past.

That disengagement exists even on Bainbridge Island, despite its reputation for political awareness, Appleton said.

“People are afraid of war, and of what’s happening in the economy, and don’t seem as concerned about what’s going on at the state level,” she said. “But what happens at the state level affects them more directly than anything else.”

That apathy is just one of a number of obstacles facing challengers, she said. Other barriers are the lack of effective forums, and the short period of time between primary and general elections.

“We don’t have much in the way of local radio or any local television in Kitsap County,” Appleton said, “and for some reason, very few candidate forums were arranged – none on Bainbridge Island.

“It was amazing to me the number of people that weren’t even aware an election was going on.”

The Democrat and former Poulsbo councilwoman hopes to unseat incumbent Bev Woods for the 23rd District, position 2 seat in the state House of Representatives.

Unlike many politicians in an anti-government age, Appleton says she thinks the government fills its roles well.

“We have a responsibility to those who can’t help themselves, to keep people safe, and to keep the elements safe, like air and water,” she said. “People argue that there are too many government employees, but that is what people have said they wanted.”

For example, Appleton said, voters have called for tougher prison sentences. That in turn requires hiring more corrections personnel.

And she is skeptical of arguments that the state’s budget shortfall can be solved by running the government more efficiently.

“It’s not good enough to say ‘cut waste, streamline operations and cut down on regulation,’” she said. “Be specific. Give me examples of waste that would be ended or regulations that would be eased.

“People don’t understand how serious a $2 billion budget deficit is,” she said. “If you did away with the corrections system completely, including all of the juvenile facilities and personnel, and if you closed all of the community colleges, that’s $2 billion.”

The severity of the budget crisis makes her unwilling to foreclose any option, including a state income tax.

“I’m not a proponent of raising taxes, but we have to look at every option available to us,” Appleton said. “Whatever we suggest, though, the people would have the final say, especially on an income tax which would require an amendment to the state constitution that voters would have to approve.”

One immediate challenge facing the Legislature will be transportation, especially if voters reject the transportation-improvement package embodied in Referendum 51, as polls suggest will happen.

“We need a stable source of funding for the ferry system, so that ferries remain affordable,” Appleton said. “We can’t keep raising fares, because we need more people on the ferries, not fewer.”

She favors a measure that died in the Legislature last year to make the state a wholesaler of prescription drugs, and to give doctors more leeway to prescribe medications – measures she says would reduce the cost of drugs.

And she wants to find a way to provide medical insurance for what she says are 340,000 Washington children without coverage.

“When we think of social services, people tend to think about people on welfare,” Appleton said. “But what about the working poor, the people who work 40 hours a week for minimum wage. They still need our help, and that is what communities are for.”

Appleton said she has found the popularity of mail-in ballots works against a challenger, effectively shortening the campaign to the brief interval between the announcement of primary election results in mid-September and the time when the ballots are mailed out in mid-October.

“Absentee ballots are wonderful, but you lose three weeks,” she said. “Something has to change, like having an earlier primary.”

A more comprehensive answer, she said, would be campaign-finance reform. She especially advocates limits on spending.

“If we had caps on spending, we would find more creative ways of getting our message out,” she said. “There’s no reason you should have to raise $150,000 for a job that pays $30,000. That keeps a lot of good people from running.”

Results from the primary election suggest that she faces an uphill battle, but not an insurmountable one. Woods took 52 percent of the vote, while Appleton and her primary opponent Terry Ducheane took a combined 48 percent.

The latest Public Disclosure Commission reports show that Woods has raised some $94,000, and has roughly $30,000 cash on hand, while Appleton has raised about $63,000, with $12,000 cash available.

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