Rolfes flashes partisan stripes

The Democrat hopes to oust Bev Woods in the 23rd District House race.

Christine Rolfes showed her true partisan colors Monday at one of the former councilwoman’s first public appearances as a candidate for the state legislature.

“I’ve been door-belling and hearing over and over from lifelong Republicans (that they’re) so upset with Bush,” Rolfes said to about 20 people at a Bainbridge Island Democracy for America Meetup Group event held at the Commons. “It warmed my heart to hear so many people say that.”

Rolfes was joined at the meeting by Rep. Sherry Appleton, who is seeking reelection to the 23rd Legislative District, and Josh Brown, who hopes to unseat Kitsap County Commissioner Patty Lent, a Republican representing Central Kitsap.

While federal politics may “get us jazzed,” Rolfes urged her fellow Democrats to also rev up for state and county races.

“Not a lot of people know what goes on at the state level,” said Rolfes, who recently retired from the Bainbridge Island City Council after six years in office. But health care, the ferries, education and other facets of everyday life “are based on decisions made a long time ago in Olympia. I’m excited to go down to Olympia and work on those issues.”

Standing in the way of Rolfes’ road to the Capitol is Rep. Beverly Woods, a three-term Republican from Kingston.

Rolfes asked attendees how many had met Woods in person. A few raised hands spurred one attendee to conclude that the Republican is not a frequent visitor to the island.

“Well, I didn’t want to say that myself,” said Rolfes. “In my involvement in the community, I haven’t seen her much.”

Rolfes added that her longtime connection to the island puts her in close touch with “what the majority of the community’s values are.”

Rolfes said Woods does not fit the mold of popular moderate Republicans like former secretary of state Ralph Munro or former governor Dan Evans.

Prodded by attendees to further define the differences between her and the incumbent, Rolfes charged that Woods “hasn’t been a strong advocate for education and health care reform.”

Woods also drew criticism from Rolfes for opposing measures to clean the environment.

“(Woods) boasted about her vote against Phil Rockefeller’s clean air legislation,” she said, alluding to the state senator and fellow island Democrat’s efforts encourage cleaner auto emissions standards.

Rolfes also advocated more pilot programs at the state level to revamp health care services and attract alternative energy technology to the county. She said innovative programs at state and local levels often inspire widespread reforms.

“There’s a lot of opportunity to show the rest of the country how to get things done,” she said. “The county would be better off and there’d be a trickle up to the federal government.”

Appleton offered support for Rolfes’ campaign, but stressed that she, too, has a fight ahead.

Island resident Earl Johnson, a Bainbridge fire commission chair and software entrepreneur, has registered as Appleton’s Republican challenger.

Appleton expressed little familiarity with Johnson, but bristled at talk that Johnson’s experience in the business world made him more qualified to represent the island and North Kitsap.

“You don’t run government like a business,” she said. “You run it for the common good.”

Appleton said her efforts in the House of Representatives brought $27 million to Kitsap County in infrastructure improvements and other investments.

She celebrated the failure of Initiative 912, which would have repealed the state gas tax.

“We stuck it to the Tim Eymans of the world when we defeated 912,” she said. “But I’ll be honest with you, I’d like to have more than a 9.5 cent tax because there’s so many projects” that need funding.

Appleton said 189 bridges in the state fail to meet basic structural standards and that many roads are without guard rails.

Rising ferry fares are keeping Appleton up at night and motivating her calls for reductions by day.

“I lay awake at night trying to (reduce) the fare box subsidy to 50 percent,” she said, referring to the current goal of pulling about 80 percent of the state ferry system’s operational costs from passenger fares.

“It’s double taxation when you pay your gas tax and pay at the fare box,” she said.

Appleton also cited her efforts to hold payday lenders accountable to higher standards, preserve the sound’s geoduck population and reopen the marine science center in Poulsbo.

She called for campaign finance reforms that would lessen the fundraising burden on state and local candidates.

“There’s something wrong with running for a position that pays $30,000 a year but costs $200,000 or more to get,” she said of her own fundraising efforts. We have to change people’s minds about campaign finance reform.

Until then, she said, her campaign will need islanders to loosen their purse strings.

“I’m not going to by coy about it,” she said. “I need money. Money is what politics is about.”

Appleton also called for volunteer door-bellers and living room discussion hosts.

Rolfes seconded Appleton’s calls for support.

“I need what Sherry needs, but I need more,” she said.

The state primary is Sept. 19.

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