Newbies Sarah Hart and Linda Haddon challenge Mary Margaret Haugen

You have to hand it to anyone who is brave enough and willing to throw their lives into the political arena. In the case of the state senator position for District 10, two women have joined a race against senior senator Mary Margaret Haugen. While District 10 comprises a small share of our readership, i.e. west of I-5 strip from Skagit County to northern Marysville, some of us do have the opportunity to vote in that race.

While their names all start with H, all three candidates are distinctly different.

Born in southern Oregon to parents who lived through the Depression era, Linda Haddon has served on many volunteer boards in Island County and founded a support services for widows in Island, Skagit and Snohomish counties. She is adamant about living within one's budget and will add no new taxes.

Sarah Hart is a founder of the America's Third Party and has a lot of creative ideas, especially regarding alternative fuels and green technology. A child of a family of nine, she understands the need to be careful using available resources with little waste and disagrees with unfunded mandates by the government.

Mary Margaret Haugen is bursting with experience in state government and knowledge about the needs of the District 10 constituency. A life-long resident of Camano Island, except for one year in Vancouver, Wash., she decided to run again because of some important projects that have not been completed, including a new four-year college in the region and preserving farmland.

The editorial board of The Marysville Globe and The Arlington Times met with these three women July 25, asking questions on their priorities for District 10, on transportation solutions to the high price of gas, on solutions for the vocational education crisis and the proposed four-year college in this region, on strategies for preserving agriculture and on alternatives to the property tax as a source of funding for projects.

All the candidates agreed that alternative types of transportation are essential in this age of high-priced gas. Haugen mentioned facilitating car and van pools and adding more park-and-rides along the I-5 corrdidor. Hart thinks government should work with private businesses to develop alternative fuels rather than impeding such projects and Haddon admitted nothing can be done about the price of gas.

All agreed that vocational education opportunities need to be enhanced. Haugen suggested a Running Start program for the trades; Hart wants educators to work with industries; and Haddon admitted all students are not cut out for academics.

On agriculture, Haddon suggested internships with "old salts" and Hart recognized that Skagit County could teach the other counties strategies for growing food locally. Haugen mentioned FFA, 4-H and Washington State University as important programs that help agriculture, acknowledging the recent Silvana Fair as a part of the solution.

On the branch campus, Haugen suggested that the University of Washington may have been part of the problem and all three candidates are considering a free-standing four-year institution may be the solution. Haugen spoke in favor of the Smokey Point location; Haddon is undecided about the best location; and Hart believes on-line learning and extension learning is a part of the solution.

All wondered where to get the money to build a new campus, while Haugen noted, "ignorance is expensive."

On growth management, Haddon had experience working with the Island County Planning Commission, acknowledging that there should be more efforts at in-fill instead of expanding boundaries annually. She mentioned the need for affordable housing which is not addressed in the Growth Management Act.

While Haugen feels that the GMA is more positive than negative, she noted that the Growth Hearings Board is the root of GMA problems. "Such as the Island Crossing debate, they forgot to listen to the public." Haugen also admitted the government fell short on its side of the bargain, concurrency. "We never provided the roads to meet the growth."

Hart acknowledged that growth is essential for a strong economy and would like to see more industry allowed, such as a dairy digester to provide alternative fuel in Skagit County, to provide jobs for the increased population.

In response to some recent letters to the editor, we asked the candidates if they had any ideas on alternatives to funding projects through property taxes.

They all agreed it's a problem, but none offered up a viable alternative.

After hearing their answers, our editorial board decided that you can't beat the experience and knowledge of Mary Margaret Haugen, who is the chair of the state's transportation committee and has been deeply involved in state education issues since first elected in 1982. Unless a long-time elected official like Haugen has offended the electorate in some major way, it's pretty hard to uproot a loyal support system. We are not aware of any such major discontent. From our perspective in the heart of north Snohomish County, Mary Margaret Haugen has served the community well.

For our second choice, we debated a while between Hart and Haddon and all three of us agreed, Sarah Hart has more to offer. While Haddon agreed with most of what Haugen and Hart had to offer, she seems to have few ideas, other than living within the budget. While that is an honorable goal, it does not offer solutions to the state's many challenges.

As for Hart's claim to bring "heart" to the legislature, it is a catchy play on her name, but more importantly, she is willing to think outside the box and propose creative new ideas.

To contact a member of The Marysville Globe/Arlington Times editorial board Stuart Chernis or Scott Frank e-mail forum@marysvilleglobe.com.

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