The man elected Nov. 6 as senator from the 40th Legislative District will help create the state's 2013-15 budget. Incumbent Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, and challenger John Swapp of Anacortes, who filed as "Independent-GOP," have vastly different views of what that budget should look like.
Both agree the economy hasn't recovered, but Ranker's outlook is more optimistic.
"I believe - and the forecasts would support this - we hit the bottom and are coming up," Ranker said.
He says it's time to return funding to programs that have been cut over the past four years, including education and aid to low-income people and seniors. If the economy won't bring in enough revenues, then it's time to consider higher taxes.
"We have very high expectations from government, but at the same time our revenues are low," Ranker said. "We need to have a candid and frank conversation about taxes and tax loopholes. We also need to look at government efficiencies and ... consolidation of agencies."
Swapp doesn't have such high expectations of government or regard for the current economy.
"The real-world view of this economy is not the view of an economy that is recovering," he said.
As a business owner, Swapp says he knows how to make the hard decisions about what to cut in government.
When asked what he would cut - say, medical insurance for low-income children or adults - Swapp wouldn't commit to anything.
"There are certain things that are people's hot buttons," he said. "You must realize that you cannot spend your way to success. ... We have to get past this 'I'll promise you anything for a vote today' mind-set. We're promising things we can't deliver. Every time the government spends a dollar, they're taking it from someone who earned it."
Both candidates place a high priority on creating jobs. Swapp says this would be the natural outcome of reducing regulations on businesses, which he would fight for in the Senate.
"Employers and employment go together," he said.
Ranker said he would continue the job creation he began in his first term. He said he helped bring money to Bellingham for cleanup of toxic sites that can eventually be redeveloped for future business growth. His support of renewable energy programs created jobs at Bellingham businesses in this field, he said.
The 40th district includes south Bellingham and southwest Whatcom County.
The candidates are closer on social issues. One of the most relevant this year is same-sex marriage, which will be legal in this state if Referendum 74 passes in November.
"I personally don't understand it very much from a personal basis," Swapp said. "However, I'm not going to stand against it. It's just not the government's business."
Ranker, who is known for his work on energy, transportation and shoreline issues, said his biggest accomplishment in his first term was his leadership in getting a marriage equality bill passed in the Senate.
"I don't believe any time in my political career ... will I have a more powerful vote," he said.
Swapp, who labels himself a moderate, hasn't won favor among some right-wing Republicans for his social views, he said. His financial backing has been considerably less than Ranker's, although Swapp won't concede this as a disadvantage.
Swapp had raised $12,941 as of Friday, Oct. 12, compared to Ranker's $180,423.
"I believe regular citizens going about their daily lives are not hard right or hard left. Sometimes they don't find themselves well represented by a lawmaker who leans hard to one side or another," Swapp said. "Even though there's a great disparity in financial contributions toward Senator Ranker, this is definitely a winnable race for me."
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