BELLINGHAM - State Rep. Jason Overstreet, R-42nd, is fighting former Whatcom County Democratic Party Chairwoman Natalie McClendon for a second term in Olympia.
Although McClendon is advertising herself as a mainstream moderate, the contrast between the two is still sharp. Overstreet is an outspoken right-wing conservative who brandishes a pamphlet-sized U.S. Constitution on the campaign trail, and sponsored a "Gold and Silver Legal Tender Act" in the last session of the legislature.
Overstreet's bill, which never came up for a vote, would have declared both domestic and foreign gold and silver coins as "state legal tender."
"Most people know intuitively that their purchasing power is diminishing, but don't know why," Overstreet said in an email. "With our fiat paper Federal Reserve note currency, every time the Federal Reserve prints another note, the value of existing notes is debased, ultimately driving prices higher and higher."
He added that his bill was not crafted to force anyone to use precious metal.
Overstreet positioned himself far from his own party's mainstream by endorsing Shahram Hadian's unsuccessful primary campaign for governor against Rob McKenna. He also endorsed Ron Paul for president.
"Both men understood that freedom and prosperity are only possible when government respects the Constitution, that binds it and the rule of law that anchors it," Overstreet said in an email. "We need more statesmen willing to stand alone as outspoken defenders of life, liberty and property, who will shun compromise in favor of adherence to the Constitution."
Overstreet is a forceful stump speaker and an independent thinker whose positions are not always predictable.
For example, he joins with McClendon in opposition to a voter initiative that would enable creation of public charter schools. Many Republicans, including Vincent Buys, the other 42nd District Republican House member, see charter schools as a welcome new option for parents and students.
McClendon fears the measure would weaken traditional public education. Overstreet sees a different problem: a new state bureaucracy.
"We can't manage what we have now," he said at a recent League of Women Voters forum. "We're going to create another unelected bureaucracy in the form of a charter schools commission?"
As an outspoken property rights advocate, Overstreet wants to abolish the state's Growth Management Act that, among other things, attempts to regulate the growth of urban areas to preserve farmland. Overstreet thinks that is government overreaching at the expense of private property rights. He argues that when government regulations reduce property values, property owners have a right to compensation.
McClendon thinks protecting farmland from urban pressure is a legitimate function of government.
McClendon criticizes Overstreet for casting one of just 18 votes against a capital spending and jobs bill that authorized issuance of more than $500 million in state bond debt for public works projects, including some local school buildings. The other 42nd District Republican, Vincent Buys, voted in favor of the bill.
Asked to explain that vote, Overstreet responded in an email: "The state's credit card continues to be maxed out, paying roughly $2 billion in debt service directly off of the top of the general operating budget. While many of these projects may be worthy, many are not or could be delayed. Increases in government spending and debt during an economic recovery to 'create jobs' is an idea that if not completely, has been thoroughly discredited by the continued inflationary policies being called stimulus at the federal level."
In a statement written for the Bellingham Herald, Overstreet also says he wants to create jobs by cutting taxes, starting with a one-half of 1 percent cut in the state sales tax.
The two also have differing views on gay marriage and marijuana legalization - two issues facing state voters in November.
In a response to a questionnaire from The Bellingham Herald, McClendon favors a vote to affirm the state's gay marriage law.
"It's just a simple matter of equal treatment under the law," McClendon said.
Overstreet disagrees. He cites the state constitution, which guarantees "absolute freedom of conscience in all matters of religious sentiment, belief, and worship." As he sees it, the state law could infringe on the religious liberty of people who believe that gay marriage is sinful.
On marijuana, McClendon sees a potential new state revenue source and a chance to free prison space and police time for more pressing matters. She plans to vote for legalization.
Overstreet notes that the passage of the initiative will put the state at odds with the federal government, even though in his view the feds have no constitutional authority to get involved. As he sees it, legalization of marijuana will be the pretext for creation of a new state regulation and taxation bureaucracy, and he plans to vote no.
McClendon admits she's facing an uphill fight, but she believes she has a chance of success if enough voters take the trouble to work their way down a long ballot of federal and state offices to the legislative races. In 2008, about 7,000 voters who cast ballots in the presidential race did not vote in the legislative races.
She also notes that in the past, many 42nd District voters have been bipartisan. In 2008, Republican Doug Ericksen and Democrat Kelli Linville got similar vote totals in the district as it was configured at that time.
MAJOR CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTORS
Jason Overstreet: Farmers Insurance, $1,800; National Rifle Association, $1,800; Gun Owners Action League, $900; Pfizer Inc. (pharmaceutical), $900; Premera Blue Cross,$900; Anheuser-Busch, $900; BP Employee PAC, $900; Bellingham homemaker Kasha Eades, $1,800; Northwest Credit Union Association, $1,800; Washington Affordable Housing Council (Building Industry Association), $1,800; Joe Wilson, Pederson Brothers Construction, $1,800; BNSF Railway Co., $500; Pacific International Terminals (Gateway Pacific, SSA Marine), $500; Kalispel Tribal Economic Authority, $500.
Natalie McClendon: Amalgamated Transit Union (bus drivers), $1,800; Washington Education Association (teachers' union), $900; Washington Federation of State Employees, $1,350; Washington Indian Gaming Association, $900; Lummi Indian Business Council, $500; FYI PAC (higher education), $500; Teamsters Local 231, $400; Washington Conservation Voters, $394; Robert Hall, downtown real estate developer, $250.
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