First-term Republican Vincent Buys is facing a spirited challenge from Democrat Matt Krogh as he seeks a second two-year term representing the 42nd District.
At first glance, Buys' seat would seem safe. He got 56 percent of the vote in the August primary round, when Krogh was the only other candidate. And the 42nd District boundaries have been redrawn in a way that seems to make it more Republican-friendly than it was two years ago, when Buys upset Democratic veteran Kelli Linville. The new 42nd contains fewer Bellingham voters.
But the November turnout - with Barack Obama and Mitt Romney at the top of the ticket - will be much greater. Krogh is well-known in the county for his environmental work with RE Sources for Sustainable Communities, and Democratic campaign contributors are taking the race seriously. At last count, Krogh had raised about $61,000 - below Buys' total of $73,000, but enough to power a respectable-sized advertising effort.
In his campaign appearances and written statements, Buys has tried to make a strong appeal to the county's conservatives, while also touting an ability to work with Democrats.
Speaking at a League of Women Voters candidate forum, Buys said he bases his decisions on "the Good Book, the law book and the checkbook."
In a statement written for The Bellingham Herald's editorial page, Buys noted that he had worked with Democratic State Rep. Kristine Lytton to pass a bill that did away with a potential sales tax exemption for British Columbia residents that would have cost Whatcom County governments significant sums. He also joined the bipartisan majority to pass a capital budget that authorized the issuance of more than $500 million in state debt.
Buys wrote that the measure "provided the funding to replace the aging Meridian High School buildings as well as the Ten Mile Creek Elementary and Irene Reither Primary project, which is going on currently. These projects represent a significant investment in our community, providing construction opportunities for local companies and their employees at a time when the construction industry is struggling. These projects will provide our students with safe, healthy schools and continue our investment as a community in education."
Buys' fellow 42nd District Republican, Jason Overstreet, was one of 18 House members who voted no.
Krogh rejects the notion that Buys is a moderate, contending he cast very few bipartisan votes.
Data available on the Washingtonvotes.org website indicates that Buys voted against a majority of his own party 95 times during his first term. Rather than breaking party ranks to join Democrats, Buys was often joining a small number of fellow Republicans who voted in vain against bills with broad bipartisan support.
In one case, Buys cast the lone nay vote in the House against a bill sponsored by State Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-40th, that authorized changes in state building code to promote the use of wood products, because doing so would supposedly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Wood products interests testified in favor of the bill, while concrete and masonry spokesmen argued against it. It was approved by both houses and became state law.
On several key issues, the contrast between Buys and Krogh is sharp:
CHARTER SCHOOLS: Krogh urges a vote against the charter schools initiative, saying it would weaken conventional public schools, but Buys sees charter schools as a welcome new option for parents and students.
TAXES: Krogh also opposes an initiative extending a requirement for a two-thirds legislative majority to approve tax increases. Buys favors it.
Krogh: "Some of these taxes are unfair. Some of them should be reduced. Some of them may need to be increased. We need to have that flexibility.
Buys: "Where there's a broad level of support, we can raise those taxes."
COAL: Krogh was among the first to speak out publicly against the Gateway Pacific Terminal coal export pier proposed at Cherry Point. Buys wants to give the project proper regulatory scrutiny but stops short of opposing or endorsing it, although BNSF Railway and Pacific International Terminals, the Gateway Pacific proponent, are contributors to his campaign.
"Once we get that two-year (environmental study) process out of the way, we'll know what those impacts are and what the costs are to mitigate those impacts, and whether the proponents are willing to pay those costs," Buys told his audience at the League of Women Voters forum.
The two do share similar views on the divisive issue of immigration, although the legislature has no obvious role in federal immigration policy. According to the Washingtonvotes.org data, no immigration-related bills came up for a House vote during the last legislative session.
Buys, who grew up on a dairy farm outside Lynden, rejects the "deport-them-all" approach.
"We need to make sure we get the employees we need, and we need to make sure we do it in a legal fashion," Buys told the forum audience. "We can't just say we need to ship everybody home, because then we'll have a real problem."
"They (immigrants) are us," Krogh said. "We are all people who came to this country to work hard."
MAJOR CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTORS
Matt Krogh: Bellingham Firefighters, $1,800; Washington Federation of State Employees, $1,350; Washington Education Association (teachers' union) $900; FYI (higher education) PAC, $500; Robert Hall, downtown developer, $500; Washington Conservation Voters Action Fund, $394.
Vincent Buys: Asurion cellphone insurer, $900; National Rifle Association, $1,800; Pacific International Terminals (SSA Marine, Gateway Pacific) $1,400; Potato PAC, $900; Gun Owners Action League, $900; Premera Blue Cross, $900; BP employee PAC, $900; Premera Blue Cross, $1,400; Anheuser-Busch, $800; Washington Affordable Housing Council (Building Industry Association), $1,800; BNSF Railway, $500; Walmart, $800; Maberry Packing, $1,000.
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