Overstreet drops out of 42nd District race; VanWerven steps up for GOP

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMay 10, 2014 

Republican Jason Overstreet has announced he will not seek re-election to the 42nd District House seat, and Luanne VanWerven will run to replace him.

VanWerven stressed her agreements with Overstreet but acknowledged she would approach the office differently if she is elected.

"I don't think, at the end of the day, that Jason and I would disagree on a lot of issues," VanWerven said Friday, May 9, in a telephone interview.

But she added that she tends to take a more collegial approach to political issues - an approach she cultivated as chairwoman of Whatcom County Republicans.

"We have Republicans of all different perspectives," VanWerven said. "At the end of the day, we're going to focus on what we agree on, not what we disagree on."

She said she prides herself on building relationships with people of all perspectives, and she acknowledged that Overstreet's approach was more confrontational.

"Being a female, I would say that I would definitely have a different approach," VanWerven said. "I am very relational. I love to build relationships with people no matter where they stand on issues. My methods would probably look a little different."

Late Thursday, May 8, via a Facebook post, Overstreet announced that he would not seek a third two-year term in the Position 1 seat.

"It's time for me to spend more focused time with my growing family, raising them in the fear and admonition of The Lord, counseling them as they grow in character, and instructing them in the principles of freedom," Overstreet said on his Facebook page.

He did not respond to requests for additional comment.

VanWerven said she had learned of Overstreet's decision a little over a week ago.

VanWerven, vice chairwoman of the Washington State Republican Party, appears likely to take over the seat in a Republican-leaning district.

The 42nd District covers all of Whatcom County except south Bellingham and the southwest portion of the county.

County Republican Chairman Charlie Crabtree didn't rule out the possibility of other loyal Republicans running for Overstreet's seat.

"As chairman what I am working hard at doing is being impartial to any Republican who decides to step forward," Crabtree said.

Democrats also will field a candidate, said Riley Sweeney, vice-chairman of the Whatcom County Democrats. They just aren't saying who yet.

Democrats' chances of winning the seat haven't changed since VanWerven stepped in after Overstreet's exit, Sweeney said.

"I think that we're in the same boat. You have a candidate who has extreme views and is out of touch with the 42nd District," Sweeney said of VanWerven.

She was "quite extreme when it comes to women's issues," Sweeney said, noting that VanWerven was a delegate for conservative Rick Santorum in the 2012 presidential primary.

VanWerven described herself as dedicated to creating jobs while helping the district's farmers and other small-business people. She said she would do that by easing the regulatory and tax burdens that she sees as the Democrats' legacy.

She sees the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal coal export pier at Cherry Point as a promising source of new jobs, although she wants to see the results of the extensive review of environmental issues that is now occurring.

"I am definitely in favor of job creation, and I think we have a perfect opportunity in Gateway Pacific Terminal," VanWerven said.

Nicholas Kunkel, the Libertarian candidate for the open seat, said on his campaign Facebook page that he hoped he could follow Overstreet's example.

"We appreciate all the hard work and dedication to liberty that Jason Overstreet has shown his community. We hope to represent the ideals that constituents of Jason Overstreet have come to expect," said a Facebook post from Thursday, May 8.

Kunkel's campaign gave a different impression of Overstreet in a post on April 2, before the legislator announced he would not run:

"Time to try Libertarian and stop Overstreet from purposefully doing nothing in Olympia just to make a point," the post said. "He's being paid to make decisions that represent WC, and he sits on his rear down there. Talk about gov't waste!"

Jocelyn McCabe of the Association of Washington Business said the organization "had a great working relationship with Rep. Overstreet."

Overstreet scored low compared to other Republicans on the business association's legislative scorecard. He was fourth-lowest among House Republicans in his support of pro-business bills, with a career average of 79 percent. That still was higher than every Democrat in the House.

Among other things, Overstreet was critical of special legislation to benefit Boeing Corp.

On the Washington Conservation Voters' scorecard, only eight of 98 representatives scored lower than Overstreet's 6 percent lifetime record on environmental legislation. One of those was fellow 42nd District representative Vincent Buys, who received a zero from Washington Conservation Voters.

During his two terms in Olympia, Overstreet staked out political territory on the right wing of a conservative party. Among other things, he endorsed Sharam Hadian for governor instead of then-Attorney General Rob McKenna, the candidate favored by the party mainstream. He also endorsed Ron Paul's presidential bid.

Overstreet made headlines recently by calling for the resignation of Western Washington University President Bruce Shepard, after Shepard said he wanted to increase the enrollment of non-white students at the university.

Overstreet also sponsored a bill to remove the sales tax on guns and ammunition, and he backed a "Gold and Silver Legal Tender Act."

He joined with liberals in pushing a bill meant to discourage federal detention of U.S. citizens inside the state.

Before he was elected to the legislature, Overstreet served on the Blaine City Council. He now lives in Lynden.

Reach John Stark at 360-715-2274 or john.stark@bellinghamherald.com . Read the Politics Blog at bellinghamherald.com/politics-blog or get updates on Twitter at @bhampolitics.

Reach Ralph Schwartz at 360-715-2289 or ralph.schwartz@bellinghamherald.com.

Reach John Stark at 360-715-2274 or john.stark@bellinghamherald.com. Read their Politics Blog at bellinghamherald.com/politics-blog or get updates on Twitter at @bhampolitics.

Reach Ralph Schwartz at 360-715-2289 or ralph.schwartz@bellinghamherald.com. Read his Politics blog at bellinghamherald.com/politics-blog or get updates on Twitter at @bhampolitics.

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