Eight candidates hoping to be appointed to represent the 15th District presented their cases to the Sunnyside Republican Club this past Friday.
Each candidate had approximately 10 minutes to introduce themselves to the club members and make their case to be appointed to the position left vacant by Dan Newhouse after he was named director of the Department of Agriculture by Gov. Chris Gregoire.
First up was Sunnyside's Don Vlieger, who described himself as a pro-life, pro-second amendment, fiscally responsible Republican.
Vlieger unsuccessfully ran against Newhouse for this same post in the 2002 Republican primary.
He told the club members that hard work and searching for opportunities has shaped his life and his values are those of his mid-western parents, which are hard work and honest dealing.
It's these values, along with his life and work experiences, that he says will make him the right choice.
"Character counts," he said. "I've been called a lot of things but lazy isn't one of them."
Jacob Anderson, who resides on the border of Klickitat and Skamania counties, told the club he is all about fiscal responsibility.
Anderson works on his family farm and is also the general manager for the family business, Anderson's Custom Sawing. He also operates a small land use consulting business.
Addressing the state's projected $8.7 billion deficit, Anderson said he doesn't believe citizens want their taxes raised and thinks the current situation calls for spending cuts.
"We're all making cuts," he said. "The state government needs to make cuts too."
Calling the resources in the 15th District a wealth for the economy, he said he will fight for the rights to use our natural resources wisely.
He also said he would like to reform child labor laws to allow children to get out and work.
Zillah Mayor Gary Clark told the Republican club his philosophy is that government should facilitate, not regulate.
"I've tried to install that philosophy with all city employees at City Hall," he said. "We've done some really good things for the city (Zillah) and we would like to carry that to Olympia."
He said his biggest concern is the business climate in Washington, calling it over regulated and over taxed. Clark said he believes he can reach across the aisle in Olympia and get the 15th District's voice heard.
Skamania County Auditor J. Michael Garvison told the Republican club that he grew up in Oregon and can remember one of the happiest days in his life was when he was able to buck a bale of hay all by himself.
"It was an accomplishment," he said.
Garvison said he will focus on the similarities with the people Republicans disagree with in order to get things done. He also promised to help stop dishonest fees that politicians put in place instead of raising taxes.
"I will stop that," he promised. "People in power have to be held accountable."
Grandview's own Mike Wallace also made his case last Friday.
Wallace is a winemaker in the Lower Valley and owns Hinzerling Winery and the Vintner's Inn, a bed and breakfast.
Wallace said he is a subscriber to the core Republican principles and is a fiscal conservative and opponent of new taxes and user fees.
"The person appointed needs to be a Republican, not a fair-weather Republican," he said.
He said he knows when and where to make cuts and believes his past experience campaigning will help him in the next election.
Wallace said he is a seasoned political campaigner, a supporter of small businesses and a proponent of second amendment rights.
Sunnyside's Jeff Matson is also throwing his hat into the ring.
Matson, a CPA in Sunnyside and Port of Sunnyside commissioner, said the only solution to the state's budget problems is to control spending and prevent any new spending.
He told the club that economic development starts at the local level and most new jobs are started by small businesses. His priority, he said, is to protect rural economic development programs.
But, he added, any new economic development must begin with the premise of doing no harm to the existing engine, which is agriculture.
He said he would stand fast against any regulations that limit the 15th District's ability to produce and compete.
Deborah Manjarrez, a CPA in Wapato, told the club she's not hoping to be appointed because she's crazy or bored.
"I'm a busy lady but busy people get things done," she said. "I want to give back to the community. I'm a good problem solver and listener."
She said she is a moderate Republican and wants to work on bringing more industry to the Valley to keep "...our kids here."
She added that the Democratic sentiment is growing in Yakima County and the person appointed has to be able to get re-elected. She also said she knows Sen. Jim Honeyford and Rep. Bruce Chandler and believes she can work with them.
David Taylor was the last candidate to speak to the Sunnyside Republicans. He currently owns his own consulting group in Moxee and before that worked in the Kittitas County Planning Department.
He said he has routinely fought for the rights of property owners and feels he can make a difference with his knowledge and expertise. He said he is a realist and would not make a lot of promises to the club.
"Republicans are in the minority," he said. "But we have an opportunity to make some substantial gains in 2010."
He promised to represent the whole 15th District and will utilize his conservative values to help those in his district.
The Precinct Committee Officers will gather in Goldendale on Saturday, March 21, to narrow the field of eight candidates down to three. Then, county commissioners from Yakima, Klickitat, Clark and Skamania counties will pick a candidate to fill Newhouse's vacant seat until elections in the fall of 2009. That date has not yet been set.