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Thursday, September 02, 2004 - Page updated at 01:22 A.M.
Tight contest shaping up in 48th District
By Warren Cornwall
Republicans are itching to unseat state Rep. Ross Hunter. But first they need to decide who will get to try.
Hunter, a Medina Democrat, broke the GOP's longtime dominance of the Eastside's 48th Legislative District in the last election.
Now, two first-time Republican politicians are locked in a costly primary to see who gets the shot at revenge in a district that includes parts of Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond and nearby suburbs.
The contest is shaping up to be a competitive campaign between David Doud and James Whitfield. Both are backed by prominent Republican figures in the area. Both have amassed campaign funds of more than $55,000 and spent more than $35,000.
While they agree on many of the pressing political issues, their backgrounds and political experience are strikingly different.
Doud, the 37-year-old businessman, son of a longtime local corporate leader and son-in-law of a prominent Eastside businessman, said his family roots give him a valuable connection to the area. He also suggested he's outworking Whitfield on the campaign trail.
"I'm the hardest-working candidate," Doud said.
"The relationships I have are mine, not my dad's," Whitfield said.
Doud grew up in Bellingham, where his father, James Doud, was president of boat-maker Uniflite. The family moved to Medina in 1985, the same year David Doud entered the University of Washington.
The elder Doud is now a retired executive from the Matthew G. Norton Company, a local family investment and real-estate company. He sits on a number of local corporate boards including Bellevue-based First Mutual Bank.
David Doud has lived in the 48th Legislative District for four years, settling in Medina in 2000. There he and his wife own a company that handles bill payments for small businesses and wealthy individuals.
Doud rejected Whitfield's suggestion that his campaign was built on family connections. But he also touts his ties to the region as an advantage over Whitfield.
"I'm able to draw on a broad breadth of supporters and generations who have come before us for advice," he said.
Doud has spent years working on political matters outside the state. He graduated from Claremont McKenna College with a bachelor's degree in government and chemistry in 1990. After college he became a staffer in the Berlin State Parliament, the German equivalent of a state legislature. Those experiences are the core of a 1995 book Doud wrote about the future of Europe, "Berlin 2000: The Center of Europe."
He turned his attention to the private sector, working as a program manager overseeing computer-software-installation projects at Unisys, before earning a master's in business administration from an international business school in Glendale, Ariz.
Doud said his time abroad gives him a valuable international perspective on the state's most pressing issues.
His campaign revolves around making the area more business friendly with reduced regulations and lower taxes, and boosting educational performance to remain competitive with other countries.
"We need to address statewide reforms that are going to position our region to be competitive in the global economy, and we are really not having that debate like we need to," he said.
The state's unemployment-insurance system and workers' compensation are both too costly for corporations, Doud said. He also wants to shrink the main state business tax, which applies to a company's total revenues.
The state's high minimum wage also makes it hard to compete with other states, he said.
A citizen initiative raised the minimum wage and mandated increases as the cost of living went up. It is now at $7.16 per hour. Doud said he would prefer to see the state limit brought more in line with the federal minimum wage of $5.15.
On the education front, Doud said he would like to see merit pay for teachers and accompanying performance evaluations testing how teachers are doing.
He also wants to address funding problems at public colleges and universities by giving them more freedom to set tuition at market rates comparable to other public and private schools.
His campaign has won the backing of a number of influential Eastside residents, including Bellevue Mayor Connie Marshall, Metropolitan King County Councilman Pete von Reichbauer, former 48th District Sen. Dan McDonald and Bellevue developer and property manager Bob Wallace.
If international affairs is Doud's political background, health care is Whitfield's.
He is a senior officer at the Washington Health Foundation, a nonprofit that works to improve health care and access to medical treatment. There he oversaw a series of 2003 meetings in each Washington-state county with the aim of finding a common ground for reforms to the state's health-care system.
Whitfield came to the Puget Sound area in 1997, when he and his wife bought the Bellevue franchise of a discount furniture store. The University of Iowa graduate grew up in Compton, Calif., one of two children of a single mother.
After moving to the state, Whitfield settled in Kirkland. He and his wife sold the furniture store in late 1998, he said.
He spent a few years trying different jobs: brokering employee benefits for small businesses, setting up a sales force at a high-tech company. In 2001 he joined the health foundation.
Whitfield has established his political credentials as a GOP activist in the past five years. In 1999 he became a precinct-committee officer one of the party's foot soldiers after he had moved to Lake Forest Park.
In 2002 he was elected to the state party's executive board, resigning when he decided to run for the Legislature. When he moved back to Kirkland and the 48th District in 2003, he was chosen as a precinct chairman there.
Whitfield, an African American, traces his Republican leanings from seeing firsthand what he says is the failure of policies such as affirmative action.
"What we've been doing since the '60s hasn't gotten us where we want to go," he said.
He points to his health-care work as a big asset for a lawmaker, as states grapple with rising health-care costs.
Whitfield said he would push for changes to bring down health-insurance costs.
He supports Republican-backed tort-reform measures that would limit the amount of money awarded in certain kinds of malpractice lawsuits.
He also said he would seek to encourage more health-insurance companies to enter the Washington-state market by reducing regulations on insurance companies.
"Health-care expertise is critical, particularly in the House Republican caucus. We just don't have the level of health-policy expertise there," he said.
He shares Doud's concerns about unemployment insurance and workers' compensation. Whitfield also said he would push for a "bill of rights" for small businesses.
A draft version includes a two-year exemption from the state business and occupation tax for new companies and a requirement that the governor sign off on all new regulations concerning businesses.
He has won backing from a number of prominent local residents, including Bellevue Square developer Kemper Freeman Jr.; Metropolitan King County Council members Kathy Lambert and David Irons; King County Sheriff Dave Reichert; and Bob Strauss, president of the Eastside Republican Club.
Warren Cornwall: 206-464-2311 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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