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41st Legislative District: Senate: Jarrett vs. Baker

Earlier this year, Rep. Fred Jarrett switched from the Republican Party to the Democrat. Now he’s seeking a seat in the Senate in the 41st. District.

Facing him is Mercer Island resident Bob Baker, who ran unsuccessfully three years ago for a seat on the Mercer Island City Council and twice has solicited signatures to curb state spending on illegal immigrants.

The district includes includes the Bellevue area south of I-90.

Baker, 55, is a part-time commercial airline captain who previously tested and piloted Navy fighter jets. While he has not had the success Jarrett has found in his campaigns — both of his immigration reform initiatives failed to get to the ballot and he lost his bid for the council — Baker said he picked up his interest in politics during his days stationed in Washington, D.C. He decided to run for the Senate as a Republican this year to reduce state spending.

“I’m concerned about the deficit. There’s no surprise there,” Baker said Friday. “State spending is the problem in my mind. No business could sustain [the 33 percent increase in the past four years].”

Baker is challenging a well-known, solutions-oriented politician respected in Olympia for his ability to work with both sides of the aisle. In his eight year tenure in Olympia, Jarrett has been recognized by members of both parties for his work and was awarded the Public Official of the Year in 2007 by the nonpartisan Municipal League of King County.

“I have a good record of delivering improvements in education and transportation while promoting the efficiency and effectiveness of government,” Jarrett said of his qualifications for the Senate.

As a Republican, Jarrett successfully won four two-year terms in the House. Last year, in midterm, he changed parties and announced he would move onto the Senate.

Jarrett is a former member of the Air Force and Boeing manager.

As a Senator, he said he would look to balance the budget by cutting or reducing services that aren’t working.

“In down times, the state builds capacity to do new things by making the government — the Legislature and the bureaucracy — find out what’s not working,” Jarrett said.

Both Jarrett and his opponent expressed their support for the work of State Auditor Brian Sonntag. Jarrett hopes the auditor’s efforts will enable the Legislature to determine what needs to be cut to best balance the budget. Baker agrees that the state’s audits show where the government should be checked.

“I’m excited about his performance audits,” Baker said regarding his discussions with Sonntag. “I like to say he’s my favorite Democrat.”

In addition to cutting spending - which Olympia has increased by a third in the past four years - Baker said he is looking forward to improving state government by promoting free-enterprise solutions to many of the state’s problems.

“At the core, government doesn’t have the constraints the market has,” Baker said. “Left to its own devises, it tends to get larger. I think the people have to be the restraint on government.”

Much of the change Baker would like to see in Olympia is the current approach to resolving traffic congestion, health care and the economy. He is critical of a cross-lake route of light rail and states that more lane capacity on local freeways would reduce congestion and help the economy by transporting goods faster. While both Jarrett and Baker said they oppose tolls on I-90, Jarrett said he was supportive of the research being completed by the Tolling Commission.

“None of us support tolling on I-90,” Jarrett said, “but it would be foolish to not look at the data. If there is not going to be tolling, then what will be the impacts? Will we be able to get on I-90. Will the highway’s capacity be filled by outlying commuters? If there is a tolling regime on 520 and the consequence is a push to I-90, that might not be the best solution.”

Baker said the state should be building more roads to reduce congestion, not light rail.

“The DOT (Department of Transportation) took traffic congestion relief off its list of priorities. And Sound Transit’s charter reads that their main goal is to increase ridership. Well, to increase ridership you need congestion. It’s outrageous.”

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