The 20th District Senate race is one of only two races for a Southwest Washington legislative seat featuring a contest between two Republicans. Despite the "R" in front of their names, they explained Wednesday how they couldn't be much further apart in background, experience and jobs-creating policies.
Incumbent Sen. Dan Swecker of Rochester has served in the Legislature nearly two decades, and he said voters should return him because of his experience, seniority, clout and know-how.
"The thing that's most important to get projects done is relationships," he told The Daily News editorial board. "Because of that experience, I can work with people across the aisle and get things done."
Swecker, 65, brushed aside the guff he says he gets from GOP members and his challenger, Centralia businessman John Braun.
"I catch more flak from my own party because of my willingness to work across the aisle," Swecker said. "If I take my Republican principles into the market place of ideas to try to solve problems, the other side couldn't care less that I'm not a liberal Democrat."
Swecker added that an open and flexible approach is necessary for any Republican to accomplish anything in a Legislature where both houses are controlled by Democratic majorities.
Braun, who runs a company that makes emergency vehicles and employs 150 people, is making his first attempt at public office.
"I'm running because it's time for new leadership," he said. "I'm respectful of his service, but I think Sen. Swecker has lost touch, especially with what the business sector needs."
If elected, Braun said he would serve a maximum of two four-year terms.
"I think I have the experience to be effective," Braun said. "You work in the time you're given, and then you give someone else a shot."
The two men emphasized their different views about reforming the state workers' compensation program to take pressure off small business and spur job growth.
Braun said Swecker's continual call for reforming regulations isn't enough, that the system needs a major new approach. He supports privatizing workers' compensation, creating competition and lowering costs. Washington is one of only four states that don't allow private workers compensation, he noted, and based on other states' experience Braun said costs to employers could be reduced sharply.
"If you allow employers to get a private option, it could reduce their costs by one-third or half," Braun said. "Think of what you can do with that. You can pay the employees more, reinvest and produce a better product."
Swecker said the Democrat-controlled Legislature simply won't approve privatization, adding that it's best to make adjustments to the existing program.
"John wants to come in, privatize and shake everything up," he said. "There's no way in heck (Democrats) are going to do that. Instead, we need to work with the other side of the aisle to find other solutions."
A large chunk of Cowlitz County recently joined the 20th District after the latest state redistricting effort. The primarily Lewis County centered district now includes the eastern half of Cowlitz County — Woodland, Kalama, Toutle and Castle Rock. The district also incorporates a part of Thurston County, too.
Each candidate opposed same-sex marriage, marijuana legalization, and reinstituting a measure that would again require a two-thirds majority to pass tax increases.