A recent study on the mortality rate in the 19th Legislative District was a turning point in Teresa Purcell’s decision to run for a House seat.

The state Office of Financial Management study found that people who live in the 19th Legislative District, which includes all of Pacific and Wahkiakum counties, western Cowlitz County and pieces of Lewis and Grays Harbor counties, have the lowest life expectancy of any of the 49 legislative districts in the state.

Purcell said working to improve such statistics helped her decide to declare her candidacy.

Purcell, a Democrat, will run in the primary against incumbent JD Rossetti, who was appointed to the position earlier this year.

“I can be so much more effective as an elected official” than Rossetti, Purcell said. “I don’t see him as having the kind of spark and the ability to bring people together to solve problems.”

Purcell said she’s not aware of any other Democrats who are running for the seat. Two Republicans, Jim Walsh of Aberdeen and Val Tinney of Castle Rock, have also announced their candidacy. The top two primary election votegetters will face off the general election, even if they are from the same party.

Purcell, 52, grew up in Longview and graduated from Mark Morris High School. She has degrees in political science and speech communications from the University of Washington. Nine years ago, Purcell moved back to Longview and lives in the the house on Columbia Heights where she was raised. She purchased it from her parents, Wayne and Joyce Purcell.

Teresa Purcell works as a one-person public relations company that has social justice and non-profit groups as clients. She’s on several local boards, which she said has helped her forge relationships that could serve her as a legislator.

“To be effective in politics, you have to bring relationships,” she said.

Purcell said the last legislative session didn’t accomplish much, particularly in funding schools. She said the Legislature could find more money for schools by closing tax loopholes, such as those given to Boeing.

Purcell said she’d be open to a state income tax if it were part of a larger overhaul of the tax system. “We have the most regressive tax system in the country,” she said.

She’s against proposals to require a two-thirds vote in the Legislature to pass taxes. “It’s undemocratic,” she said, because it allows a minority of legislators to block action.

Purcell said she needed to study the often-proposed end of the sales tax exemption in Cowlitz County for out-of-state residents before taking sides.

Though Purcell is on the advisory board for the cleanup effort at the former Reynolds Metals Co. aluminum plant site, she doesn’t support Millennium Bulk Terminals’ proposed coal export facility there.

“That would become the brand of our community,” she said, with Longview becoming best known as the site of the largest coal export dock in the western United States. Such a label would deter other kinds of businesses and people from wanting to come here, and the site could support employers that would hire more people, she said.

“As a community, we have to stop looking backwards at fossil fuels” and their “dying markets,” she said.

Purcell does support Northwest Innovations’ proposed methanol plant in Kalama.

Purcell has already received endorsements from U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, whose first campaign she managed, and the family of the late state Sen. Sid Snyder. Tiffany Turner, who ran against Rossetti for his appointment, has also endorsed Purcell, who doesn’t expect Sen. Dean Takko or Rep. Brian Blake to do so. Purcell said she’ll be making the rounds of labor unions and county Democratic boards to seek their endorsements.

Purcell said people are upset how Rossetti was appointed to his seat in what seemed like a decision made behind closed doors. The 19th District has a long history of officeholders getting their seats initially through appointment rather than election.

“I think voters are tired of that process,” she said, which gives her “a great shot” at beating him.

Contact Daily News reporter Tom Paulu at 360-577-2540; on Twitter at @TomPaulu

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