Longview conservative Tim Sutinen says he will run as an independent under "the tea party banner" against state Rep. Brian Blake, an Aberdeen Democrat whose district includes Longview, Kelso, western Cowlitz County and Wahkiakum and Pacific counties.
In announcing his candidacy Friday, Sutinen said the tea party designation "reflects my dedication to limited, reasonable government better than any political party that exists."
Sutinen ran unsuccessfully in 2006 as a Republican against the other 19th District state representative, Dean Takko, D-Longview, who took 68 percent of the vote in the sprawling district.
Sutinen intends to campaign on a platform of lower taxes and lower spending.
Washington's legislators reacted to the declining revenues of the economic recession in "precisely the wrong way," by raising taxes on some beverages, tobacco and candy.
"The current bunch in Olympia have slapped the faces of the people who voted them in," he said in a prepared statement, "by overturning the voter-approved two-thirds requirement to raise taxes."
Sutinen, 39, formerly was the Republican state committeeman from Cowlitz County. But he said professional politicians of both major parties have "gone the wrong way. We have learned not to trust Democrats or Republicans. Both major parties have failed us, from township to Washington, D.C."
The tea party is not an organized political party in the sense that the Democratic or Republican parties are. It's a movement started last year through a series of protests over what its participants consider excessive government spending. Protests have focused on the 2009 stimulus package, 2008 financial bailouts and health care reform legislation. The name "tea party" is a reference to the historic Boston Tea Party of 1773, a protest by American colonists against taxation by the British government when the colonists had no representation in the British Parliament.
If elected without a party affiliation, Sutinen would not be an automatic member of either party's caucus, out of which committee assignments and coalitions are built. In a phone interview Friday, he shrugged off the possibility that he could be a lone voice.
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"I will caucus with those people who align with my values. In the Legislature, those people who need things done need votes. I can assure you there will be plenty of people wanting my vote."
Asked how he would have balanced the state budget in the last session, when the Legislature had to fill a $2.7 billion gap between spending and revenues, Sutinen said the governor or the Legislature should have declared a fiscal emergency and reopened state employee contracts to renegotiations.
Sutinen owns Sutinen Consulting, a computer business in Longview that he says employs 10 workers. He is married; his wife, Darlene, just gave birth to their 10th child last month. A native of Finland, he became a U.S. citizen in 2005. He said he'd make time to serve in the Legislature despite his business, a large family, and the expansive nature of the 19th District, which stretches from the Cowlitz River, down the coast to Long Beach and up to Grays Harbor.
He'll have his hands full trying to unseat Blake, who took 70 percent of the vote in beating Republican Keath Huff in 2006. Blake, who was appointed to the Legislature in 2002, had no opposition in 2008 and so far no Republican has filed to oppose him this time around.
"I think it is great that he (Sutinen) is getting involved," Blake said Friday.
"Those folks that represent the tea party are obviously good folks who have a view of government and they are frustrated. A lot of people are frustrated about the economy."
Blake said he didn't particularly like voting for the recently adopted tax package, but, "That said, over the last two years we have made investments in early childhood education (and) mental health, and it was either (raise taxes) or cut some of those investments. I think those were worthy investments, and I stand by our vote, as difficult as it was."
Blake said he intends to seek re-election. "It's still a fascinating job, a difficult job."