23rd District candidates square off

Incumbent Rolfes, challenger Lowe display notable differences.

Two years ago, then-Bainbridge Island City Councilwoman Christine Rolfes challenged long-standing Republican 23rd District state Rep. Bev Woods for her seat in Olympia and won. Now as the incumbent, Rolfes is seeking another term facing East Bremerton resident Mark Lowe in the Nov. 4 election.

The two squared off in the latest Eggs and Issues debate Tuesday morning sponsored by the Bremerton Area Chamber of Commerce in East Bremerton.

As the incumbent, Rolfes said she has worked hard to make good on the issues she ran successfully in 2006 including improving the state’s ferries system, enhancing the state’s education system and helping strengthen Kitsap County’s economy.

“I’ve worked very hard on those issues, and we now have a government that is accountable and spends taxpayers’ dollars wisely,” Rolfes said.

As the Republican challenger, Lowe said if elected, he would be a “man of action” in Olympia and roll back government spending.

“We need to check our government. It’s gone unchecked for too long,” he said. “Economic development is not 3,000 new government jobs.”

Instead of more government jobs, the state needs to focus on major infrastructure improvements like the aging Agate Pass bridge and the Manette bridge and making State Route 305 and State Route 307 safer, Lowe said.

Rolfes responded by saying the 3,000 jobs to which Lowe referred met the needs of all residents in the state.

“About 1,000 of those were to staff the new prison in Eastern Washington, and about 1,500 of those went to our schools,” she said. “What you need to ask for is where did those jobs go.”

When asked about their views on the state’s Growth Management Act, Lowe and Rolfes offered stark contrasts of opinion.

“I would do away with it entirely,” Lowe said. “It really infringes upon a property owner’s rights.”

Rolfes said she supports the Act, but would like to see some changes made to it to allow for more affordable housing.

For all of their differences, Lowe and Rolfes both agreed the state’s WASL test isn’t acceptable in its current form.

“Nine in 10 teachers don’t like it,” Lowe said, adding that the test’s format makes it costly and time-consuming to grade.

“I’m not a supporter of the WASL,” Rolfes said. “I believe there are some other tests we need to look at.”

The WASL, unlike other standardized tests, fails to provide an adequate assessment of a student’s skill level, she said.

Another subject both candidates agreed on was the Port of Bremerton’s SEED project.

“I supported funding for it in 2007,” Rolfes said. “I think we’ve done enough. It’s for the Port of Bremerton to move forward with it.”

Lowe agreed the project has received enough state funding and if it’s going to succeed, it must do so on its own.

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