Photo by Zachariah Bryan
Candidates for 36th District Position 1, State Majority Director Noel Frame (left) and Port Commission President Gael Tarleton (right) debated before an audience at the Sunset Hill Community Club Tuesday night.

Tarleton, Frame go into debate guns blazing

Nearing the end of a long election season, and perhaps the result of the two candidates being tired and ragged from what has become increasingly negative campaigning, the debate for the 36th District, Position 2 devolved into a bickerfest over endorsements and money interests.

The debate, which took place Tuesday, Oct. 22 at the Sunset Hill Community Club, started out well enough, with the candidates describing their credentials and intelligently discussing big, complex issues.

Port Commission President Gael Tarleton stressed that she had years of experience working with budgets and finding solutions to crises.

Progressive Majority Director Noel Frame said she had solid progressive credentials and that people liked her because she was true to her word.

They discussed how to fully fund education. Both are committed to it, but disagreed on the method to fund it.

Tarleton started off by saying, effectively, Frame was not experienced enough to handle the budget.

"The big difference between me and my opponent on this issue is experience and finding a solution to the problem, instead of just knowing it’s a problem," she said.

Tarleton said she had created a plan. Her idea is to instill a tuition freeze over three years so that it wouldn't skyrocket out of students' capability to pay. To pay for that freeze, Tarleton said that she wanted to introduce a half-penny sales tax increase and reintroduce the soda and candy sales tax, which was voted down in 2010.

Frame dismissed Tarleton's approach to revenue growth and accused her of being like the big "R" word.

"The idea that revenue is just going to magically show up ... that is like Rob McKenna," Frame said. Later, referring to the candy and soda tax, she said, "I’m not talking about Band-Aid solutions ... I’m talking about big picture solutions to big problems."

Frame said that the Legislature needed to seriously consider a higher earner's income tax. Voters had been coming out begging her to get the legislature to consider an income tax, she said.

Tarleton also said she was in support of a higher earners' income tax and that she could make something happen.

"Most of the people in the room don’t know what it takes to instill an idea that everyone should have access to higher education," Tarleton said.
"I will advocate for people paying for the things we care about the most."

They also discussed funding for the seawall along the waterfront, which is in dire need of fixing.

As Port Commission President, Tarleton showed that she knew the complexity of the issue, describing how different entities were responsible for different parts, including the Port, who already paid for their part; the State, which is responsible for the Colman Dock area at the ferries; and the city and county.

"Every single one is going to help and be asked to pay, and that includes you and me, because we’re all taxpayers," Tarleton said.

Frame unabashedly admitted she did not have much knowledge about the subject and ultimately agreed with Tarleton.

The rest of the debate turned into a game of who-got-endorsed-by-who-and-why (as well as, why-didn't-I-get-endorsed?).

It was sparked with a question from the audience. The asker was unidentified, as all the questions were written on note cards and handed to the moderator, former Groundswell NW President David Boyd.

The question asked who sat on the board of Progressive Majority, where Noel Frame is a director.

Frame did not answer directly, instead saying that indeed some of the organizations who endorsed her were partners with her group. She continued to say that she still felt she got the endorsements because of her qualifications.

Before handing the microphone over to Tarleton, Frame said that the question must have been asked by someone from Tarleton's campaign and that she was "not surprised" by such an attack.

Tarleton said that some of Frame's endorsers unfairly shut her out, not giving her a chance to even interview or fill out a questionnaire.

Frame denied the allegations.

“It’s incredibly, incredibly cynical to say I somehow didn’t earn the support of these organizations.”

Throughout the debate, both trotted out their endorsements. Tarleton repeatedly said that Mary-Lou Dickerson (D-36), who is leaving the legislature and whose seat the two candidates are fighting over, gave Tarleton her sole endorsement. Tarleton said it was because she was an independent, progressive thinker who Dickerson could trust with the job.

Frame mentioned the endorsement of Gov. Christine Gregoire, former King County Executive Ron Sims and of fifteen legislators. She cited her endorsements by experienced government officials and unions as proof that she was not inexperienced, as Tarleton accused.

Both accused each other of money interests.

Frame pointed at a $900 contribution from SSA Marine, which is pushing the coal export terminal at Cherry Point south of Bellingham. Both candidates say they are against coal exports, but Frame questions Tarleton's stance.

Tarleton said that the $900 contribution was not nearly as bad as the $100,000 in funding to PACs supporting Frame, which have launched an aggressive and negative campaign against Tarleton. Tarleton said people should look at where the money is coming from.

"I’ll tell you what the special interest is," Frame retorted. "Drum roll, please -- (pause) -- middle class families. And I’ll take it."

Though the debate came just a hair short of a wrestling match, the two did agree on several subjects: that education should be fully funded, that there should be a higher earners income tax, that the seawall should be fixed, that something should be done about environmental pollution and that the marriage equality and marijuana legalization initiatives should be passed.

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