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By Lou Marzeles
Editor 

Bentley, Corry take their stands

 

October 10, 2018

Home Telephone Company

CANDIDATES IN CONVERSATION: Democrat Sasha Bentley, left, and Republican Chris Corry meet at the office of The Sentinel for an in-depth discussion of the issues.

The Sentinel invited candidates running for Washington State Representative Legislative District 14 Position 1 Sasha Bentley, Democrat, and Chris Corry, Republican, to an editorial discussion last week. Following are comments from the candidates, sometime emended for space. The entire conversation can be viewed on YouTube at https://youtu.be/dL4nJGpLl1w.

Goldendale Sentinel: You are each invited to make an opening statement.

Corry: My name is Chris Corry. I'm running for the state House of Representatives here in the 14th and I am running because I see a need for fair representation in central Washington. A little bit about my background: my wife was born or raised in the Yakima Valley. We moved back six years ago. It's a place where we love raising our kids. It's a dream place for us to live and work. I'm a local businessman. I've worked in the insurance industry since graduating college in 2004. My concerns going forward are working to ensure that families in central Washington keep more of the money they earn, and their businesses are allowed to remain independent and economically free so that they can help families keep more of that money and provide for our local economy. Central Washington is a great place to live. It's a very unique place in our state. It's driven on a lot of the ideals and principles of our Constitution and individualism, and we like that. I love the small communities. I love the fact that people care for each other here. It's nice to know that when you go out, you're going to see people you know, and there's an accountability to that.

Bentley: My name is Sasha Bently. I live in White Salmon. I have lived there for a few years now, and ever since then I've dived into the community and community involvement. I was chair of the [Klickitat] County Democrats last year. I'm still on the leadership team of the Columbia Gorge Women's Action Network, focusing on voter registration and just get-out-the-vote efforts. And I am running because we deserve a strong voice and someone who will bring the policies and investments that we need here. I agree that rural Washington is not receiving the resources it needs, and I think that's because we haven't elected someone who can get it done. And so I've been campaigning for almost the whole year. I've held listening tours, meet-and-greets town halls. I've knocked on thousands of doors just listening to people, talking to about, for Klickitat County. I hear there's no housing, [problems in] education and healthcare, and all these issues that I'm hearing at the doors. I'm ready to represent them in ourbest interests and our values. And thank you for giving us an opportunity to speak. There aren't many.

GS: Would you share more about why you're in this race, what you bring?

Bentley: Our communities are struggling. People are focused on their day-to-day needs. They're working paycheck to paycheck, and they're not receiving the support they need, including places like mental health resources; they need more resources as well. I filed before Norm [Johnson] retired, but I was never running against Norm, and I'm not the person to run against anything. We need to start running for something. I've heard so many good things about him; a lot of people are disappointed to lose a more moderate Republican who works across the aisle. And I want to continue that part of it, bringing us together and focusing on our issues. He also always responded to my emails personally. I love that about him, and that's the kind of person that I will be, too.

Corry: Norm has left what I would consider a very good legacy for central Washington. He's done some really good things for our communities. I'm happy that he's supporting me and is behind me and my candidacy. I think we've got a lot of work to do over in Olympia. I think Norm and the entire team from the 14th has worked tirelessly for this area. I'm just going over to help continue that voice and talk about the family needs and the business needs for our communities.

GS: Let's talk about how long you've been in this geographic region and what that means for your candidacies.

Corry: We've lived here just shy of six years. My wife was born and raised [in Yakima], and we came back because we were looking for that place where we could raise our family and build for the rest of our lives. I think that my experience out of the area will help the districts. I think one [such experience] is living in California. I was quickly out of college offered a position down there, and my wife and I moved down there before we got married and married shortly after. My wife and I both had great jobs down there, but we were struggling to make it, from buying a house to doing all the things we wanted to do to build our life together and have children. It was impossible to do, and that's because California is overtaxed and overregulated. In our opinion, everything was set against people growing and being able to invest in their community. So a while back, we said, 'Where do we want to live, someplace that's going to provide a good economic opportunity for us?' And my suggestion was Yakima; we had spent a lot of time up here. My wife's entire family is here, and I have a lot of family on the west side of the state. And it was probably the smartest decision we've ever made. So I think, how will this benefit the district? I've seen what California does, and I want to make sure that we don't do that in Washington.

Bentley: I grew up in different states, and I had moved around a lot growing up, so I was looking for that place to put down my roots as well and call home, and I found an amazing community in White Salmon. After I lived there for a while, I expanded my community organizing countywide. It's almost three years. There were a lot of places in Portland for us, but we wanted to be out here but didn't know if there were jobs out here. My husband's a mechanical engineer. We didn't know about Insitu and some of the drone aerospace work out here, so we stopped there and said, 'OK, let's try to save money so we can move out to our dream place.' We'd traveled in Australia, Southeast Asia, and before that we were in Seattle for almost a decade where he was working at Boeing and I was working in the legal field. We were looking for that more rural area to call home. And as I said, I've been getting to know the county. I had a non-profit that was county wide where again I met all the officials and community members. But as soon as I started my campaign, I've been learning about the district, and I've been preparing to start work on day one. I've put more than 18,000 miles on my car. I've knocked personally on at least 2,000 doors, let alone my volunteers. I've used this whole year, because I started in late February, to be ready to hear from the people directly about what the issues that are affecting them and their cities and their county and their state. I can represent them on day one, and again it's that civic engagement.

GS: Would you summarize the key issues you feel are facing this district?

Bentley: The three issues that I hear at the doors and talking to people are education, housing, and health care. Specific to Klickitat County, education and housing can go hand in hand in a way because I'm in the White Salmon school district, and they have hired teachers who have turned down the job because they couldn't find an affordable place to live. [Klickitat] County was one of two counties last year to almost not find a health care insurance company. That's devastating to me, and to the people of this county. I would love to see more community-based solutions. [In regard to] mental health, we can add more resources into these prevention opportunities so we don't have problems later down the line for education. There are some fixes to McCleary that need to occur. The Legislature had years to do this. They waited till the last minute, and the fix was not a fix, and we have seen divisions between teachers and school districts. I want to bring people back together, so we can get past the difficult negotiations that the teachers and the school boards are going through, and then [deal with] housing. Look a public private partnership so we can get construction going faster. But of course some areas of the district are hard to deal with, [such as] the National Scenic Area. You need someone who understands the area and also has already developed great relationships with our elected officials.

Corry: First and foremost I believe McCleary has left a lot of schools in our district behind, and we do need to fix to that. I think that there was a real divide between administrations and teachers, and I think part of that divide was that it was not very well communicated how we were going to be moving forward with this. With the levy swap, the money's changing over from more local to more state. What I would propose is we move back to statewide pay scaling with regionalization and look at capping the percentage of growth. I know teachers were left behind for a number of years, either due to the recession or whatnot. And we want to make sure they're equitable. But as a parent and a person who's been active with our administration trying to focus on making sure our school district for our children is running as efficiently and as well as possible, I know the administration wasn't trying to deny teachers' pay raises; they just wanted to make sure that they weren't having to lay other people off in order to do that. And they also wanted to make sure that down the road those funds would still be there. So we need to provide a path of clarity for them and consistency, and that's non-partisan, not a Republican or Democrat thing. That's just the right thing. The state said we're taking over. We need to figure out how we can do that while giving school boards the ability to to plan and budget for their children. And I think another big issue especially down in this part of the district is forest management. The government has gotten in the way and slowed progress down. We can both protect the environment and work for private industry and the benefit of people by allowing timber-managed timber cutting and replanting; it actually can have a really good negative carbon footprint. I'd love to see the state move towards allowing better use of private lands and public trust lands. And I agree that housing is a big concern. The biggest issue I see when it comes to housing is government involvement. They restrict growth and they add a lot of taxes and fees to building a home. When it comes to housing, on average 20 to 30 percent of the cost of a new home is in taxes and fees that gets passed directly on to the buyer, and it creates another barrier to affordable insurance and affordable housing. I agree with Sasha that we do need to look at multi-family. That's a great affordable way to have people enter the homeownership and to start with their first place. So those are three areas that I would look at.

More of this conversation will run next week.

 

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