In the 48th Legislative District this year, one state House position is scarcely being contested; in the other, the state Democratic Party...

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In the 48th Legislative District this year, one state House position is scarcely being contested; in the other, the state Democratic Party has poured in cash, hoping to grab a seat traditionally held by Republicans.

It’s a situation that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago in the district that covers parts of Bellevue, Redmond and Kirkland. In 2002, Ross Hunter, now running virtually unopposed for re-election, was the first Democrat to win a House seat in the 48th District, according to legislative records.

The Position 2 seat, vacated by Republican-turned-Democrat Rep. Rodney Tom as he runs for the state Senate, is sought by former Kirkland Mayor Deb Eddy, a Democrat, and Bret Olson, a Republican who was an aide to former Congresswoman Jennifer Dunn.

Eddy and Olson both cite transportation and education as priorities, but they have different approaches.

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Olson says he would be a fresh voice in Olympia and that Eddy exhibited a “tax-and-spend” philosophy while in Kirkland city government.

Eddy, who says she held property taxes down as mayor of Kirkland, emphasizes her long political experience on the Kirkland City Council and as executive director of the Suburban Cities Association, where she worked to bring the region’s smaller cities to consensus on a variety of issues.

“It’s experience,” Eddy said. “It’s about being prepared to go to Olympia from a position of knowledge.”

Ross Hunter
State House, 48th District, Position 1

Party: Democrat

Personal: 45, married, two children

Education: Bachelor’s degree in computer science, Yale University

Experience: State representative; trustee, Bellevue Schools Foundation; board member, Hopelink; retired Cubmaster; former manager for Microsoft

Web site:

Deb Eddy
State House, 48th District, Position 2

Party: Democrat

Personal: 56, married, three children, two grandchildren

Education: Bachelor’s degree in journalism, West Virginia University; law degree, University of North Carolina

Experience: Former mayor of Kirkland; former executive director, Suburban Cities Association; founding board member, Eastside Domestic Violence Program; former board member, Municipal League; former senior fellow, Cascadia Center for Regional Transportation; policy consultant

Web site:

Bret Olson
State House, 48th District, Position 2

Party: Republican

Personal: 30, married, one son

Education: Bachelor’s degree in communications, Seattle Pacific University

Experience: Former aide to U.S. Rep. Jennifer Dunn; former food-bank volunteer supervisor; real-estate agent with Wallace Properties

Web site:

When money is spent to improve education, Eddy said, it should be combined with reforms such as performance-based pay incentives for teachers. To get more funds to education, she would also work to control health-care costs, citing Massachusetts’ new health-care initiative as a law that has “raised the bar” on states hoping to change health care.

“We have to use the same kind of creativity and courage” to lower health-care costs, Eddy said.

She supports cutting the 60 percent supermajority needed to raise school levies to a simple majority. Olson would keep the supermajority in place but remove the lids that limit the levy amounts, a change he said would give school districts more local control.

That would allow districts to raise more money, which could be used to increase teacher pay in areas with a high cost of living, Olson said.

“Localizing the control of revenue cuts out middlemen,” he said. “The bureaucracy in Olympia needs to be shrunk and have more of that money go to the schools themselves. If people are willing to invest in their children, the Legislature shouldn’t prevent them from doing that at the local level.”

Olson, who emphasized his hometown roots as someone born and raised on the Eastside, wants to improve Washington’s business climate by cutting taxes and state mandates on health-care plans.

The state places too many requirements on health-care providers, reducing choice for consumers, Olson said. He cited the business-and-occupation tax as one that is too burdensome for small businesses, and he wants to consider an exemption for businesses with low revenue.

Both candidates agree that paying to rebuild the 520 bridge, with six lanes and room for future transit, is a top priority.

Eddy argues that the Puget Sound transportation system is too fragmented and needs to be organized regionally.

A Realtors political committee has independently spent more than $28,000 on mailings for Olson’s campaign, and the candidate has raised almost $80,000 himself. Eddy has raised just over $126,000, including more than $60,000 from state and local Democratic committees.

Olson supports I-920, the estate-tax repeal, and I-933, the property-rights initiative. Eddy opposes I-933 and is undecided on the estate-tax repeal. Both candidates oppose I-937, which would mandate utilities to use more renewable energy.

In Position 1, Hunter is running for re-election against Republican Nancy Potts, who is not actively campaigning, though her name will be on the ballot. Potts, who did not return phone calls requesting an interview, is sitting out the campaign for personal reasons, said Ross Marzolf, executive director of the King County Republican Party.

In his two terms in office, Hunter has immersed himself in education-funding policy. He sponsored a bill to raise levy lids in school districts throughout the state but says that’s only part of the solution. The state must fund basic education more completely, Hunter asserts, including benefits such as all-day kindergarten — which some districts already have but must use local levies to support.

He hopes to increase the education budget incrementally, with automatic increases for inflation.

In transportation, Hunter points to a 9.5-cent gas-tax increase the Legislature passed that funds several projects in the 48th District, including lane additions to I-405.

Joe Mullin: 206-464-2761 or

Seattle Times researcher Gene Balk contributed to this report.

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