Manweller, Selmann face off

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Republican state representative candidate Matt Manweller speaks to the audience at Monday’s candidates’ forum in Moses Lake as Grant County Commissioner Carolann Swartz looks on.

MOSES LAKE - For the most part, Matt Manweller and Kaj Selmann agree on the major issues facing the 13th district and the state legislature.

How they approach them, however, is where the two legislative candidates differ.

Which is probably not surprising since Manweller is running as a Republican and Selmann as a Democrat.

The two men took the stage together for the first time Monday night in Moses Lake at a candidates' forum hosted by the Moses Lake Chamber of Commerce, the Moses Lake Business Association and the Columbia Basin Herald.

When moderator and Moses Lake Mayor Bill Ecret asked them what each views as the top three concerns facing the state, both mentioned water supply and infrastructure. Manweller also cited the need to regulate unelected civil servants while Selmann listed the need to expand basic education in the area.

"I firmly believe that Washington state has creative, hard-working people that are entrepreneurial," Manweller said. "Yet we still have double digit unemployment."

The Central Washington University professor said the state Departments of Ecology, Labor and Industries, Fish and Wildlife and Health, all ran by unelected officials, are the top four job-killers in the state.

"They impose on small business owners so much encumbersome regulations and taxes and rules that it's become a disincentive to actually hire people," he said.

When Ecret posed a question from the audience asking what could be done to make state agencies more business-friendly, Manweller said that, if elected, he would like to join committees that have oversight of these departments.

"They write more laws than we do," he said. "I want to introduce a law that says when the unelected bureaucracy ... introduce a new rule, that rule does not go into effect until the legislature comes back into session the following January. And the only rules that go into effect are the ones that we ratify. Let's put the power back into the peoples' hands rather than a group of unelected civil servants."

Selmann took a different view to making agencies more business-friendly: namely to work from the inside out.

"The basis for political support for these agencies is the Democratic side of the aisle," he said. "To stand from the outside and think that you're going to somehow be able to have enough political support to actually make any change by belittling and calling people names isn't going to make any change. All it's going to do is create further divisiveness."

The Moses Lake developer also said he would start by being a bit more friendly with such agencies.

"If you kick a dog for five years, and then you want it to go play fetch with you, it doesn't want to play fetch with you," he said. "That's really what it comes down to."

The Democrat also stressed the importance of education reform in the region, namely to work with high school and colleges in the area to prepare students for local industrial jobs.

Manweller agreed that it's best for the local economy to keep workers local and lure in other potential businesses.

The two will meet at 11:30 a.m. Thursday at Big Bend Community College for a full-fledged debate. Ecret will emcee while college President Terry Leas will moderate.

Democratic state representative candidate Kaj Selmann speaks during Monday's candidates' forum in Moses Lake.

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