As part of 47th Legislative District Week, today we meet Mark Hargrove, who is running for a second time against Rep. Geoff Simpson (D-Covington,) who is in the news again for domestic violence. Hargrove lost by less than 3,000 votes to Simpson in 2008.
Hargrove is an Air Force Academy graduate and veteran Air Force pilot. He has lived in the Covington area for the last 21 years. Mark currently works for Boeing as an instructor pilot, teaching from around the world how to fly their new 777's and 747's.
TF: My first question is what inspired you to run for the State House this year?
Mark Hargrove: I ran for this same seat in 2008, and all of my reasons for choosing to run then apply to my decision to run this year. The incumbent is woefully out of step with the vast majority of my neighbors. For example, when Legislature voted to reinstate I-747 (which limited property tax increases to one percent per year), only eight Representatives voted nay. Six of them were the most liberal Seattle Democrats; another was my opponent. Kent, Covington, Auburn, and Black Diamond may not be as conservative as parts of Eastern Washington, but there is no way this district is anywhere close to as liberal as Seattle. Seeing how poorly we were being represented in Olympia, and realizing that nobody else was going to step up and run, I decided to jump in.
Unfortunately, my campaign in 2008 came up just short, so we are just as poorly represented in Olympia now as we have been for the past 10 years. Thus, the failures of our current elected leaders remain a primary inspiration for my race this year. But now, an additional motivation is finishing the fight I began. The incumbent I challenged has unions and tribes in his back pocket and his retributive style scares away many others from supporting his opponents. By the end of our 2008 race, he had spent eight times as much as I had. Despite this, and the fact that I ran at the height of “Obama Mania,” I still received 47.5 percent of the vote. Hence, “finishing what I started” has been a special inspiration for my race this year.
TF: Give me three of the top issues that you are running on this year.
Mark Hargrove: I believe the most important issues of the moment are all related to the economy—cutting spending, cutting taxes, and creating jobs. That’s not to say our education system doesn’t need reforming, or public safety is not important to me, or traffic congestion doesn’t need to be relieved. But the state unemployment rate is over nine percent and rising, the state budget has increased 72 percent on my opponents watch, and just last session the incumbent voted to increase taxes on bottled water, candy, pop, beer, and, most harmful of all, small businesses. Therefore, it is imperative that we get legislators in Olympia who will reign in spending, stop raising taxes, and create permanent, well-paying, private sector jobs.
TF: Contrast yourself with your opponent, Geoff Simpson.
Mark Hargrove: I’ve hinted at some of the contrasts already. He voted against limiting property taxes, he voted to suspend I-960 (thereby making it easier for him to conceal all of his other votes to raise taxes), and this year voted to approve all but one tax package presented to the Legislature. On the other hand, I am the only candidate in the race to sign the “Taxpayer Protection Pledge,” promising never to vote to raise taxes.
As I also mentioned before, the state budget has increased 72 percent while my opponent has been in the Legislature. I would approach the state budget like a family approaches its budget. Families can’t spend money first, then worry about where that money will come from later. But that’s exactly how the Legislature, including my opponent, has treated the state budget, and that needs to be changed.
Another difference that can’t be overlooked is our respective attitudes toward Boeing. Boeing is by far the largest employer in the 47th district, and many more individuals work for subcontractors dependent upon Boeing contracts. You don’t have to be a Boeing employee, like I am, to recognize what a crucial role the company plays in the local economy. Keeping those jobs in-state is a paramount concern. But my opponent takes a very combative stance toward Boeing, practically daring them to move elsewhere. That approach is quite dangerous, and it’s not one I would take in the Legislature.
We also have radically different personalities. There are plenty of accounts of my opponent reacting angrily to constituents he disagrees with. Just in his last term, he has sent emails taunting a woman for her Christian beliefs and using an obscene term to refer to the “Tea Party.” I’m far from perfect but I try to live my life with integrity. I’ve been married to my wife for 31 years, I’m active in my church, and I spend every free moment with my family (who are thankfully my biggest supporters).
TF: Speaking of your district, the 47th Legislative District is considered a swing district. What are you hearing from voters out there? Obviously you’ve been out there doorbelling and talking to folks. What are you hearing from them? What are they concerned about this year?
Mark Hargrove: I’ve heard an incredible number of thoughts, ideas, and complaints on doorsteps this year. Of course that’s bound to happen when you doorbell over 9,000 houses personally, as I have. But certainly the most common issue brought up pertains to the economy. Seemingly everybody knows someone who has lost their job recently, and everybody is affected when the Legislature raises taxes. That’s why my top issues this year are creating jobs, cutting taxes, and, so we don’t run a deficit, cutting spending.
TF: One last question. Can you tell me about the 2008 campaign and how is this year's campaign going?
Mark Hargrove: As I talked about earlier, I came remarkably close to winning in 2008. My opponent raised more money than nearly every other candidate in the state, he sent out a dozen glossy mailers to the whole district, and advertised on television. I had no TV ads and sent only three mail pieces, but that year I personally doorbelled 6,500 houses and had an army of volunteers doorbell another 5,000 on my behalf. This grassroots effort helped me get 47.5 percent of the vote against a four-term incumbent running in a huge Democrat year.
Comparing this race to the last, my campaign is in even better shape. I have already visited 9,000 houses myself, far surpassing my 2008 totals. My campaign has also been running ads on cable TV since the spring. And thankfully for Republicans, this is shaping up to be a better cycle overall than 2006 and 2008. Most importantly, having been so close to winning two years ago, I am excited, energized, motivated, and looking forward to winning in November.
I will catch up with Mark at tomorrow's Kent Cornucopia Days parade and hopefully get some comments from him and his supporters.
The voters of the 47th LD have two excellent alternatives to ultra-leftist Geoff Simpson in Nancy Wyatt and Mark Hargrove!