The primary election on Aug. 4 is approaching and four candidates are vying for votes for State Representative position 1 in Washington’s the 20th District. There are two candidates competing for the position 2 seat.
The candidates running for the State Representative position 1 in the 20th District are Peter Abbarno, Brian Lange, Timothy Zahn and Kurtis Engle. The position is currently held by Rep. Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis who announced that he will be retiring at the end of his term and will not be running for reelection.
Peter Abbarno, R-Centralia
Peter Abbarno, a Republican, lives in Centralia and currently serves as Mayor pro-tem for the City of Centralia. He is also a small-business owner and attorney at Althauser Rayan Abbarno, LLP.
“I’m running because I want to create an environment that creates more opportunities for our children and future generations,” he said.
Abbarno said that creating a better future for his children was one of the largest influences causing him to enter the world of politics.
He said that a few of his top priorities for the coming years in the 20th district include economic recovery from the effects of COVID-19, combating poverty and homelessness and further investing in early education.
“We need to incentivize business growth throughout the nation without jeopardizing the gains we’ve made to provide opportunities for working families,” he said. “We need to invest in programs that actually provide results in lifting people out of poverty and addressing issues such as substance abuse and mental illness on a community-based level.”
Abbarno said that the most successful communities are those that offer quality education at an early age — providing children with a strong foundation for learning as well as allowing working families to send their kids to early learning programs during the day.
“If we are truly going to lift people out of poverty and provide the greatest opportunities for success in life — we need to be preparing our children for life-long learning and that starts before age 5,” he said.
Abbarno said that his experience as a small business owner, attorney, and mayor pro-tem, as well as the time he has spent volunteering for various causes and serving on various boards such as the Centralia College Foundation and Lewis Economic Development Council, has prepared him for the role as a state representative.
“What drives me is my family and my kids, and by extension, all my neighbors and their kids who are feeling the same pressure to improve our community,” he said.
Abbarno said that he believes in building strong families in strong communities and wants his children to have many opportunities in their hometown.
More information about Abbarno and his campaign can be found at electpeterabbarno.com.
Brian Lange, R-Morton
Brian Lange, a Republican, lives in Morton. He says he is retired on disability, and has spent the past six years advocating on behalf of the ABATE of Washington, the largest motorcycle rights organization in the state with over 2,000 members. Lange said that because of this work he has helped get several laws passed and this experience has familiarized him with the process of writing language for bills, getting co-sponsors, and participating in legislative hearings.
Before retirement, Lange worked as a bus driver and a cook for Lewis County Head Start, an early education program.
“I’ve helped work on legislation by writing the language and gathering support — all the way through to testifying in hearings. I’ve done it long enough that I’m comfortable up there and I know a lot of legislators on a first-name basis,” said Lange.
A few of the laws Lange was an advocate for include a “motorcycle anti-profiling law”, meaning cops cannot pull riders over for wearing clothing that depicts organizations that the rider is affiliated with. Lange also advocated for an increased fine for vehicles that follow or pass motorcyclists, or other “vulnerable road users” too closely.
Lange said that when DeBolt announced his retirement on the floor, within a matter of days he had people contacting him and encouraging him to run for the position.
He cited his priorities for the 20th district in the coming years as getting $30 car tabs, working to promote community-based agencies that help the homeless, especially for veterans and families, and reform on foster care programs.
“I’m trying to run this as strictly a grassroots campaign and I’ve been doing that throughout the years. I’ve actually been surprised by the support I’ve gotten all up and down the district. It’s been amazing,” Lange said.
More information on Lange’s campaign can be found at www.facebook.com/BrianLangefor20thDistrict.
Timothy Zahn, D-Toutle
Timothy Zahn, a Democrat, lives in Toutle. He is a student at Central Washington University and is finishing his bachelor’s degree in information technology and administrative management.
Zahn, 25, says he thinks his age is an advantage because it will provide more representation for the young people of the 20th district.
“I decided to run because I got tired of seeing a lack of real progress. I think there are some fairly obvious things that we can do to improve life for a lot of people without any downsides. It frustrates me to see partisan bickering when there are things we can do.”
Zahn said that his priorities have changed slightly in light of the COVID-19 outbreak and said new sources of revenue need to be identified in order to combat the state’s large projected budget shortfall.
“One of my priorities is going to be a wealth tax on people who have more than $100 million in assets. Another would be sustainable rural economic development — I want to build new parks to attract new businesses and money to the area. We need to expand our rural infrastructure, our access to the internet in a lot of places is very poor,” he said.
Zahn said he wants to make sure farmland is protected from being converted into bedroom communities.
“I think as a student, I’ve taken a wide variety of classes and I think that’s a pretty good preparation for the wide variety of policy problems that are going to come up when I’m in the state legislature,” Zahn said.
For more information on Zahn and his campaign to go www.electzahn.com.
Kurtis Engle, No Party-Centralia
Kurtis Engle has not specified a party affiliation and lives in Centralia. He said that he is running in protest of Peter Abbarno and would be “shocked” if he won.
He said that he has had issues with the public transportation system, Twin Transit, brought the issue to current Centralia City Councilor Abbarno, and felt he was ignored.
Engle said the bus route is dangerous because it forces people to jaywalk in certain locations in order to get to the bus stop and crosswalks are needed.
The Chronicle asked Engle why he thinks the problem hasn’t been addressed.
“I’m not one of the extraterrestrials that can read people’s minds. I have to read faces and I think the reason is that this is one of the whitest counties in America and I think some people are especially pleased about that,” he said. “Of course, you will understand that this comes with the thought that colored people can’t hold a job because they’re colored —so they can’t hold a car so they have to use the bus, right? So if we screw up the bus we screw up all the colored people but it doesn’t work that way. There’s no other motive I can think of to sabotage the public utility.”
Engle started the interview off by telling The Chronicle that he was “three beers in” and to “feel free to take advantage of that” — it was 1:30 p.m. on a Monday.
“I wouldn’t want to suggest that I would be a great guy to send to Olympia. What I’m saying is that there are better people to pick than someone who would stand right next to a sabotaged public utility and not notice that it was and I’m talking about Pete (Abbarno) right now,” he said.
Engle does not have a campaign website but can be reached at email@example.com.
William Rollet, D-Castle Rock
As for position 2 of the State Representative of the 20th district, William Rollet, a Democrat who lives in Castle Rock, is running against incumbent Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama. He has a background in commercial trucking, customer service, and hospitality.
“I’m in the salary range of most of the people in the district. I think I’ll be able to use my experience in the working class as a way to promote the working class,” said Rollet. “I think it’s very important that we have equal representation in the district and we haven’t for a very long time had a democratic candidate to offer those views.”
Rollet cited some of his biggest priorities for the 20th district in the coming years as having more accessible healthcare for those living in rural areas, for people of color, smaller communities and LGBTQ individuals as well as addressing some of the firearm-related deaths.
“I understand the need to protect our constitutional rights, however, we seem to have an epidemic of sorts of firearm-related casualties in the state of Washington. Without access to mental healthcare, we’re not really addressing the main issue,” said Rollet. “Approximately 70 percent of the firearm deaths in Washington are suicides so one of the first things I would like to do is address that.”
Rollet said that he would like to get the suicide prevention hotline printed on every box of ammunition in the state.
“I decided to run because as a democrat and as someone who supports a lot of the democratic ideals I feel that we’re an underrepresented population in the district. Our representatives don’t tend to vote very much for healthcare — for access to resources,” he said.
Rollet said he would work to give the voters in the district a much better voice and made sure they are being heard by the people they are electing.
Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama
Ed Orcutt, a Republican from Kalama, is running for reelection for the position 2 seat as the State Representative of the 20th district. This is his 19th year in the legislature.
“Well, you know, I enjoy meeting with constituents, working to solve problems and standing up for their constitutional rights, standing up for the taxpayers and for fairness in our laws. I’ve enjoyed doing that and I just want to continue working on some of these things,” Orcutt said.
“There are some big issues that are going to be facing us in the next two to four years and I just want to continue to use my experience in the legislature to try and address those.”
Orcutt said that after looking at the recent revenue forecast, it’s “not looking good at all”.
He cited his priorities for the 20th district as finding a way to balance the budgets without raising taxes and getting the economy rolling again after the COVID-19 shutdown
“Sometimes you get a concern raised but you don’t have a lot of the details so I try to find out more of the details to try to find out what the problem is that they are having and find out why it’s a problem and what we need to do to solve the problem,” he said.
Orcutt emphasized the need to find a solution to a problem without creating a problem for someone else. He said he tries to work with people across the aisle and find collaborations to best serve the constituents in his district.
One project Orcutt said he is proud of his work on is the Greenwood Cemetery and getting a bill passed that allowed the City of Centralia onto the privately-owned property and abandoned cemetery.
More information about Orcutt’s campaign and his past work as a state representative can be found at edorcutt.houserepublicans.wa.gov.
More information about the upcoming election and how to vote can be found at the Lewis County Elections office website — elections.lewiscountywa.gov.