As the general election draws near, Gig Harbor resident Larry Seaquist is preparing his campaign for state representative for the 26th Legislative District, Position 1. Seaquist brings with him experience in the state House, having won election four consecutive times starting in 2006. After being narrowly defeated by Michelle Caldier in 2014, Seaquist is returning to politics.
Seaquist once called himself a Democrat, but now identifies himself as an Independent Democrat.
“The parties, including the Democrats, have not been aggressively pursuing a positive agenda,” he said. “So that’s what I’m signaling to the voters and to the Legislature: that I’m coming down there, if I can win this election, to kind of rethink where we’re going.”
Although he has been a part of the Washington state political process for nearly a decade, most of Seaquist’s professional experience comes from his career in the U.S. Navy (where he rose to captain of the USS Iowa) and his subsequent positions in the Pentagon.
After retiring to Gig Harbor to pursue writing, Seaquist became involved in Derek Kilmer’s campaign for U.S. representative. When he was asked by local Democrats to consider running for state representative, Seaquist initially refused.
“They kept asking, I kept thinking about it, and finally decided it was interesting,” he said. “I’m glad I did it, because being in the Legislature is the most interesting thing I’ve ever done.”
Seaquist originally ran for the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction this election cycle, and that is reflected in his heavily education-focused platform. One major element is the complex McCleary Decision, a 2012 state Supreme Court ruling that ordered the Legislature to change the way the state funds education.
“The Legislature, since 2012, has been supposed to be doing what they were told to do,” Seaquist said. “But they haven’t been doing it, so the court has been getting more and more unhappy … they found the state in contempt, and are fining us $100,000 a day.”
Seaquist has developed a plan to fulfill the court’s order and fund education. “It’s the only plan in the state,” he said. “I’m the only political figure or candidate who has actually worked through it.”
In other issues of policy, Seaquist also favors general reform in the state education system to increase teacher retention, improve family interaction with the public school system and “liberate learning” through the removal of unfunded state mandates and what he called “intrusive statutes.” Other priorities include expanding education and treatment for mental health issues, dealing with environmental issues in Puget Sound, and keeping tolls on ferries and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge low.
“My view is that we have to redo the deal on the [Narrows] bridge. Wherever there is infrastructure, we are paying for it, as well as for our own bridge. That’s not fair. If we were paying a fair share, our tolls would be much lower.” Seaquist also favors developing local transportation infrastructure, such as bus systems.
In addition to his policies and priorities, Seaquist emphasizes the value of cooperation, agreement and positive interactions in politics. “I’ve always tried to have bipartisan bills. If it wasn’t going to be bipartisan, it wasn’t going to work,” he said.
“We’ve got to have functional politics, where people actually work together,” Seaquist said. “That’s my number one; it’s not education or mental health, or bridge tolls, but the quality of our politics.”