“Entering politics was never on my list of things I needed to do,” said Randy Spitzer, the Democratic candidate running for state representative for the 26th Legislative District now held by incumbent Michelle Caldier (R).
“But I was asked to serve and, though it may sound corny, I have been a longtime member of the Rotary Club and I believe in their core value of service above self.”
Spitzer grew up in Bremerton and now lives in Port Orchard, where he and his wife raised their children. He has ties to the Key Peninsula: His wife Laurie, who has taught for decades, spent her first years as a teacher at Evergreen and Vaughn elementary schools.
Spitzer himself taught high school for nine years and later worked as a CPA and business consultant before starting his own company. He has been a member of the Gig Harbor and Bremerton Chambers of Commerce, the Gig Harbor Rotary Club and the East Bremerton Kiwanis.
He firmly believes that going door-to-door has been the best way to get to know his community better. “I have knocked on thousands of doors, including on the peninsula, and for almost everyone I am the first candidate who has done so,” he said. “If I am not the first, then it was Derek Kilmer who came before me. I attend events, too, but it’s hard to really discuss issues there.”
Spitzer said the main issues for the state are funding education and tax reform, though transportation, mental health and environmental protection are close behind. And he sees these as being important concerns for the Key Peninsula as well.
Schools must be adequately funded, and while transparency and accountability are good buzzwords, he said there really is little fat in school budgets and that insisting there is a lot of waste is an excuse for inadequate funding. He thinks some savings could be found by reviewing the high stakes testing. Testing has been expensive and has not brought the improvement in academic performance or decrease in dropout rates it promised.
Spitzer also acknowledged that fully funding education without bringing in more income could have a serious impact on other important needs, including mental health and transportation. That’s where tax reform comes in. Spitzer said Washington state has one of the most regressive tax systems in the country—low-income residents pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes than wealthy residents. He does not think an income tax is feasible; that would require an unlikely change in the state constitution. But he thinks it is possible to decrease the sales tax, make changes in the business and occupation tax to benefit small businesses, eliminate outdated exemptions and renegotiate exemptions with companies like Boeing. In addition, he’d like to add a capital gains tax for high earners.
Spitzer said his background as a teacher, as a small-business owner and consultant would stand him in good stead dealing with gridlock in the legislature. He said the intransigence seen in Washington, D.C., is not the story of Washington state.
“I am not an inflexible political ideologue,” he said. “I think that politics is the art of the possible and that it does require compromise. Legislators are problem solvers, and it starts with listening. We shouldn’t be involved in a war of messages. My style is to be a part of a learning conversation. As I have gotten older, I try not to judge when I see positions I don’t agree with, but to try to understand why people have taken those positions, and to seek partners who can move the conversation forward.”