Politically active for most of his life, middle school science teacher Joel McEntire is running for office for the first time, trying to unseat a 16-year incumbent.
The Republican candidate for a state House seat representing the 19th District was in Iraq during the three-way primary election, serving his second tour as a Marine reservist. He was just promoted to staff sergeant. A husband and father of three, he believes less government is best and that bureaucrats have regulated the state and district out of prosperity.
McEntire, who lives in Cathlamet, believes he can provide a better voice for the voters because he has no ties to the political environment in Olympia. He’s challenging Brian Blake, a Democrat from Aberdeen.
“I have no special interest ties in Olympia,” he said. Of Blake, he said, “His boss is Frank Chopp, so if he says vote this way Blake says OK. I get complaints from the district that he is voting for his party, not for them.”
He points to the companies and organizations that are funding Blake’s campaign, including businesses from outside the district. Blake has raised more than $100,000 for his campaign, McEntire less than $10,000, most from the Cowlitz County Republican Party; the remainder comes from individuals for $250 or less.
When it comes to infrastructure, McEntire believes it’s up to municipalities to fund projects that benefit them locally.
“If it is a statewide initiative, if it has benefits that are statewide,” the state could fund a project, but “it’s unfair to request money for Grays Harbor County if others are left out. If the state has an idea for infrastructure, I’m all ears, but I believe in autonomy.”
It’s the bureaucracy and miles of red tape that is stalling most infrastructure projects, said McEntire.
“The hoops you have to go through, the years of waiting and doing experiments and studies,” he said. “It’s not that regulations are inherently bad, but bureaucrats think if they are not making new rules they’re not doing their job. I think we would flourish if some regulations would come off the books.”
Bureaucracy is also making things difficult for businesses that would otherwise be attracted to the Grays Harbor for its deep water ports, rail access and a highway that runs straight through the county to the coast.
McEntire said while doorbelling for his campaign he’s hearing a lot of concern about the oyster farms in the region. The recent decision by the Department of Ecology to ban a pesticide used to control burrowing shrimp is further putting the squeeze on producers, and options need to be found to keep one of the nation’s leading producers of oysters afloat.
McEntire says he is running for office because he feels it’s important for voters to have a choice and he feels he could lend a local voice to the legislative debate. Grays Harbor County, long a Democrat-leaning population, was carried by Donald Trump two years ago, but McEntire doesn’t believe that will be a factor in the 19th District race.
“I don’t think much about it,” he said. “He won the 19th, but I don’t know if people have changed their minds” since the election. “This is a blue collar union working men and women district. People have been told here they had to vote Democrat all these years, and they see society crumbling around them and suddenly you have to say, this isn’t working. I’m asking people to consider other avenues. You don’t have to vote a certain way because your parents voted that way.”
When it comes to health care, McEntire believes a wider selection of insurance choices would improve the quality and availability of quality care, but the overlapping of state, local and federal interests make a fix difficult.
“Lowering costs and increasing care, trying to fix it is tough,” he said. “I do like the idea of having insurance at different levels. I’d like a smorgasbord of plans, like you have with car insurance.” As it stands, “you’ve got 65-year-old men with plans where they’re paying for birth control. I’d like to see plans that cater to individual needs.”
McEntire believes his voice is best suited to represent the 19th.
“I’m happy to have the opportunity. I don’t have all the answers, I have a lot to learn, but if I say I’m going to do something I do it,” he said. “I listen and will make sure the district’s voices are heard on the floor, not Seattle voices.”