For Mike Chapman, bringing more jobs to rural Washington’s 24th district, and improving the rural economy is still his “number one issue.”
Chapman, a Democrat who lives in Port Angeles, is running for a second term as a representative of the 24th District in the state House. In previous work, Chapman has spent 10 years as a law enforcement officer, and 16 years as a Clallam County commissioner.
The 24th District includes Hoquiam and much of Grays Harbor, stretching north to include all of Clallam and Jefferson counties.
Chapman has worked to stake out a position as “the rural jobs guy” in the Legislature, he said. One accomplishment he’s proud of is sponsoring and passing legislation that offers scholarships to rural Washingtonians who are looking to attend community colleges for job preparation.
“Basically, Microsoft, Facebook and Google have been doing this in the I-5 corridor for their high-tech workers, and I thought ‘Let’s do something similar for rural communities,’” said Chapman.
House Bill 2177, which became effective in June, allows private companies to contact community colleges through the state and provide money that can be set aside for students interested in the school’s job training courses for the company’s field, Chapman said.
Another way he hopes to employ more people around the Olympic Peninsula is to lower the manufacturing tax rate for rural businesses, “especially in the natural resources products industry.”
“If we can lower that tax rate, we have the land out here, and we have capacity,” said Chapman. “If we can inspire manufacturers to move here, those manufacturing jobs are family-wage jobs, often with good benefits, the kind of jobs we want in this community.”
Chapman also voted to approve a property tax cut earlier this year.
When asked about Initiative 1631, a statewide carbon tax, Chapman said he’s not sure he supports it yet. While he said changes need to be made to resist climate change, he’s concerned that the carbon tax would hurt rural and working families.
“My main concern is it’s going to be another regressive tax to hurt the rural poor,” Chapman said. “Obviously, climate change is real and we need policies to help combat climate change, I’m just not a big fan of continuing to tax the working class families.”
Although he’s a gun owner himself and says he’s “staunchly” pro-2nd Amendment, Chapman told The Daily World on Tuesday he supports Initiative 1639 — a gun control measure for the state. Chapman co-sponsored a separate bill to raise the age requirement to purchase assault rifles from 18 to 21, and said he supports “commonsense” storage requirements of firearms. Both of those measures are included in Initiative 1639.
“I think people who own firearms, like myself, have the responsibility to safely store those firearms and not let them fall into criminal hands,” said Chapman.
At the Ocean Shores candidate forum last week, Chapman touted his bi-partisan track record, saying he has sponsored 15 bi-partisan bills so far, and that eight of them have become law. As a Clallam County Commissioner, Chapman served two terms as a Republican, and two more as an Independent before running for the Legislature as a Democrat.
“I am making my career in a bi-partisan manner, and am working across the aisle,” he said.
In order to get urban-area lawmakers more in touch with the needs of rural Washington residents, Chapman organized for a group of legislators from Seattle to visit both Aberdeen and Port Angeles, where they met with community leaders and listened to what local issues they were having with jobs, affordable housing, healthcare and more.
“(The legislators) sat for a whole day listening to community leaders from Aberdeen and Port Angeles advocate and explain,” said Chapman. “They did not talk back or say, ‘We’re from the I-5 corridor and we know all the answers.’ They listened, it was the leadership of the House, and I think it was a powerful moment for community leaders to have a chance to advocate on behalf of Grays Harbor and Clallam counties.”
Chapman points out that he was part of the effort by legislators in the 19th and 24th districts to get the state to increase the share of Medicaid reimbursement to Grays Harbor Community Hospital at a time when it looked like the hospital could go under financially.
One project Chapman said he’s proud of is securing $32 million to replace the Elwha River Bridge, which he said was important because timber harvested on Grays Harbor often goes to the mills on the northern side of the peninsula, or vice-versa.
Another basic reason Chapman said he’s running is that he feels a connection to the 24th District after living here for many years. Chapman has raised his two sons in the area, and has a wife who owns a small local business.
“I’m rooted in the district, and I have a track record for working hard for this area.”