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Pam Roach and her challenger share a party and a distaste for one another

Primary preview: Rep. Cathy Dahlquist is trying to unseat the longest serving member of the state Senate.
Pam Roach

Pam Roach John Stang

The 31st Legislative District. (Click to enlarge.)

The 31st Legislative District. (Click to enlarge.) Wikipedia

Rep. Cathy Dahlquist

Rep. Cathy Dahlquist John Stang

Let's acknowledge the elephant in the room: Pam Roach and Cathy Dahlquist really don't like each other.

"She is very narcissistic," Roach said of Dahlquist. Dahlquist says, "She threatens. She bullies people." 

Both are outspoken conservative Republicans. But a good way to tell them apart is 31st District Rep. Chris Hurst, a conservative Democrat from Enumclaw.

Dahlquist, a GOP state representative also from Enumclaw, may disagree with Hurst on many issues, but the two get along and frequently cooperate in the Legislature. Hurst is supporting Dahlquist's bid to unseat Roach, who has been the 31st District's state senator since 1990. Meanwhile, Roach portrays Dahlquist's friendship with Hurst as a sign that Dahlquist's conservative credentials are shaky.

The 31st District stretches east from Auburn into the Cascade Mountains. The Aug. 5 primary and November's final elections are essentially the 31st District's voters' referendum on Roach.

Do they think of Roach as a feisty independent? Or is she an out-of-control, loose cannon?

Years ago, Roach feuded with then-Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, to the extent they despised each other. The Republican caucus expelled her in 2010 because she had verbally abused Senate staff members. That sanction included losing her privileges in working directly with Senate staff members. But in December 2012, Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, and 23 Republicans combined forces to take over the 49-member Senate. They needed Roach as the 25th vote to take control from Democrats. So they appointed Roach as chairwoman of the Senate Government Operations Committee and welcomed her back to the Republican caucus, which essentially became the Majority Coalition Caucus.

Roach's combative personality and track record of sparking internal strife are major reasons why Dahlquist is running against her. Dahlquist preaches cooperating with Democrats sometimes in order to get things done. Roach preaches sticking to the hard right, come hell or high water.

Their battle has so much taken center stage in the 31st Senate race that two obscure, token Democratic candidates are seen as pawns in the top-two primary fight between Roach and Dahlquist. Democratic unknown Lane Walthers signed up as a 31st District senate candidate, and then withdrew right after the filing period closed in May.

Roach has accused Hurst and Walther of using his potential candidacy as an aborted ploy to draw votes from her. Both denied that charge. Lynda Messner of Bonney Lake is running in the primary as a Democrat despite her strong feelings that Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton are leftist scourges. Hurst and Dahlquist believe Messner is a Roach ploy to draw Democrats away from voting for Dahlquist and eliminate Dahlquist from the November ballot with a third-place finish on Aug. 5. Messner and Roach have denied that charge.

The Messner-as-vote-siphoner dispute is still alive, however.

In an email late last week, Hurst wrote: "Jim Roach, Pam’s husband, was seen last Saturday morning with a truckload of Messner and Roach signs and was watched putting up Messner and then Roach signs. That should pretty much clear up the Messner-Roach connection.  Messner, who has reported no campaign income, not a single dollar, now has hundreds of campaign signs out, put up by Roach."

Roach responded to the allegation on Sunday: "My husband had nothing to do with putting up signs for Messner."

A recent check of Washington Public Disclosure Commission records showed Messner with no campaign donations. Meanwhile, Roach had raised $111,570, and Dahlquist had collected $51,207, according to the PDC.

Dahlquist, 53, is co-owner of an architectural company and a former school board member. The 31st District elected her to the House with 53 percent of the votes in 2010 and with 63 percent in 2012. She is a minority caucus member of the House Rules Committee, which controls the flow of bills on the House floor, and the House Technology and Economic Development Committee.


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