Shift’s Newsmaker interview is with Greg Cheney, a GOP Washington State House of Representatives candidate in the 18th Legislative District (Clark County). The Battle Ground small business owner and attorney won a hotly contested primary race between three Republican candidates to face a Democrat opponent in next month’s general election. It is an open seat following the retirement of Republican Representative Larry Hoff. Cheney is a Clark County native and he and his wife are the proud parents of two elementary school age boys.
In his interview Cheney discusses how the state can reduce crime by “recriminalizing” drugs and allowing the police to pursue suspected criminals. As a local planning commission member, Cheney describes how state’s liberal energy policies are increasing the cost of new homes and making them unaffordable for first-time buyers. He believes the state should help seniors stay in their home during retirement by freezing their property taxes. Cheney has been active in helping those with mental health challenges and believes early intervention is key to helping students struggling after the pandemic. Finally, he gives one of the best presidential biographies ever written as his favorite book.
First, tell us about yourself and why you have chosen to run for the Washington State House of Representatives.
I was born and raised in Mt. Vista area. For the last 10 years, I have lived in Battle Ground with my family. As an attorney and small business owner, I have seen first-hand how our state regulations hurt small business and unnecessarily raise the cost of raising a family here. For the past few years I have served on both the Battle Ground Planning Commission and as a NAMI Southwest Washington board member. As someone who works regularly with the mentally ill and people suffering addiction in the court system, I bring a unique insight into the challenge of breaking the cycle between homelessness and crime.
Crime remains a major concern for many Washington State residents. If elected, what will be your priorities to make communities safer?
1) Recriminalize Drugs. It is critical that we do this so that we can bring those struggling with addiction into the court system and hold them accountable while also providing new funding to treat the underlying drug and mental illness issues. Right now, if a juvenile is caught with alcohol it is a crime but if they are caught with fentanyl, methamphetamine and other hard drugs, they are warned and released. Parents have a limited ability to get their kids into drug treatment. It’s important to note – recriminalizing drugs can come without leaving long-term blemishes on people’s records. Requiring drug treatment for drug possession is the key.
2) Re-allow police to conduct pursuant and reasonable suspicion stops. This is critical to allow police to stop crime when they see it occurring. This matters because the inability to stop means we recover fewer stolen vehicles, fail to arrest people with outstanding warrants, and we miss the opportunity to stop human and drug trafficking.
Housing cost continue to climb making buying a new home unaffordable for many first time buyers. What can the legislature do to make housing more affordable?
The legislature must allow for unused agriculturally-zoned lands to be redesignated for another purpose when it is no longer economically viable to farm those plots. By increasing the availability of land for homes, prices should stabilize. In addition, the State should not pass rules that cause cheaper energy alternatives in the home, such as natural gas, to require more expensive alternatives such as solar panels, as each change causes prices to rise.
You have spoken about wasteful government spending during the campaign. Why is this an important topic and what can the legislature do to make government more efficient?
Government should have robust audit processes with better metrics to measure which government programs are effectively and financially performing as they are intended. We also need to make sure that our tax dollars are reaching front line services without being churned through bureaucratic systems. The best way to ensure that government is spending money wisely is to return as much as possible to the taxpayers and only use what is necessary for state government to run.
You have two elementary school children. What should the state do to improve education for Washington students?
We must make sure our schools have adequate resources to make sure children are thriving in school. In addition, our schools should focus on mathematics and foreign language skills as they are key to our economic success moving forward. I would create additional opportunities for high-school students to learn on the job skills while in high-school to be able to enter into highly paid and skilled jobs immediately upon graduation. Lastly, our kids are struggling in a post-COVID-19 education environment. Early mental health intervention is key for many students, and I would support parents and the health care system to better serve these kids.
It seems like taxes are being raised on Washington citizens at all levels of government. Would you support tax relief from the state? If so, what specific taxes would you like to see cut, suspended, or eliminated?
At time of record Washington budget windfalls, we should return as much to the taxpayers as possible, including relief from gas taxes, reforming B&O taxes so startup business can thrive, and lowering use fees. In addition, I would freeze property taxes for seniors so they can retire comfortably at home. And I would oppose an income tax.
What is your favorite book? Why?
Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin. As a lawyer and a historian (having an M.A. in U.S. History), I am fascinated by President Lincoln’s approach to leadership and his ability to move a disparate team forward together even on complex issues.
To learn more about Greg Cheney and his campaign, please visit his campaign website.