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A Question of Values: Political candidates respond to question of faith, morals

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Compiled by Neal Schindler and Cassy Benefield

With less than a week’s notice given them, more than a third of Spokane’s federal, state and local candidates responded to a question posed by Spokane Faith & Values.

The question was:

“’What is one principle related to faith and/or ethical or moral values that is particularly important to you in your work as a public servant?’

If they had not previously held public office, the question was reconfigured as follows:

‘What is one principle related to faith and/or ethical or moral values that would be particularly important to you in your work as a public servant?’”

We want to thank those who responded. And we hope you, our readers, are inspired by the responses given.

Federal – Partisan Office 

Susan Hutchison (R)

U.S. Senator

Susan Hutchison

For all of my adult life, the verse from Micah 6:8 has held important meaning to me: For what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, to love mercy and walk humbly with your God.

This verse was at my desk when I was a journalist and also now that I am in politics.  It speaks not only to a call on my life but the dual nature of God as both just and merciful.  We live in this tension between law and grace as we follow him and serve others.  It is also a reminder that as we humble ourselves to Him, we have His presence with us as we face life’s challenges.

  

Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R)

U.S. Representative, District 5
Cathy McMorris Rodgers

For me the most important principle is that every person has value and a God-given purpose. We should be on the side of potential and possibility. In practical terms that means creating opportunity, supporting high quality education, being an advocate for the vulnerable and those with disabilities, and helping grow jobs, because a job is more than a paycheck–it gives dignity and purpose. We must celebrate what every person has to offer, no matter who they are or where they come from.

 

Lisa Brown (D)

U.S. Representative, District 5
Lisa Brown

As someone who was raised Catholic, I was taught to help the community and those most in need through acts of service — a priority I’ve taken with me throughout my time in the legislature, and as a teacher and resident in eastern Washington. I’m running to be an independent voice for eastern Washington, to put their values and priorities first, above any party or special interest.

State – Partisan Office

Jeff Holy (R)

State Senator

The standard we aspire to but often fail to meet: Matthew 22:35: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind . . . (and) a second commandment, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

Jessa Lewis (D)

Jessa Lewis

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.

— Proverbs 31:8-9

I believe that we are only as good as a society as how we look to the weakest, the most vulnerable. What I’m seeing in our current political system is immoral interest in power and wealth that does not serve the common good. We protect the profits of the insurance companies over ensuring that all have care. We strip funding from HUD and give tax breaks to wealthy families with multiple homes. We lock up people in prison instead of helping them to find a living wage job.

It’s because of this disconnect that I am running for office. My faith inspires and keeps me to sacrifice much in order to try to get the vulnerable a seat at the table and to have a platform to fight for the greater good.

Tom Taylor (R)

Legislative District 3, State Representative Position 1

I am opposed to elective abortion. In consideration of this issue, we have to compare two sides of the argument: A) The woman’s side, and B) the unborn baby’s side.

I will explain. In society, conventional morality entails the ability to access pleasure and happiness, immorality being the intentional deprivation of this ability. Therefore, we must weigh both A and B on a moral scale. The result is that human life ultimately weighs much more than the mental/physical discomfort of carrying a child.  While denying a woman the ability to kill her unborn baby is technically immoral because it denies her the ability to control what happens within her body, it is vastly more unethical to kill a human life and all that life entails.

Furthermore, the lack of human development and the subjective interpretation are poor, irrational arguments that do not actually support abortion. If we say that a fetus is not human or a person because it lacks development, the same standard should then be applied to infants, children, the elderly, and those with physical and mental disorders. However, we overwhelmingly disagree with this, so the standard fails. Next, the fact that people view an unborn baby as a “clump of cells” or a “parasite” is nothing but a subjective argument (i.e. opinions), which has no medical or factual basis.

As a first step to addressing the abortion issue, elective surgical procedures must be made unlawful in the near future. Surgical elective abortion is barbaric, gruesome, and unborn babies do feel pain after a certain stage(s) of development. It must be stopped.

Lastly, I was twice elected—and served two terms—as a paid university Senator, where we worked with a budget of around half a million dollars.

Dave Lucas (R)

Legislative District 3, State Representative Position 2

If I was asked to pick just one Virtue that is particularly important in my work as a potential legislator it is Faith. I believe in the Lord and his will, and that belief informs my day to day actions and how I treat everyone and diligently work to achieve the best for all.  Faith also manifests itself in the traditional moral values of honesty, compassion, forgiveness, love, respect for others, and hard work.

Ted Cummings (D)

Legislative District 4, State Representative Position 1

I believe the most important principle is the one of Integrity.  I believe we must return faith and trust back in our elected leaders.  Trust in one another is essential for our society and country to function.

Mary May (D)

Legislative District 4, State Representative Position 2
Mary May

There is a story and teaching that I hold dear to heart, that guides me today just as it has guided me growing up. It is told that, when a potential convert to Judaism approached a very learned teacher, Rabbi Hillel, they tried to trick him by asking that he tell them the entire Torah, all while standing on one foot. Wisely, Hillel summarized as follows, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to others. All the rest is commentary. Now go and learn.” I would venture to say that probably every faith has this as a common tenant—to treat others kindly, justly. What I like is the reminder that everything I do is a reflection of this—from the simple act of how I treat a stranger, to the more complex acts of how I will fight for equity in healthcare, education, labor, infrastructure and earned benefits. The part about “all the rest is commentary” is a reminder to me that we each have different paths and different things on which we will choose to focus. But in the end, if we are all bearing in mind the “golden rule” as it has been called, we are all pulling toward making the world a better place, one action at a time. That is the kind of world I am always hoping to create.

Jenny Graham (R)

Legislative District 6, State Representative Position 2
Jenny Graham

The principle in winning the election is that it’s not about me, it’s through me. Running for office was never my own personal goal. As a mother and private individual, I was compelled by something bigger than me to reform an unfair law in Washington State. The old law denied sexually-assaulted children a fair hand in our justice system by imposing an unfair time limit despite providing iron clad evidence the crime was committed. Fighting that fight was not something that I pursued, it pursued me. God’s message, “the truth matters,” kept coming across in my waking hours, my prayers and in my dreams. It was a calling I could not walk away from no matter how much I tried.

Reforming the law was the equivalent of moving a mountain. It happened against every odd to make right what had been wrong. That job was done and I was free to pursue facing my sister’s murderer for another reason that was also through me. After that task was completed I thought I was all done. LOL … there is no way I could have known that accepting those callings were to prepare me for a larger calling. Lord you lead and I will follow.

Randall (Randy) Michaelis (D)

Legislative District 7, State Representative Position 1
Randy Michaelis

In my campaign materials, I quote Mark 12:31 as being a guide to my political decision-making. We are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. When we can see the “other” as being like “us” then we are able to more clearly understand our own biases and work toward justice in our society.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”—Mark 12:30-31 New International Version (NIV)

Spokane County – Partisan Office

Mary Kuney (R)

Spokane County Commissioner, District 2
Mary Kuney

This is the statement that I said at the appointment process for County Commissioner and is what I truly believe is my faith/value today and always.

My parents taught my siblings and me to pray to God, be kind, be honest and really listen to people.  Those are the values that I live by and bring to the Board of County Commissioners.

Robbi Katherine Anthony (D)

Spokane County Commissioner, District 3
Robbi Anthony

I believe the highest value any public servant can carry is pragmatism. Servant leadership in politics requires one to put the good of everyone before the good of few, making decisions that reject strict partisanship, and being open to how a decision will impact all walks of life. I seek public office not to start a career, not to be loved by one base or another, not to make decisions in favor of one party, rather to bring my intense pragmatism to the Board of Commissioners to help make Spokane County prosperous and equitable for everyone. Without an agenda, pragmatism prevails. Without an agenda, public servants can truly serve the people they represent.

Al French (GOP)

Spokane County Commissioner, District 3

My response is “honesty.”

Tom Konis (R)

Spokane County Assessor

I feel that both as the Assessor and in my personal life the “Golden Rule” is what has lead my life. Matthew 7:12, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.”

I try always to treat people how I would want to be treated. I have tried to place myself in the taxpayers shoes when I am talking with them as an employee of the Assessor’s office, as a husband, father and now grandfather and even as a volleyball official for the last 16 years always trying to do my best as I would want them to.

Tim Fitzgerald (R)

Spokane County Clerk

The one principle most important to me is integrity. This encompasses all our actions, decisions and spoken words. Integrity is an essential part of our character. As a public servant we are expected to maintain the highest possible standards of conduct and work ethic. Integrity means doing the right thing, at the right time, for the right reasons. As a public servant we are expected to perform our duties in an honorable transparent manner. Integrity matters.

Michael A. Kirk (D)

Spokane County Clerk
Michael Kirk

There are two fundamental concepts that drive me. The first is the fundamental dignity, equal and undeniable, of every human being. This principle requires me not only to stand up for others in the moment but also to find and fix the barriers in systems that protect some and hold back others. Second would be the concept of faithfulness. Striving to follow after the faithfulness of God, I do and shall keep my relationship with the residents of Spokane County close to my heart, maintain that bond, and serve the people with love and gratitude. With power and influence come innumerable temptations. A public servant must put in the effort to know the poor and forgotten and serve them long before himself. That’s what I have done throughout my adult life, and I pray for the strength to remain faithful and honor all the people of Spokane County.

Larry Haskell (R)

Spokane County Prosecuting Attorney

I place my integrity and my ethical duties as a prosecutor at a level just as high as my duty to follow and enforce the constitution and the law.  In only that way, can we earn and keep the public trust.

Michael Baumgartner (R)

Spokane County Treasurer
Michael Baumgartner

I really like this question. In fact, I tell young people that “Screwtape” letters is one of my favorite books to ground yourself before entering politics.

Overall, the best guiding philosophy for politics and life is the Golden Rule.

 

David Green (D)

Spokane County Treasurer
David Green

As a member of Rotary Club of Spokane #21, I would use the Rotary Four-Way Test, or elements thereof, in my work as a public servant: (1) Is it the truth? (2) Is it fair to all concerned? (3) Will it build goodwill and better friendships? (4) Will it be beneficial to all concerned? While it may not easily apply to all fact patterns that I might encounter as a public servant, I believe it’s a good starting point.

 

State Judicial – Nonpartisan Office

Steve Gonzalez

Supreme Court Justice, Position 8

The value is honesty. In our work deciding cases, intellectual honesty is critically important. We must be honest with ourselves, with our colleagues and with the public.

Sheryl Gordon McCloud

Supreme Court Justice, Position 9
Sheryl Gordon McCloud

I grew up with the fundamental value of tikkun olam, which is Hebrew for healing the world.  I also grew up with the value of education and debate.  In fact, I was used to very loud (and sometimes emotional debate) about the issues of the day—and there were many of them in the late 1960s and early 1970s as I was coming of age.  Finally, I was raised with the value of religious freedom.  My parents were very aware of the fact that as Jews, they were members of a minority religion, and that their peers had suffered severe persecution for being members of that religion.  As a result, they instilled in us the importance of keeping the government out of our personal decisions about whether and how to express our faith.  I think those values—of healing the world, of education and debate, and of the importance of the separation of church and state—played a role in my decision to become a lawyer, to focus on constitutional and individual rights, and eventually to bring that experience to the State Supreme Court.

Michelle (Shelley) Szambelan

Superior Court Judge, Position 10

As a public servant, I am guided by the principle that everyone who appears before me has inherent worth and deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of wealth, power, color, creed, or any label society affixes to who they are.

Spokane County Judicial – Nonpartisan Office

Patrick T. Johnson

District Court Judge, Position 1

As a Deputy Prosecutor for over 20 years, I am guided by the Rules of Professional Conduct (RPC’s). RPC 3.8 describes the special responsibilities of a prosecutor. Comment #1 advises that a Prosecutor is a “minister of justice” and not simply an advocate. As a prosecutor I have a duty to protect the rights of our community. This community includes victims of crime and also those accused of crime. Our system of justice requires fairness and balance, and I have worked hard in the trenches to seek justice for all.

Randy Arnold Brandt

District Court Judge, Position 1

The Golden Rule, “Treat others as you would wish to be treated … with respect, dignity and honesty.”

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About Neal Schindler

Neal Schindler
A native of Detroit, Neal Schindler has lived in the Pacific Northwest since 2002. He has held staff positions at Seattle Weekly and The Seattle Times and was a freelance writer for Jew-ish.com from 2007 to 2011. Schindler was raised in a Reconstructionist Jewish congregation and is now a member of Spokane's Reform congregation, Emanu-El. He is the director of Spokane Area Jewish Family Services. His interests include movies, Scrabble, and indie rock. He lives with his wife, son, and two cats in West Central Spokane.

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