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Tacoma: Van Dyk challenges Lonergan for 5th District city council seat

Post by Lewis Kamb / The News Tribune on April 17, 2013 at 3:31 pm with No Comments »
April 17, 2013 4:56 pm

A second candidate has emerged to challenge an incumbent in this year’s Tacoma City Council races.

Justin Van Dyke headJustin Van Dyk officially filed his candidate’s registration with the state on April 5, declaring his intent to run for the council’s District 5 seat representing south Tacoma now held by Joe Lonergan.  

Shortly after Van Dyk registered, Lonergan himself filed his own candidacy paperwork and today officially announced in a press release that he’s seeking re-election.

In a phone interview today, Van Dyk, 25, said he is now taking time off from his retail sales consultant’s job with AT&T in Fife to campaign full-time. He added he’s running because he feels Lonergan has been ineffective as a council member – and he can do better.

“I am running because I want to live in a better city,” Van Dyk said. “I think Tacoma has a lot of potential that’s being wasted. I don’t want to say a ton of things about Joe personally, but if you look up what he’s done, it hasn’t been much. And what — he collects a $40,000 salary a year? That’s $160,000 for his term. That’s a lot for taxpayers to be paying someone for not doing much.”

Van Dyk’s  campaign website also criticizes Lonergan for his “singular idea … to continue to give a tax break to a private health system – a subsidiary of another company with million dollar executives and total yearly revenues of $10.7 billion.”  The statement is a reference to Lonergan’s unsuccessful sunset provision on the city’s recently restored nonprofit health care tax targeting MultiCare and Franciscan.

If he’s elected, Van Dyk said he would seek to compete against Seattle, Bellevue and Redmond to attract hi-tech companies to Tacoma; work to improve marketing and promotion of the city;  and seek to get more young people involved in community volunteerism efforts.

The South End is “probably the most neglected area of Tacoma and I think it deserves more attention,” he added. “…It’s the Sounth End’s time to get some attention.”

Van Dyk described himself as a “progressive candidate” and said his political experience includes serving as a precinct committee officer for the 29th District Democrats, participating in the past with Pierce County Young Democrats and being involved in various community volunteer efforts.  

He also has unsuccessfully sought public office before. While finishing a political science degree at Western Washington University, Van Dyk ran in a crowded primary for a state house seat in Washington’s 40th District in 2010. He finished eighth among nine candidates with just over 3 percent of the vote.

“I didn’t try to raise campaign funds; it was more of a gain experience kind of thing,” he said today. “And I certainly did gain experience. I’d never gave speeches to large crowds before, like at endorsement meetings. And I think I did pretty good. ”

Joe Lonergan photoNot to be outdone, Lonergan, who formally filed his re-election paperwork with the state’s Public Disclosure Commission on April 10 — five days after Van Dyk — also formally announced his re-election bid in a press release today.

“I surveyed the voters four years ago and then went to work on their priorities,” Lonergan is quoted in the release. “Several goals have been accomplished, but more remains to be done.”

Lonergan, a 36-year-old Realtor and married father of  two sons, won office in 2009 by garnering nearly 60 percent of the vote against Beckie Summers Kirby.  He has dubbed his re-election campaign theme “Life is better south of 56th.”

In a phone interview today, Lonergan disputed Van Dyk’s claims that he “hasn’t done much” during his first term as a councilman.

“I’m not sure what more I’ve needed to do,” Lonergan said.

Since being elected, Lonergan said he’s specifically targeted crime, road repairs and the lack of a South End grocery — issues that district voters reported to him as their top priorities in a survey Lonergan conducted during the 2009 campaign.

His press release touts “two new grocery stores and the Pacific Sports Center, reduced prostitution and other crime, removal of 700 tons of debris through community cleanups, and street mprovements such as the Alaska Street project.”

“I’m not going to take credit for all of it, but I’ve certainly assisted where I could,” Lonergan said today. “So, I’ve been out there.”

“I think anyone can make statements like (Van Dyk’s criticisms) based on their perspective, and believe that they’re valid,” Lonergan added. “But they don’t gel with my experiences and what people tell me — that they see me everywhere and I’m involved and engaged as a councilman.”

If reelected, Lonergan pledged to maintain police and fire services and seek to draw new business into now vacant storefronts in his district.

Lonergan’s candidate registration identifies his father, former tw0-term city councilman and current Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer Mike Lonergan, as his campaign manager and treasurer.  Lonergan has yet to update his official campaign website, which as of today, contained information from his 2009 campaign.

Neither Lonergan nor Van Dyk have reported significant campaign contributions to date. Lonergan is reporting about $2,463 in campaign contributions (including donations from his father and step-mother), while Van Dyk so far hasn’t reported any contributions.

In the only other contested council race so far, recently appointed Position 2 Councilman Robert Thoms is distancing himself from his challenger, downtown activist Patricia Lecy-Davis, in fundraising.  Thoms  so far has outraised Lecy-Davis $27,760 to $5,995, the latest campaign finance reports show.

The other declared city council candidates, all incumbents, so far face no opposition.  Mayor Marilyn Strickland has reported raising just over $60,000; at-large Councilwoman Victoria Woodards has raised about $16,559; and District 4 Councilman Marty Campbell has rasied $4,333, records show. (Woodards is set to formally kick off her campaign tonight at 5 p.m. at the Landmark Convention Center).

There’s still plenty of time for more challengers to emerge.  Candidates have until 4:30 p.m. on May 17 to register.

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