Candidates Caldier and Macklin discuss education, health care and growth – Gig Harbor Now

community government

Crime and the economy were the top themes in the autumn campaign, judging from the questions asked by audiences at a number of debates and forums.

So it was a change that the first question put to candidates Michelle Caldier and Matt Macklin at a forum on Thursday was about education.

Caldier is a four-year Republican incumbent who recently relocated to Gig Harbor from Port Orchard. Macklin, a Democrat with a background in nursing home administration and law, is a Port Orchard resident running for his first elective office.

You are running for 26th place in the House of Representativesth Legislative District, which includes Gig Harbor, the Key Peninsula, Port Orchard and parts of Bremerton. The election will take place on November 8, but voters should receive their ballots this week or next.


Both candidates proposed substantial educational reforms.

Caldier, a longtime foster parent, noted that foster children often face the greatest challenges of any demographic. As a solution, she suggested expanded school choice.

“We have to make sure our schools are accountable, we have to make sure that if they’re not, I think we should be flexible about where the kid can go,” Caldier said. “And we have to be creative because right now kids are failing. We have to make sure the standards are met.”

Macklin said the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated inequality in education. He pointed to a shortage of skilled workers in the trades and suggested that the schools take a new approach.

“I think we should look at models used in Germany, where aptitude tests and occupations are identified earlier for individuals and we track these occupations in early to middle high school. In doing so, we’re giving people the opportunity to graduate from high school with an actual marketable job,” Macklin said, citing construction, nursing and public safety jobs as beneficiaries of this approach.

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Public Affairs Forum Macklin & Caldier by Gig Harbor Chamber of Commerce on Vimeo.

Housing and the Growth Management Act

Gig Harbor Mayor Tracie Markley asked both candidates about a “missing middle” housing bill, which is expected at the next meeting. A similar bill failed last session.

Missing center refers to efforts to channel population and housing growth into cities, even smaller towns like Gig Harbor.

The question prompted responses related to the state’s Growth Management Act, a 1990 law restricting growth outside of urban areas.

“The Growth Management Act needs to be updated to truly reflect our current needs and challenges,” Macklin said. “I’m not in favor of getting rid of it because that would be a disaster, but I think that semester after semester after semester we didn’t make it…. update to meet current requirements.”

Caldier expressed skepticism about the GMA, which she says “allows for very little space for builders.” She said she and other Republicans are united in wanting to reform the GMA, but they are the minority party.

“In the minority, I may not be able to control the train wreck that is about to happen, but often I can table an amendment that can steer it in a better direction,” she said. “Like exempting smaller cities from the GMA and figuring out how to get support for that.”

health care

A listener asked the candidates if they supported what the questioner described as “government-controlled” healthcare. It’s a subject both candidates have experience with – Macklin as a nursing home administrator, Caldier in her pre-legislative career as a dentist.

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Caldier called Medicaid “woefully underfunded.” She shared her experiences as a dentist taking Medicaid, citing low reimbursement rates and excessive paperwork.

“I think we need to fix our Medicaid system before we ever believe that the government can do a much better job than the private companies,” Caldier said.

Macklin said health care is a right, not a privilege. He pointed out that Medicaid is limited to only “the sickest and those who cannot afford to pay,” thereby limiting who can subscribe. He called for a model that includes both the public and private sectors.

“It’s not a business. It’s a mission, healthcare,” Macklin said. “We need to start looking at it that way, and we need to start looking at our delivery of this service that way.”

R-Gig Harbor Rep. Michelle Caldier and Port Orchard Democratic challenger Matt Macklin during a debate at the Gig Harbor Chamber of Commerce Public Affairs Forum on Thursday, October 20.

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