BY KEN MOCHIZUKI
Examiner Assistant Editor
When serving as an intern with the Snohomish County Republican Party during the early ‘90s, Steve Hobbs remembered one of the reasons why he became disenchanted with the GOP: then-Vice President Dan Quayle criticized “Murphy Brown,” the popular television character played by Candice Bergen, as an unfit role model since the character was a single mother.
“What’s wrong with my mom?” Hobbs, 36, recalled thinking. “She’s a single mom. The Republicans were not for me ideologically.”
In last November’s election, Democrat Hobbs was elected to become state senator for the 44th District. He unseated the man he interned under back then, Dave Schmidt.
The district Hobbs will represent covers Snohomish, Lake Stevens, Mill Creek and parts of Marysville and Everett. While a member of the U.S. Air Force, Hobbs’ father met his mother in Japan, got divorced, and Hobbs remembered growing up in Lake Stevens with a single mom that “didn’t make a lot of money.” He also recalled during the ‘70s that “Jap” was spray-painted on their driveway.
“When you look different, you’re an easier target,” Hobbs said. “I got beat up quite a bit back then, but it gave me a backbone. I know bigotry when I see it – I don’t want to see it [the word “Jap”] again.”
Hobbs said he wants his sons, ages 9, 5 and 3, “to grow up having better opportunities than I did.”
Graduating from the University of Washington in 1994 with a political science degree, Hobbs ran unsuccessfully to become the 44th District’s state representative that same year, worked on Gary Locke’s campaign for governor and, having been in the U.S. Army reserves since 1987, was called up for active duty in 1996. While stationed in Hawaii, he and fellow soldiers embarked on an anti-drug campaign aimed at elementary school students, staging puppet shows on the topic. For that effort, Hobbs was awarded the Army’s Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal. He then served with the peacekeeping forces in Kosovo and, in 2004, fought in Iraq.
For eight months in Iraq, Hobbs served as an anti-terrorism officer. His duties included making sure that key structures in Iraqi cities were fortified against terrorist bombs. Departing the Army with the rank of captain, he decided not to make the military a career, having become “frustrated with the Army,” he said. One of those sources of frustration was when he and his fellow soldiers spent their first two-and-a-half months in Iraq traveling around without the protection of being in armored vehicles.
“I’m proud of my service, and I wouldn’t change anything,” Hobbs said. He called the decision to invade Irag “too hasty,” but hopes there will be a solution to the U.S. presence in that country other than an unconditional withdraw.
“We can’t be in the business of overthrowing tyrants – who wouldn’t be busy all the time?” Hobbs said. But he does agree with the Bush administration’s position to increase the size of the Army. “It’s too small,” he said.
Due to his military experience, Hobbs said he will initiate legislation to “give back to my fellow brothers and sisters in uniform, and give a little to the National Guard” in the form of tuition waivers – free tuition for an education as long as one is in the National Guard, he said. He is also currently working out a program for military veterans to be involved in outdoor conservation projects while dealing with post-traumatic stress.
And he wants to see tuition waivers granted to teachers while they engage in their continuing education. “To be a teacher should be financially affordable,” Hobbs said. He will also advocate for steering more state assistance to vocational training.
“That is very important,” he said. “We are currently neglecting a large portion of our students who are not going to college.”
Another issue Hobbs campaigned on was the lack of affordable health care in the state – “no one takes it seriously,” he said, and supports the Fair Share Bill that will require corporations to cover more of their employees’ health insurance costs rather than those costs being born by the state. He is also for small businesses forming “insurance pools” to use their “buying power to get a better deal.” Health insurance costs, Hobbs said, is a “huge monster” that directly affects the state’s education budget.
“We need a better plan for education,” he said. “Because we have to feed this huge monster in the room, education suffers cutbacks. I don’t want that.”
A major issue for the 44th District is the growing traffic congestion and the need for more public transportation, Hobbs said. Forty percent of Snohomish County’s residents commute into the Seattle area, he said, so he will push to keep the county’s residents closer to home by creating more jobs in Snohomish County. A four-year college should also be built in the county so students won’t have to travel to colleges in Seattle, Hobbs added.
Traffic congestion won’t be solved by only widening roads, Hobbs said. “Just adding more pavement isn’t the solution.”
Hobbs will serve on the senate’s Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee, the Ways & Means Committee, and will be vice chair of the Financial Institutions & Insurance Committee. He identifies himself as a “blue collar, ‘Scoop’ Jackson type of Democrat” and expressed admiration for former President Bill Clinton because “he came from a modest background.”
When asked how he thinks he will fare in the sometimes nasty world of politics, Hobbs responded: “I’ve served in two combat zones. I’ve dealt with Serbians, Croatians, Albanians, Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds. I don’t think I’ll be too frustrated.”