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Focused on a 5th term
Olympia, Wash. - State Rep. Kathy Haigh, DVM, retained her seat for a fifth term with a solid election win, but she's still shaky about the stereotypes of being a politician.
OLYMPIA, WASH. — State Rep. Kathy Haigh, DVM, retained her seat for a fifth term with a solid election win, but she's still shaky about the stereotypes of being a politician.
"You struggle. I've gone from being a veterinarian in the community that people just love, and then all of a sudden you turn into a politician, which everybody hates," says Haigh, representative for Washington's 35th District. "I have to try really hard to stay very humble, be a good listener, really appreciate the fact that people believe in me and trust in my decisions. My biggest struggle is to not let the system change me too much."
Rep. Kathy Haigh, DVM
Ousting Republican Marco Brown with 63 percent of the vote, Haigh ran a campaign backing better statewide education funding methods through a revamped estate tax and improved school performance from the Washington Assessment of Student Learning. Brown pushed for a refocused education system and pledged loyalty to the district.
"I am for the people, and she is for corporate America, big business," challenger Brown counters. "Because major corporations have really taken over state and federal government, it has been hijacked, and it doesn't serve the people," Brown charges.
He also questions her push to improve funding as a solution to decreased education quality.
"Our school system has been broken. What we need to do is not throw more money at it, but make the teachers accountable for the education process," Brown says.
Learning of her victory on election night in her Shelton, Wash., home, Haigh says she remained confident through her campaign. With her community and organizational support, she has yet to oppose a candidate whom she considers true competition.
With the election now over, Haigh, 56, says she is happy to put campaigning behind her. Although she didn't experience much mudslinging before her election, Haigh says campaigns often attack the character of the opponent, rather than candidate's strengths and goals.
"I hate campaigning. If people would talk about who they are, what they want to do, what their leadership skills are, instead of paring down the other candidates, it would really help us know who they are," Haigh says.
Remaining active in her DVM career helps Haigh better understand state and national issues. Advanced study of animal and human diseases, sanitation, nature and structural safety during her career all help Haigh weigh health, environmental and building code issues. Running the Haigh Veterinary Hospital in Shelton since 1977 with her DVM husband Gary keeps her grounded in issues pertaining to small businesses, she says.
"Part of being a good veterinarian is listening and helping our clients solve their problems, which makes veterinarians very good legislators," Haigh adds.
Taking positions on multiple animal-related issues, such as her support of legislation to prohibit the ownership of wildlife, including reptiles, bears and tigers, among others, and her opposition against breed-specific dangerous dog bans allows Haigh to exercise her strong interests in the veterinary field. She will support new legislation aimed at outlining clearer guidelines for the role of veterinary technicians.
"These issues get very emotional, and when it gets so emotional, it is hard to make good, sound decisions, so I try to back off and be more the sound of logic," Haigh says.
Haigh first entered the political arena as a Southside School Board member focused on the public education system after enrolling her two sons, Ed and Dan. She remained on the board for more than 12 years and says it was there she learned the importance of state-level education decisions.
Chairing the state government committee in her last term, Haigh looks to realign her energy in the upcoming term.
"I hope to focus on what we are doing in education, which is why I got into politics in the first place," Haigh says. "I have done a lot of work with election reform, but it has kind of pulled me away from the election system, which was my main reason for getting into the job in the first place."
While she claims to truly love being a public servant, she reinforces that it isn't always easy.
"I try not to play really hard into party politics. I work very hard to be very broad, stay really open, be a good listener," Haigh says.