Dentist announces bid for 26th legislative district seat

government: Michelle Caldier, running as a Republican, will challenge long-time Rep. Larry Seaquist for house seat

of the GatewayDecember 18, 2013 

Republican Michelle Caldier announced her campaign for the state House of Representatives on Friday.

Calider will run for the 26th District seat currently held by long-time Democrat Rep. Larry Seaquist.

She’s passionate about fixing problems with student loan debt and medicaid. As an instructor at the University of Washington, a college grad and a dentist, she says she’s seen first-hand some of the issues with loans and medical care and thinks her experience will be beneficial to the state legislature.

Her practice, Golden Age Dentistry, helps nursing home patients with dental care. The company is in transition right now; Calidier has just hired a new day-to-day dentist as she is going to be focusing on her run for office. Golden Age works with nurses and patients to make sure the unique needs of the elderly are met. That’s where she runs into jumbled paperwork. Many of the residents aren’t on the right plan, usually on one that assumes they can live on their own, she said. There are many unique issues for elderly patients. She first started working in nursing homes during a rotation in dental school. She wanted to improve care, so upon graduation opened her practice.

Compromises in the state health care system bother Caldier. That’s one of the reasons she’s running. She was part of a group that lobbied to restore adult dental Medicaid after it was cut by the legislature in 2010. The mountains of paperwork associated with Medicaid are troublesome. Caldier and other dentists often donate services rather than deal with Medicaid, she said. That’s not the way it should be, she believes.

“It’s sad because the state piled on more and more and more regulations,” she said. “It makes us not want to take (Medicaid).”

Caldier is a single-parent who has one daughter, Cassie, 17, and two foster daughters, Sophia, 19, and Alicia, 23.

She went through Casey Family Programs, a private agency based in Seattle. She said she liked that the group had social workers with a maximum caseload, an education specialist and grants to help with education. It was putting two more girls through college that worried Caldier at first. The grants that are available through Casey Family Programs support foster children up to age 25. That eases the burden on parents providing a home.

Student loan debt is a concern for Caldier who emerged from higher education with debts of her own. She’s a self-professed “planner” and is saving for her daughter’s schooling, but is still worried it might not be enough, due to rising in-state tuition.

“It’s kind of scary to me and I’m a planner,” she said.

She wants the legislature to put money into helping students with higher education. Students are hirable, she said, but it comes at a cost. Students don’t know the ramifications when signing up for loans early in college, she said. Education is important, she said, “I feel like that allowed me to be the person I am.”

She’s still involved with her foster daughters even though they are grown, out of the house and have children of their own.

Caldier recently moved back to Port Orchard after living in King County. Her daughter is gearing up for college, likely at University of Washington. However, Caldier said, veterinary school may lure her daughter to rival school Washington State University.

Caldier is an instructor at the University of Washington Dental School. She earned her bachelors in cell and molecular biology at the UW in 1997 and her DDS in 2001. Right after that, she started her dental practice.

Caldier went to Central Kitsap High School and did running start at Olympic College.

This is her first run for office. She’s excited, even though she’s not as experienced as her opponent.

“This is all new to me,” she said. “(But) this is somebody that has a passion to help people.”

Reporter Karen Miller can be reached at 253-358-4155 or by email at karen.miller@gateline.com. Follow her on Twitter, @gateway_karen.

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