Steve Simmons, co-owner of the popular Country Gentleman Restaurant in Kennewick, formally announced Wednesday he will seek election to the Washington State House of Representatives. He will be running for Position 2 in the 8th Legislative District. That district includes the Tri-Cities in the South, and rural parts of Benton County in the North. He will be running against incumbent  Republican Larry Haler.   Simmons, a life-long resident of the area for 35 years, worked as the GM for the Firestone Tire and Service Centers for years before concentrating on the restaurant he co-owns with his wife Shirley starting in 2002.

Simmons has become increasingly involved in politics over the last few years, and talked about ideas and political office during a 2015 appearance on the Newstalk 870 show "Meet In The Middle."

Simmons stressed his platform as emphasizing small business development, saying between 65-80 percent of new jobs during economic recovery are from small businesses. He also said he would push for sensible sustainable energy and environmental policies.

"Unfortunately, much of existing environmental policy does little to help our environment but drives up energy costs that hurt businesses, families, the elderly and poor," he said in a statement.

Jerome Delvin, former Benton County Commissioner as well as State Senator and Representative, endorsed Simmons, saying:

"Steve Simmons has the proven leadership needed for our district in the State House Legislature," calling the long-time businessman "highly effective."

The 8th District is currently represented by Senator Sharon Brown (R-Richland) and Representatives Brad Klippert (R-Position 1) and Haler (R) in Position 2.  Haler, who's held the position since 2004, also plans to seek re-election, and will make a formal announcement soon.

Simmons' challenge to Haler will be interesting especially since both are Republicans, and the 8th District and Tri-Cities have been a GOP stronghold for decades.