By Jerry Cornfield Herald Writer
In the 39th Legislative District, a Republican stronghold in Snohomish County, the battle for an open seat in the state House of Representatives is stirring up quite a fight among the ranks of the Grand Old Party.
And that might prove a boost for Democrats.
Republicans Elizabeth Scott, Robert Zimmerman, Robert Pilgrim and Gregory Lemke are each looking to maintain their party’s hold on the seat in the 39th District.
But Democrats Eleanor Walters and Josie Fallgatter are hoping district voters display an independent nature to make one of them the first Democrat in a decade to hold the job.
The top two vote-getters in the Aug. 7 primary will face-off in November for the job serving farmland and rural towns in Snohomish and Skagit counties. The area includes Arlington, Granite Falls and communities from Monroe to Skykomish on U.S. 2.
The eventual winner will take over for Rep. Kirk Pearson, R-Monroe, who is running to replace the retiring Sen. Val Stevens, R-Arlington.
The four Republican candidates say they all support the initiative requiring a supermajority vote in the Legislature to raise taxes and repeal the new state law legalizing marriage for gay and lesbian couples. Not surprisingly, the two Democrats oppose the tax-limiting initiative and support the same-sex marriage law.
Scott, 46, of Monroe, has garnered endorsements from Stevens and Snohomish County Councilman John Koster, and her fundraising total of $25,667 exceeds the combined total of the other candidates.
Two years ago, while living in Mukilteo, she emerged from the ranks of the tea party movement to unsuccessfully challenge Rep. Marko Liias, D-Edmonds. She moved to Monroe in March where she’s living among more like-minded conservatives.
“They want government off their backs, and they want legislators they trust will do what they say,” she said.
She said her top priority is getting people back to work, setting better spending priorities to balance the budget, improving education and protecting seniors and the most vulnerable residents.
Zimmerman, 46, is the mayor of Monroe and the only candidate holding an elected office. He served on the Monroe City Council before unseating incumbent Mayor Donetta Walser in 2009.
He’s been endorsed by two well-known names: state Rep. Mike Hope, R-Lake Stevens, and Jim Spady, the vice president of Dick’s Drive-in restaurants.
A former businessman, Zimmerman touts his experience in the private sector and at the helm of the city.
“My message is simple: I am the only candidate with a proven conservative record of implementing reform and creating partnerships that have led to real results,” he said.
As mayor, he’s been criticized for his role in blocking an initiative dealing with the city’s use of red-light cameras from making the ballot last year.
In 2011, a Snohomish County Superior Court judge found the city erred by rejecting outright an initiative to force a vote on the future of traffic-enforcement cameras in the city. The judge also found that the city’s decision to sue the initiative’s sponsors ran afoul of state prohibitions on using litigation to thwart public participation.
Pilgrim, 47, of Arlington, is making his first run for political office and knows his is an uphill battle against the likes of Scott and Zimmerman.
“I’m the underdog,” he said. “I’m not the establishment, career-minded politician. If they get elected, they’ll never leave Olympia. They’re both looking for a career.”
Pilgrim’s career is in law enforcement where he’s worked 15 years. Today he is a financial crimes detective with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office.
He said he’ll focus on limiting state government to provide core services, funding public safety — “it’s a necessity of our society you can’t live without” — and making better use of dollars spent in public schools.
Lemke, 48, of Arlington, is making his fourth run for a seat in the state House and encountering his most difficulty in raising money for the campaign. He said special interest groups won’t invest until after the primary.
The former hospital security officer said he’ll work on health care and housing issues if elected. He said he’s most concerned with helping residents who must deal with the continuing effects of bad mortgages or have been forced from their homes because of foreclosure.
Walters, 57, lives in an unincorporated area near Monroe, lost to Rep. Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish, in 2010.
This time around she’s talking about style of leadership as much as substance of ideas. She said Democrats and independents don’t feel their voices are heard in the district.
“I am running to open communication between constituents and legislators and offer residents a different viewpoint,” she said.
If elected, she’ll work to fully fund education and streamline the state’s role in areas of school policy and curriculum. She said she’ll work to stimulate economic development and find revenues for repairing and improving U.S. 2.
Fallgatter, 50, of Sultan, is an attorney making her first run for elected office. Like Walters, a major tenet of her campaign is to “change the tone of politics.”
“Right now, I don’t think compromise is a dirty word,” she said. “My biggest priority will be actually getting something done rather than sniping. Voters are tired of that.”
She serves on the U.S. 2 Safety Coalition and fixing that highway is her top priority.
Bringing jobs to the community which pay a living wage and improving education for students at all levels are other goals, she said.
Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; email@example.com.
What’s the job?
The job is a two-year term as a state representative in the 39th Legislative District. The area covers rural Snohomish and Skagit counties including Darrington, Monroe, Sultan, Gold Bar, Arlington and a sliver of Marysville. The annual salary is $42,106.
Meet the candidates
Jocelynne “Josie” Fallgatter
Experience: Works as an attorney, serves on the U.S. 2 Safety Coalition and is a planning commissioner for the city of Sultan.
Gregory Dean Lemke
Experience: Worked as a security guard for Providence Hospital and court appointed advocate in child abuse cases. This will be his fourth run for state representative.
Experience: Detective with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office and served in the National Guard. He also is a coach and board member for the Stanwood-Camano Youth Football League.
Experience: Former English as second language teacher and an analyst for Evergreen Freedom Foundation. She served on Edmonds Citizens Levy Review Committee and ran unsuccessfully for state representative in 2010.
Residence: Monroe area (unincorporated Snohomish County)
Experience: Mediator and owns her own mediation firm. She has worked as an executive for Starbucks, a community college instructor and deckhand on an Alaskan crab boat. She ran unsuccessfully for state representative in 2010.
Experience: Elected mayor of Monroe in 2009 and served as a city councilman before that.