L-R: Mark Harmsworth, Katrina Ondracek, Morrel James Muller, Chase Endreson

L-R: Mark Harmsworth, Katrina Ondracek, Morrel James Muller, Chase Endreson

I-405 tolls, McCleary key issues in 44th District race

MILL CREEK —Incumbent Republican state Rep. Mark Harmsworth faces three opponents in his bid for a second term in the 44th Legislative District.

Harmsworth, of Mill Creek, is challenged by two Democratic candidates, Katrina Ondracek, of Lake Stevens, and Morrel James Muller, of Snohomish, and an independent, Chase Endreson, of Everett.

Kerry Watkins, a Democrat, also is on the ballot. However, he said in an email he is no longer seeking the job and has endorsed Ondracek.

The two highest vote-getters in the Aug. 2 primary will face-off in the November general election. The winner of that contest will serve a two-year term representing Lake Stevens, Mill Creek, Snohomish and parts of Marysville.

Harmsworth, 47, an information technology consultant, has made a name for himself as an ardent critic of the I-405 express toll lanes.

Last year he proposed allowing all vehicles to use the lanes for free on nights and weekends — an idea which the state Transportation Commission made permanent July 18. Harmsworth, who is on the House Transportation Committee, said if re-elected he will “work to end tolling completely on I-405.”

In 2015, Harmsworth voted against the gas tax hike that will help pay for $16 billion in improvements to the state transportation system, including a project to widen Highway 9 over the Snohomish River.

Next year, funding public schools in line with the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision will be a major task for the Legislature.

Harmsworth said he thinks lawmakers will end up with “some sort of levy swap” and will need to come up with additional dollars, though not necessarily from new taxes. He said the Legislature must cover a greater share of teacher salaries.

Ondracek, 38, is executive vice president of the United Way of Snohomish County. This is her first run for office. She said she will work to increase investment in early learning programs and boost state aid for programs assisting the poor, the homeless and those dealing with substance abuse.

Ondracek said she supports the elimination of tolling on I-405. But she said lawmakers can’t stop there and must look for other ways to improve traffic.

On dealing with the McCleary decision, she said she’s open to closing tax loopholes to raise money though it won’t “magically create the billions of dollars we need.”

“I have a bit of a personal frustration that they’ve been working on this for years and it appears they continue to kick the can down the street. We can’t do that any longer,” she said. “I am excited at the chance to be there when these important decisions will be made.”

Muller, 57, of Snohomish, said he’ll focus on “strengthening current programs that are the community’s safety net against homelessness. After homelessness I want to focus on ensuring everyone, not just the wealthy, have access to affordable health care and livable wages.”

In an email, he said one reason he entered the race was to bring the national agenda of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to Olympia. Another reason is the decline in United Way funding for some senior centers in Snohomish County. He criticized Ondracek and United Way leaders for a decision that he contends will lead to increased homelessness in the 44th District. Ondracek and others at United Way have said the organization made the shift after seeking community advice on how best to help break the cycle of poverty that contributes to homelessness.

Endreson, who is 20 according to his campaign website, did not return phone calls or emails seeking comment for this story.

On the website, he wrote that he wants to work to resolve homelessness, promote local farms, improve care for veterans, encourage production of green energy and address the “drug use epidemic.”

House Democrats are providing Ondracek’s campaign with early financial help.

She raised $52,644 for her campaign as of Monday, including a $30,000 contribution from the House Democratic Campaign Committee. The committee also spent nearly $6,000 on polling and research, according to campaign finance records on the Public Disclosure Commission website.

Harmsworth had reported raising $43,034 in contributions as of Monday, none of it from the House Republican political committee.

Neither Muller or Endreson have reported raising any money for their campaigns.

The candidates

The job is a two-year term as a state representative in the 44th Legislative District in Snohomish County. The district includes the cities of Lake Stevens, Snohomish and Mill Creek and part of Marysville. The annual salary is $45,474.

Mark Harmsworth

Party: Republican

Age: 47

Residence: Mill Creek

Experience: State representative since 2015; Mill Creek Councilman, 2007-14; board member, Everett Community College Foundation; information technology consultant.

Website: www.markharmsworth.com

Katrina Ondracek

Party: Democrat

Age: 38

Residence: Lake Stevens

Experience: Executive vice president, United Way of Snohomish County; former board member for Workforce Snohomish, Housing Consortium of Everett and Snohomish County, and Snohomish County Children’s Commission.

Website: www.electkatrina.com

Morrel James Muller

Party: Democrat

Age: 57

Residence: Snohomish

Experience: Small business owner

Website: MorrelJamesMuller.info

Chase Endreson

Party: No party stated

Age: 20

Residence: Everett

Experience: Delegate for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders

Website: www.chasefor44th.com

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