EVERETT — Crime, homelessness, housing and the economy loom large in the election for three positions representing the 38th Legislative District.
The area covers most of Everett, Marysville and Tulalip.
Four people are vying for each of the two-year posts.
Position 1 candidates are Democrats Julio Cortes and Daryl Williams, squaring off with Republicans Bert Johnson and Gary Kemp.
Position 2 candidates are Christopher D. Elliott, Democrat Mary Fosse, Republican Mark James, and Libertarian David Wiley.
This is the first time Julio Cortes, who works in communications and economic development for the city of Everett, is seeking elected office.
In the League of Women Voters of Snohomish County candidate forum, he said economic recovery from the pandemic, housing affordability and public safety were the Legislature’s top issues.
Cortes worked for youth shelter Cocoon House before joining the city. He said he supports the housing-first model and small temporary housing as solutions to homelessness.
Encouraging local governments to allow more types of housing can help with the real estate crunch, he said.
“Everybody should understand that housing is needed,” Cortes said. “We’re growing. There’s no stopping the growth.”
Attracting new businesses, especially those in the “green sector,” to the district can help diversify the economy, Cortes said.
Law enforcement should represent their community and be well trained in de-escalation and implicit bias, Cortes said. He also wants to see more use of specialized staff, such as mental health professionals and social workers, embedded with law enforcement.
Bert Johnson, who works in event management, has run three times before for a legislative seat. He lost in 2020 to Wicks.
Johnson’s platform covers drug abuse, government accountability, homelessness and public safety. He supports partnerships for drug abuse treatment and enforcement of laws for people who won’t accept treatment.
Boosting vocational training options for high school students is also a priority for him.
Johnson also wants to end the governor’s emergency powers and repeal a capital gains tax that is currently facing a legal challenge in the state Supreme Court. The tax would collect 7% on annual profits above $250,000 from the sale of long-term assets, such as stocks and bonds. If upheld, it would apply to an estimated 7,000 taxpayers in the state.
Gary Kemp, an electrician, former union leader and past county audit committee member, lost his bid for a Marysville City Council position in 2019.
Affordability and public safety are his top priorities.
With inflation as high as it is, he wants the state to suspend the gas tax and lower the state sales tax by 1%. The state’s portion of the sales and use tax is 6.5%. Doing so would cut revenue by billions. The state had $7.5 billion in reserves earlier this year.
“Hard-working families are having to make hard choices between buying food and paying for fuel,” he said.
The state should boost funding for public safety and try to change the public perception of law enforcement, Kemp said. He also supports programs that embed social workers with law enforcement to help homeless people.
Daryl Williams, a longtime employee of The Tulalip Tribes who is now semi-retired, is seeking his first public office.
Drug abuse, environmental restoration, homelessness and untreated mental health needs are problems he wants to address.
He’d rely on community leaders and subject experts for new solutions, Williams said. His priority is to treat people with drug addictions and support efforts that prevent it.
More incentives for affordable housing could help spur more construction of those units, he said.
“I’d like to come up with a whole new approach with people who know what they’re doing.”
Water quality in the Snohomish River and restoring riparian areas and buffers are among his environmental goals in the district.
Christopher D. Elliott, who did not list a preferred party, is a licensed mental health therapist who lives in Everett.
Hearing his clients’ struggles with child care, financial insecurity, social justice and their worries that “nobody really seems to be looking out for anyone” pushed him to run for office.
He wants to find solutions to drug abuse, homelessness and mental health needs, support abortion access and boost small businesses.
Restoring voting rights and ensuring work for people released from jail are also on his radar.
“We talk about worker shortage all the time,” he said. “We have all these people who want to work.”
Mary Fosse is in her first year on the Everett City Council and was the legislative aide for Wicks.
Fosse wants to follow in the footsteps of Sells as a champion for workers in the Legislature.
She touts the need for better connected state policies to address cost of living, education, homelessness and social infrastructure. Revising minimum wage exemptions from some industries could boost some of the most vulnerable workers, and supporting workforce development could alleviate the labor shortage in building trades, Fosse said.
Finding ways to simplify permitting processess could spur more housing construction, she said.
“If no one can even afford to live here, I don’t know how we expect to solve any of our workforce problems at our hospitals, at our grocery stores, at our government,” Fosse said.
The state should be supporting shelters, hygiene facilities and social services, as well as finding and applying for federal grants, she said.
“My neighbors know that I’m going to be fighting for working families, I’m going to be fighting for our most vulnerable,” Fosse said.
Mark James is in his second term on the Marysville City Council and owns an advertising and coupon business with his wife.
James said he wants to “balance” and “change the tone” of the Legislature.
A lot of bills truly are bipartisan and require working across party lines, James said. It’s one reason he was disappointed to hear the Move Ahead Washington transportation package was drafted only by Democrats.
“That’s not how you do anything,” James said. “It’s not how you do government.”
His focus would be on the economy and public safety. He would pursue statewide tax relief through temporary gas tax cut and a temporary reduction in the state sales tax.
After recent criminal justice changes, he wants to revise laws so law enforcement officers have more discretion to pursue suspects. He also supports more funding for law enforcement.
David Wiley, a quality assurance manager in biomedical products, ran against Sells in 2020. He lost by over 22,000 votes but was encouraged by the nearly 21,000 voters who backed him.
“This election’s going to be about the status quo on both the left and the right side,” Wiley said. “I tell people, conservative and liberal, ‘I don’t necessarily share all of your values… what I am going to do is hold Democrats and Republicans’ feet to the fire over things they say they’re going to do and never do.’”
He’s focused on housing and justice reform. Wiley wants to pursue bills to end qualified immunity for law enforcement, increase jury trials and waive the state sales tax on building materials for affordable housing construction.
June Robinson’s career has been in government administration, including with Seattle and King County Public Health, Housing Consortium of Snohomish County and currently Sno-Isle Libraries. Prior to her appointment to the Senate seat, she served almost seven years in the state House.
Robinson cited creation of the state’s paid family and medical leave program as one major success of her time in Olympia. Securing state funds for the Imagine Children’s Museum and Compass Health’s campus redevelopment in Everett were listed as two other achievements.
Crime, drug use, homelessness and housing costs are major issues lawmakers must address next session, she said.
More money for behavioral health and evaluations of recent investments are also on Robinson’s agenda.
Bolstering the state’s incentives for local governments to allow greater housing density and development, especially for “affordable” units, could alleviate some of the market strain and costs, Robinson said.
The true battle is likely among Republicans choosing which GOP candidate to advance to the general election in November.
Anita Azariah, a Snohomish County Republican Party vice chair, has spent her career in advocacy and education. She lost her bid to be on the Verdant Health Commission public hospital district board last year. Later she moved into Everett in the 38th Legislative District.
She wants to look for ways to cut state spending, lower taxes and reallocate state funds to improve affordability and public safety.
“All the things happening now makes law enforcement (officers) feel unsafe,” Azariah said. “That’s why they left.”
Greater accountability is needed for state money used to address homelessness, she said. But she doesn’t think “just providing housing” alone is a solution, and it should come with mental health services and rehabilitation.
Bernard Moody, whose career has been in the military and law enforcement, lost to Robinson in 2020.
He wants a statewide “carrot and stick approach” to homelessness that encourages people to get treatment for behavioral and mental health issues, while enforcing laws for those who refuse help.
“Many of them don’t want services,” Moody said.
The state needs to change laws that handicap law enforcement, he said.
Moody would vote against a state income tax and vote for ending the governor’s emergency powers.
He supports “school choice,” the idea that public money should follow a student even if they attend a private school between kindergarten and 12th grade.