Candidates seeking a state House or Senate seat in the 39th district say they’ve set their sights on improving mental health care, reducing drug abuse and figuring out how to fully fund public schools, as required in the McCleary ruling by the state Supreme Court.
The 39th district encompasses parts of Snohomish, Skagit and King counties. It includes Monroe and communities to the east along with Arlington, Granite Falls and Darrington.
House seat 1
Republican Rep. Dan Kristiansen is seeking another two-year term in the state House of Representatives. He’s challenged by Democrat Linda Wright.
Kristiansen, who lives close to Monroe, has been a state representative since 2003. Wright, of Arlington, is a union representative who negotiates school district and government contracts.
Kristiantsen considers himself a local boy who happens to have “an odd job” as a lawmaker. His family has been in the Monroe area for three generations.
Education funding is a concern for every community in Washington and local levies used to cover basic school operations are “the most egregious tax in the state,” he said. Legislators need to redirect money to cover education costs. It’s going to require someone who is willing to vote based on reason and conviction, not just on party lines, he said.
“I think solving the problem without doing substantial harm to everything else we want government to do for us will be the biggest challenge in my career,” Kristiansen said.
He also wants to beef up mental health care and substance abuse prevention in rural communities, he said. The state already is putting money toward those issues, but it goes to more densely populated areas and leaves people in small towns struggling to find help, he said.
Wright worries about health care in general, especially for low-income families and seniors on fixed or reduced incomes. There’s a lack of affordable housing in cities and a lack of transportation from rural homes to city jobs and services, she said.
“We’ve just created a quicksand of poverty for people,” Wright said. “There’s no way they can ever climb out.”
She thinks money to pay for public education could be found by eliminating tax breaks, cutting down predatory lending and increasing working class wages, which would bolster the state’s tax base.
“I just believe that I’m the voice of the people, I’m the voice of the working class,” she said. “I’m kind of tired of the good old boys’ club.”
House seat 2
Republican John Koster and Democrat Ronda Metcalf are competing to take over the second position in the House. The winner of the election would replace Republican Rep. Elizabeth Scott, who opted not to pursue re-election.
Koster, of Arlington, previously served three terms as a state representative and was on the Snohomish County Council for 12 years. Metcalf, of Darrington, is the general manager of the Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe and served eight years on the tribe’s council.
Koster decided to run for the spot because he feels the House needs experienced members.
His first priority would be reviewing the roles and rules of state agencies. He wants agencies such as the Department of Corrections or Department of Transportation to be held accountable when work is not up to par. He also wants to review policies to see if there are unreasonable burdens on property owners and small businesses.
He aims to find funding for education without creating new taxes. The would mean prioritizing money and potentially pulling it from other programs to boost the education budget.
“It’s going to take someone who can work with both sides of the aisle to get this done, and I can do that,” he said.
Metcalf thinks some redirection of money for education is needed, but her focus is on getting dollars shifted from urban to rural areas. When money is freed up in the budget, it tends to go to larger cities, she said. She wants more support for small schools.
“We’ve got some serious problems around McCleary,” she said. “We should look at every opportunity to move around funding.”
She thinks the state could draw from untapped revenue, such as unclaimed lottery prizes.
She also sees mental health care and drug treatment as lacking in rural areas and wants to direct more resources toward law enforcement programs that take down “nickel and dime dealers” as well as big-time providers of opioids, she said.
“I’m really ready for Olympia,” Metcalf said. “That’s where I think my next stop is.”
Republican Kirk Pearson is running unopposed to keep his seat in the state Senate, a four-year position.
Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.
District 39, House of Representatives position 1
Name: Dan Kristiansen (incumbent)
Experience: State representative since 2003
Name: Linda Wright
Experience: Union representative
District 39, House of Representatives position 2
Name: John Koster
Experience: Three terms as state representative, 12 years on Snohomish County Council
Name: Ronda Metcalf
Experience: General manager of Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe, eight years on tribe’s council