Three recognized civic leaders are competing for an open House seat in a swing district in Snohomish County.
Democrats Anne Anderson and April Berg, and Republican Mark James are vying to succeed Rep. Jared Mead, D-Mill Creek, who is not seeking re-election after getting appointed to the Snohomish County Council earlier this year.
At stake is a two-year term in Position 2 of the 44th Legislative District which encompasses the cities of Mill Creek, Snohomish, Marysville and Lake Stevens.
The top two finishers in the Aug. 4 primary advance to the Nov. 3 general election.
Anderson, of Lake Stevens, served as executive director of Victim Support Services, a statewide advocacy group for crime victims, until July 13 when she said she left to focus on the campaign. She formerly led the Lake Stevens Community Food Bank.
Berg, of Mill Creek, is in her first year on the Everett School Board. She is also a member of the Mill Creek Planning Commission.
James, of Marysville, is in his third year on the Marysville City Council. He won the nonpartisan post over a longtime councilwoman, Donna Wright. He also serves on the Snohomish County Planning Commission and runs the coupon magazine, Hometown Value Savings.
This is considered a swing district because historically its seat switches between Democratic and Republican control more often than most. Mead, who is now running to keep his county council job, won the legislative seat in 2018 by beating an incumbent Republican.
James, as the lone GOP hopeful, seems positioned to make it through this year’s primary, leaving Democrats Anderson and Berg dueling for the other spot.
Berg, 46, said she will focus on education, transportation and raising revenue to help plug a projected $4.5 billion hole in the current state budget due to the economic hit leveled by the COVID-19 pandemic. She said she does not want to balance the budget by cutting social programs and human services.
Taxes are “going to be the top issue of the next session,” she said in a July 13 League of Women Voters virtual candidate forum.
Berg backs a capital gains tax, calling it a progressive tax on wealth “created in ways other than income that we can actually do.” It will not hurt working families and Main Street businesses, Berg said.
On education, she said the state needs to fully cover the costs of special education provided by school districts. With the McCleary case resolved, she said it is time to work on redoing the model for funding public schools.
Berg also wants to change the law to allow school bonds to be approved with a simple majority of votes. Current law sets the bar at 60%.
She said she supports greater investment to maintain and enhance the state transportation system but did not specify where the money might come from.
Anderson, 38, said dealing with the impact of COVID-19 will be the focal point of every lawmaker in 2021 because the pandemic is affecting every aspect of public and private life.
“It is about health recovery, it is about economic recovery,” she said at the forum. “Right now is really about crisis management.”
She said her experience leading human service programs is “tailor made” for the times.
“I have a deep understanding of the inter-connectivity of services and how things work” in Olympia, she said.
She said she will push to increase and stabilize funding for public health, and to invest in creation of more living wage jobs.
Unlike Berg, she’s not backing a capital gains tax, at least not yet, to fill the budget hole. Because opponents contend it is an income tax, she said in an interview that she wants to see how the courts decide its legality.
“I will absolutely not say no,” she said. “I think we need to consider truly everything, revenue and spending.”
Investing additional dollars into transportation is also atop her agenda, though she did not endorse any specific means of raising revenue.
Taxes is an issue on which the two Democratic hopefuls differ.
Another difference is the tenor of their approaches in response to demands for social justice, racial equity and police reform incited by the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota in May.
Berg said as “a Black woman in the suburbs” and a Black leader she’s experienced racism and inequity in education, housing, health care, employment and even in the grocery store.
She pledged to consider whether the language of each proposed policy would mitigate, exacerbate, perpetuate or eliminate racism and inequity.
Anderson said she’s spent her career assisting those hurt by disparities of the state’s economy and criminal justice system.
“There are issues with overt racism that need to be overcome,” she said. “There’s been an emotional outcry that needs to be addressed.”
She said she opposes defunding police and wants to look at the need to improve accountability of officers by putting more dollars into training, oversight and equipment like body cameras.
Berg said she doesn’t support curbing the funding of law enforcement. It is important to better identify “what needs a badge and gun and what needs services” and direct those dollars to the right places.
As of Monday, Berg had raised $51,857 in campaign contributions, nearly double Anderson’s tally of $26,687, according to reports filed with the state Public Disclosure Commission.
Berg’s endorsements include the Alliance for Gun Responsibility and Washington Conservation Voters, and four influential labor unions — the Washington Federation of State Employees, the Washington Education Association, Service Employees International Union Local 775 and International Association of Machinists District 751.
Anderson received the sole backing of the Washington State Labor Council, of which those four unions are affiliated, and the Washington State Building Trades.
James, 58, had raised $40,000, as of Monday. While in a favorable position to advance, he insisted, “We’re going at it. We are not going to sit on our haunches.”
One reason for running, he said, is to address issues involving homelessness and mental health. Another is to push back against what he described as “excessive taxing.”
He said he is “a great big no” to a capital gains tax, contending raising taxes in a pandemic will only make the economic situation worse.
“Obviously there are going to be some hard decisions to make,” he said, referring to the shortfall. “I think we can dial back (spending) and save some money. I don’t think you need to take on rich people.”
James is backing repeal of the controversial sexual health education law signed by Gov. Jay Inslee earlier this year. The law mandates school districts develop curriculum for sex education instruction in all grades of public school. Berg and Anderson strongly support the law.
It is on hold as opponents got enough signatures to get Referendum 90 on the November ballot. James said he helped gather signatures because it erodes parental rights and usurps control from local school districts.
Meanwhile, in the race for Position 1, Rep. John Lovick, D-Mill Creek, faces one opponent, Snohomish Mayor John Kartak, a Republican. Since they are the only candidates, both will advance to the general election.
Ballots returned by mail do not require any stamp but they must be postmarked no later than Aug. 4 to count. They also can be placed in in one of the county’s 29 designated drop boxes. These are open around the clock until 8 p.m. on Election Day.
Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @dospueblos.
What’s at stake?
A two-year term representing the 44th Legislative District in the state House of Representatives, Position 2. The district is home to more than 150,000 people in Lake Stevens, Mill Creek and Snohomish, plus parts of Everett and Marysville. The job pays $56,881 annually.
Residence: Mill Creek
Experience: Everett Public Schools Board of Directors, 2019-present; Mill Creek Planning Commission; former aerospace industry employee; former small business owner.
Residence: Lake Stevens
Experience: Former executive director of Victim Support Services; former executive director of Lake Stevens Community Food Bank.
Experience: Marysville City Council, 2017-present; Snohomish County Planning Commission, owner, Hometown Values Savings; U.S. Army veteran.