MILL CREEK — Appointed Democratic state Rep. John Lovick faces two opponents in a closely watched primary contest in the 44th Legislative District.
Janice Huxford, a Republican from Lake Stevens who co-owns a roofing company, and Wilberforce Agyekum, an Everett attorney who stated no party preference, round out the ballot.
The top two finishers will advance from the Aug. 2 primary to face off in the Nov. 8 general election. The eventual winner will serve a two-year term representing Mill Creek, Lake Stevens, Snohomish and part of Marysville.
Most anticipate Lovick and Huxford will advance. There’s much interest in how well each fares because control of the state House of Representatives in 2017 could hinge on who eventually wins the seat in November.
Democrats now hold 50 of the 98 seats in the state House. Lose one and they will share power with Republicans; lose two seats and the GOP will be in charge for the first time since 1998.
Next week’s primary will be Lovick’s first political test since voters ousted him as Snohomish County executive in November. He was appointed in June to the seat vacated by Hans Dunshee’s move to the County Council. The appointment ends once the general elections results are certified.
Lovick’s defeat last year was his first electoral setback in politics. Until then he’d won elections to serve on the Mill Creek City Council, four terms in the state House of Representatives, two-terms as Snohomish County sheriff and a one-year special election as county executive.
Losing didn’t dampen his desire to serve, he said.
“I have a passion for this. I want to bring my experience to Olympia to do the things we need to get done,” he said.
That begins with finding a way to fully fund public schools in line with the Supreme Court’s ruling in the McCleary case, he said.
It may mean raising money by closing tax loopholes and reforming the use of state and local property tax levies, he said. But, he said he is opposed to enacting a capital gains tax.
On other hot-button issues, Lovick said he wants to see tolling ended on the I-405 express lanes “as soon as possible.” And he said this fall he will support the initiative to raise the state’s minimum wage and Sound Transit 3, the ballot measure to bring light rail to Everett.
Huxford is a Lake Stevens planning commissioner and longtime member of the board that produces the city’s signature event, Aquafest. She and her husband own Snohomish Valley Roofing and a second company that recycles roofing materials.
“This is not something I aspired to do. This is a calling, a mission,” she said. “I see this campaign as an extension of my service to the community.”
One of her focuses will be on regulatory reform.
“It is not an easy state in which to conduct business,” she said, adding she wants to be a voice for the private sector.
On McCleary, she said reforms are needed to spend existing dollars more wisely. “I think the money is there, I really do,” she said.
A levy swap may benefit schools in the 44th Legislative District, she said, though she didn’t commit to backing the idea. Regarding a capital gains tax, she said, “I don’t want to go down that path at all.”
She opposes the minimum wage ballot measure, saying that as a business owner she is concerned “that someone else is telling me how to run my business.”
Huxford has secured endorsements from the Deputy Sheriff’s Association, many of whose members served under Lovick when he was sheriff. She is backed by the Everett Police Officers Association, Lake Stevens Police Guild and the Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs. She’s also supported by statewide groups representing farmers, retailers, small businesses and truckers.
Lovick is backed by the Washington State Patrol Trooper Association, of which he was a longtime member. He’s also endorsed by the Washington Conservation Voters and the statewide unions for state employees, teachers, nurses, trial lawyers and health care workers.
Agyekum, 45, has never run for office but decided to jump in “and see what happened.”
“I haven’t been too pleased with either side when it comes to state politics,” he said.
Agyekum’s focus is on complying with the court’s ruling on school funding, expanding the availability of transitional housing for homeless people and reforming the criminal justice system.
On the subject of McCleary, he said he opposes hiking the state’s sales and sin taxes but is open to adjusting existing taxes levied on businesses and corporations.
“I do believe there will be some need for additional revenue but I don’t think we can do it on the cheap by simply shifting money around” in the budget, he said.
The importance of this race to Democrats retaining power is evident in campaign finance reports.
Lovick had raised $99,000 from donations, in-kind contributions and loans to the campaign as of Monday, according to online reports of the Public Disclosure Commission. Of the total, the House Democratic Campaign Committee contributed $25,000 and shelled out $13,500 for polling and research.
Huxford reported $62,664 in cash and in-kind contributions, The House Republican Organizational Committee paid $5,440 for campaign literature.
Agyekum has not reported raising any funds for the campaign.
Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @dospueblos.
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.
Residence: Mill Creek
Experience: Appointed state representative in 2016; Snohomish County executive, 2013-15; Snohomish County sheriff, 2007-13; state representative, 1999-2007; former Mill Creek Councilman; Washington State Patrol, 31 years.
Residence: Lake Stevens
Experience: Co-owner, Snohomish Valley Roofing; Lake Stevens planning commissioner, 2010-present; Aquafest executive board.
Party: No party preference
Experience: Private attorney; former member, Seattle Human Rights Commission; two-time president of student bar association, Seattle University School of Law.
Correction: An earlier version incorrectly described State Rep. John Lovick’s position on I-405 express lanes tolls.
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