SULTAN — Rep. Carolyn Eslick says she’s seeking re-election to finish what she’s started in an array of policy arenas.
But the Republican lawmaker’s path to a third term representing the 39th Legislative District isn’t at all like the one traveled in previous elections.
Redistricting redrew the boundaries in a significant way with a few of the former Sultan mayor’s neighbors getting moved to other districts: Monroe, Gold Bar, Index and much of Arlington are gone. The city of Lake Stevens got shifted out of the 44th District into the 39th. It’s still viewed as a safe Republican seat.
But there are thousands of voters pondering Eslick’s legislative resume for the first time as she faces three opponents in the Aug. 2 primary — Democrat Jessica Wadhams of Lake Stevens, Republican Tyller Boomgaarden of Darrington and Independent Kathryn Lewandowsky of Arlington.
The challengers have all run for an elected office before, though none have won. Each views the incumbent as a nice person with wrong ideas for residents of the newly designed district.
The top two finishers will meet in November with the winner securing a two-year term in a job paying $57,876 a year.
Eslick, 72, served six years on the Sultan City Council. She was in her third term as mayor when she was tapped to fill a vacant House seat in 2017. She got re-elected in 2020 with 63% of the vote.
She serves on three committees — transportation, capital budget and children, youth and families. Through those she’s had a voice in deciding how state dollars are divided up for roads, construction projects, nonprofits, and the mental health and well being of children.
Among her unfinished work is adequately funding and deploying a state program helping parents find needed mental health resources and services for their kids. Eslick said increasing availability of treatment beds for teenagers in crisis are needed too.
More broadly, she wants to see penalties reinstated for drug possession — the state Supreme Court erased them in its Blake decision — and unwinding of policing reforms dealing with vehicle pursuits by law enforcement. She says those changes are contributing to a surge in crime across the state.
“We’ve got to bring common sense back,” she said.
Boomgaarden, 29, who lost his bid for Darrington Town Council in 2021, shares many of the same concerns as Eslick.
He too wants to address the rules for when police can chase suspects. He also wants to streamline the hiring process for law enforcement.
Both Republican candidates describe themselves as pro-life but neither suggested they would author legislation to roll back existing protections for access to abortion.
In this campaign, Boomgaarden garnered early support from the district’s Republican precinct committee officers, frustrated with Eslick because they consider her too moderate.
“Personally, I have no problem with her,” he said. “She is Republican but she is not in sync with them … and been okay with some forms of gun control.” This session Eslick voted against bills to ban high capacity ammunition magazines and regulate homemade firearms known as ghost guns.
Boomgaarden, who works in security contracting, said one reason he decided to run was the incumbent’s age.
“There aren’t enough people representing the younger generation,” he said.
Wadhams, 36, a community activist, ran unsuccessfully for the Lake Stevens City Council last fall. The stay-at-home mom is a co-founder of Lake Stevens Black, Indigenous, People of Color and Allies, a social justice organization.
Redistricting provided this opportunity.
“What’s motivating me is that we have the new lines, the demographics have changed. We need to have a representative that is more reflective of this demographic and more representative of the people she’s sworn to represent,” she said.
Protecting reproductive freedom has emerged as an important and immediate issue following the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe, she said.
“If we don’t hold the Democratic majority in the state, we run the risk of losing (access to abortion) in our state,” she said.
On some issues, Wadhams veers to the political center. She said she wants to eliminate the business and occupation tax and is only mildly supportive — “more for than against” — of the capital gains tax now facing a legal challenge. She’s concerned about passage of quick fixes to combat climate change by the Legislature could harm workers.
“I want to make sure what we do is strategic and sustainable,” she said. “We can’t solve our climate crisis overnight.”
Lewandowsky, 63, of Arlington, lost a bid for state Senate in 2020. She ran as a progressive. She’s running as an independent this time. A registered nurse, she is a former 4-H leader and received a Snohomish County Human Rights Award in 2021.
She said the focus of her campaign is establishing some form of universal health care program in Washington. She’s a leader of Whole Washington, which is pushing Initiative 1471 to get lawmakers to launch it or put the idea in front of voters in 2023.
“We need to keep our planet healthy as much as we need to keep our people healthy,” she said.
She wants to strengthen and preserve existing state protections for accessing abortion services.
On public safety concerns, Lewandowsky isn’t interested in overhauling the pursuit law and instead said police should work on regaining the trust of those in communities they serve.
Thus far, this race has not attracted a lot of money or spending.
Entering the weekend, Eslick had reported $41,916 in contributions, and after campaign spending thus far, had $26,800 on hand. Wadhams, meanwhile, reported $10,381 in donations with $3,848 in available cash after expenditures. Lewandowsky and Boomgaarden have not reported spending any money in their campaigns.
Ballots are due Aug. 2. They can be deposited in a designated drop box or returned by mail postage-free.