EVERETT — For the first time in years, both state House seats in the 38th Legislative District won’t have an incumbent in the race.
Those voters will also pick a new state senator.
House Position 1 pits a city spokesperson against a former union rep.
Everett and Marysville City Council members vie for Position 2.
The state Senate seat features a rematch of the 2020 race for the four-year post.
The 38th Legislative District covers Everett and Tulalip, with the western parts of Marysville.
State lawmakers get $57,876 a year.
Julio Cortes, 36, and Gary Kemp, 52, seek election to the office held by Rep. Emily Wicks, who opted against seeking re-election.
Cortes, a Democrat, works as a spokesperson in the Everett mayor’s office. As a child, his family immigrated from Mexico to the United States and he grew up working on farms in the Yakima area, he said. He and his wife live in Everett.
His policy priorities are the economy, housing and public safety, Cortes said.
Kemp, a Republican, is an electrician and former union rep. He has lived in Snohomish County most of his life and now calls Marysville home.
His legislative focus is the economy, education and public safety, Kemp said.
Affordability looms over housing, both candidates said. But they diverged slightly in their proposed solutions to the housing and homelessness crisis.
Kemp would support policies that bring more family- and living-wage work to the county as well as more housing options, he said. Revising building codes and the Growth Management Act, which dictates population growth to protect critical areas and natural resources, could help spur home construction, he said during a League of Women Voters of Snohomish County forum.
Diversifying housing types and density, as well as incentives for mixed-income housing can boost stock across prices, Cortes said. He wants families to have the opportunity he and his wife had to buy a “starter” home and gain equity.
On public safety, Kemp said the Legislature needs to revise the police pursuit law and pass a bill that lets officers arrest people for simple drug possession, which the state Supreme Court struck down in 2021.
Cortes would “improve” existing policies and laws to balance law enforcement and supportive services, he said.
One idea Cortes would pursue for more state support is community court programs. Everett and Marysville municipal courts are doing something similar that lets people facing misdemeanor drug offenses enter drug treatment programs as an alternative to criminal proceedings.
“I’ve always believed we can’t arrest our way out of the situation,” Cortes said. “We have to provide support.”
Both candidates liked the idea of state funding for counties and cities to purchase motels as transitional housing, which Snohomish County did earlier this year in Edmonds and Everett.
Cortes supports Housing First as a model for addressing homeless people’s behavioral and mental health needs, he said. Such programs prioritize providing permanent housing to the homeless, followed by supportive services.
But Kemp said people who use the space should get behavioral and mental health treatment and be prohibited from using drugs.
“I wouldn’t want a drug addict next to the room with a mom and kids who aren’t on drugs,” Kemp said.
Mary Fosse, 40, and Mark James, 60, are both municipal lawmakers as city council members.
Fosse, a Democrat, is in her first term on the Everett City Council. She served as a legislative aide to state Rep. Emily Wicks, led the Delta neighborhood organization and ran a small business.
James, a Republican, is in his second term on the Marysville City Council. He is a member of Rotary International, an Army veteran and owns a small business.
His top priorities for the office generally align with proposals already published by state House Republicans, he said. Those include more funding for law enforcement hiring and retention, rolling back some police reform bills and reinstating more officer discretion in police pursuits.
“We already know and we’ve heard over and over again what’s happening with criminals becoming emboldened,” James said.
In the League of Women Voters forum, Fosse said her priorities are housing affordability, schools and social infrastructure. She wants to advocate for working families, Fosse said.
“We need to think about leaders that believe that government should help people,” she said.
People paying 30% to 40% of their income on housing is a factor in the 10-year high of Snohomish County’s homeless count, Fosse said.
More housing is needed, and especially affordable units, she said.
To address homelessness, she also proposed a law for providing a longer notice for evictions and payment plans for rent.
More funding from the state should go to agencies assisting homeless people, James said.
But unlike Snohomish County’s hotel purchases for use as transitional housing, James thinks those programs should have sobriety requirements for people staying there.
He wants to offer tax relief as a temporary solution through current high costs hitting people’s budgets.
Bernard Moody, a Republican, is back to challenge Democrat June Robinson for the state Senate seat.
Moody, 62, is a county corrections officer who lives in Everett. His primary focus through the campaign has been legislation that lets law enforcement officers arrest people suspected of simple drug possession and engage in vehicle pursuits.
Robinson, 63, works for Sno-Isle Libraries and lives in Everett. She said her legislative priorities are on the budget, prescription drug affordability and price transparency, and revising the law around simple drug possession.
A proposal for changing the simple drug possession law is likely this session, Robinson said. Her goal is “to provide compassion and accountability” with effective enforcement and adequate access to behavioral and mental health services.
Jail or prison time can spur people to get sober, and he favors laws that ensure people charged with drug crimes are sentenced to “at least a month” in jail, Moody said.
The state recently launched the 988 emergency crisis response hotline and system, which Robinson said “holds promise.” She was interested in staffing it with enough people that a behavioral crisis team can respond the way emergency medical services and law enforcement do now.
Moody said he supported adding money for rehabilitation facilities across the state to address drug abuse and addiction. He also said he likes the concept of city and county government buying hotels to use as transitional housing, but said those facilities need curfew hours and workforce connections.
“I don’t like the socialistic idea that we’re going to take care of all of their problems,” Moody said.
Robinson said she was willing to add money in the state budget to buy properties as housing if data shows the programs work and demand grows.
In the upcoming session, Robinson said she wanted to continue work on prescription drug costs and on access to reproductive health care.
Ben Watanabe: 425-339-3037; email@example.com; Twitter: @benwatanabe.
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