After state Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton, announced she would not seek reelection this year, four Democrats initially vied for her seat, along with one Republican.
Now voters have just one Democrat to choose from, Oak Harbor resident Angie Homola. She is running against Republican Greg Gilday of Camano Island.
Homola served as an Island County Commissioner for one term during the recession. She also worked as an architect and owns a small business, started an environmental nonprofit, and has lived in Oak Harbor for more than 20 years.
Homola said her “conscience compels me to do everything in my power to care today for tomorrow’s generations,” and that includes running for office. She previously ran for a state Senate position in 2016 but lost.
Gilday has not previously held elected office. He has worked as an attorney and Realtor and sat on the board of the Stanwood Camano Food Bank, Safe Harbor Clinic, and Stanwood Camano Rotary. He said he had plans to run for office someday, but that Smith’s decision not to seek reelection accelerated those plans, along with his unhappiness with decisions made in Olympia.
Gilday said he supported the governor’s initial two-week shutdown, but he said that people considered to be low-risk should be allowed to return to a “semblance of normalcy.”
He said that little was known about the virus in the beginning but that studies have shown it affects certain populations more than others.
Gilday said that the state should have better minimum safety guidelines for businesses that choose to reopen, but those guidelines would not go beyond current advice to wear masks, wash hands and stay six feet away from others.
Gilday also said that he did not fully support the governor’s eviction moratorium; he said it should be need-based, and that some people have taken advantage of it.
“I think it should be something more thought out than just a blanket ‘no evictions,’” he said.
Homola said she disagreed with the federal government’s response to the virus and wanted President Trump to extend CARES Act funding. She supported extending assistance such as unemployment benefits and eviction moratoriums.
While state budget projections continue to evolve, the two candidates have different ideas about how to deal with any shortfalls.
Homola criticized the state’s tax system, calling it the “most unfair tax structure in all 50 states,” and called for an economic study to review the existing structure. She said she would like to close tax loopholes and enable local governments to keep up with the rate of inflation when considering tax increases.
Gilday said he was not in favor of any new taxes or increases to existing ones.
“We don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem,” he said.
Both candidates agreed that they did not want to defund the police, and that officers need more training in mental health and de-escalation skills.
Gilday said police should receive more state funding for additional training and purchasing such equipment as body cameras.
“I’m against defunding the police. I think we need to fund them fully,” Gilday said, adding that the police should receive more state funding if the state is requiring more training.
He said he thought that including social workers in police operations, similar to programs in Arlington and Marysville, works well.
“The place to treat mental health is not in the jails or prisons,” he said.
Homola sidestepped the question about additional state funding for police, saying she did not have access to sheriff budgets and could not say how they were spending their money. She said the police budgets should be revisited.
“I don’t think we need to defund the police, I think we should adequately fund the police,” Homola said, adding that police have been forced to balance policing with responding to mental health crises.
The candidates differed in their views of existing policies to address climate change.
Gilday questioned if existing policies were truly effective in relation to their cost and said he wanted the state to adopt performance measures for them.
“We need to look at the efficiency of the programs and prioritize them in order to get the most environmental bang for our buck,” Gilday said.
Homola said she supported several climate change policies, including legislation to reduce coal consumption and mandating that a portion of the state’s electricity must come from renewable sources.
She also said the government should look at the social cost of carbon when evaluating capital projects.
“That would be one of the criteria – the true cost and benefit of using fossil fuels and how it impacts our community, socially,” she explained.
In the Aug. 4 primary, Gilday won 46 percent of the vote as the lone Republican. Homola won 26 percent of the vote as one of four Democratic candidates.
The 10th legislative district includes all of Island County, and part of northern Snohomish County and southwest Skagit County.
This story originally appeared in the Whidbey News-Times, a sister publication to The Herald.