Kathryn Lewandowski (left) and Keith Wagoner

Kathryn Lewandowski (left) and Keith Wagoner

Incumbent faces third-party foe in 39th District Senate race

Sen. Keith Wagoner, R-Sedro-Woolley, is opposed by Progressive Kathryn Lewandowsky of Arlington.

EVERETT — For close to two decades, voters in the 39th Legislative District have cast their ballots decisively red, favoring Republican state legislators in each general election since 2002.

This fall, Sen. Keith Wagoner, R-Sedro-Woolley, will look to maintain his party’s grasp on a state Senate seat it’s held since 1996. Third-party candidate Kathryn Lewandowsky, of the Washington Progressive Party, is challenging the incumbent.

Wagoner, 59, won his position for the first time in the 2018 election after being appointed to the Senate earlier that year. He previously was the mayor of Sedro-Woolley and served on the town’s council.

Lewandowsky, 61, of Arlington, is a nurse with more than 30 years of bedside experience. A board member with Whole Washington, a single-payer, universal health care proposal, she said the goal of her run for office is to get everyone in the state adequate health care.

The candidates are vying for a four-year term representing a district that comprises rural areas of Snohomish and Skagit counties, and a sliver of King County. It includes the cities of Arlington, Monroe, Sultan, Gold Bar, Darrington, Granite Falls and Index.

Jump starting the economy and balancing the state budget are Wagoner’s immediate priorities if reelected. He said difficult work is ahead in the next legislative session as representatives will need to be surgical in making cuts that don’t harm the state’s most vulnerable populations.

Wagoner anticipates swift bipartisan support for legislation limiting the governor’s emergency powers. The senator said he originally supported giving Gov. Jay Inslee sweeping control amid the COVID-19 pandemic, never predicting it would be so greatly abused.

“We’ve been isolated as a Legislature, we are not involved in any way with helping solve Washington’s problems right now, which means I’m not representing my constituents,” Wagoner said.

In addition to health care, Lewandowsky is passionate about preserving the planet. She said there are no options beyond taking difficult actions if people want to pass on a livable planet to their grandchildren.

“We are at the point where we have to make the hard choices, and the people that are currently in our Legislature, I don’t feel they’re willing to make the hard choices,” Lewandowsky said.

Both candidates agree that coronavirus has revealed pitfalls with operations in the state, but they disagree on what those shortcomings are and how each should be resolved.

Wagoner said the current cookie-cutter approach to reopening the economy is too slow. Having lost family and friends to the virus, he said he understands it’s severity, but believes the state can’t hunker down and wait out the virus.

He supports giving power to local government to be part of the solution, getting kids back to school for the betterment of their mental health and resolving woes within the state’s Employment Security Department that delayed payments to those who lost work.

“We’ve been so focused on coronavirus itself, that we’ve forgotten about all the secondary and tertiary affects that are also killing and damaging people,” Wagoner said.

Coronavirus further displayed to Lewandowsky the necessity of separating health care and employment.

If elected, Lewandowsky said she would act with urgency to enact the Whole Washington plan. She said the approach would save the state $9 billion annually, helping to resolve the state’s budget shortfall.

“If we do the right thing, we won’t have to experience those cuts,” Lewandowsky said.

When resolving economic woes, Lewandowsky said people must realize the economy may never look the same again and the solution will likely come from looking ahead at where our resources are needed. She also supports updating the state tax system, so large businesses are obligated to pay their fair share.

Lewandowsky said she also wants to prioritize removing big money from politics.

“We continue electing the same people and expecting we are going to have different result,” she said.

Wagoner favors removing business and occupation (B&O) taxes and manufacturing taxes in Washington to support companies negatively impacted by the departure of Boeing 787 production.

The senator said he has a good record working across the aisle and if reelected, hopes to continue being a positive influence for rural communities in Olympia.

“I act as a cultural translator by saying, ‘Maybe that works in Seattle, but when you come to Granite Falls, Monroe or Arlington, it’s a different lifestyle, so please take that into account,’” Wagoner said.

Ballots have begun to be distributed across the state and must be submitted at a drop box or by mail by 8 p.m. on Nov. 3.

Ian Davis-Leonard: 425-339-3448; idavisleonard@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @IanDavisLeonard.

Ian Davis-Leonard reports on working class issues through Report for America, a national service program that places emerging journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues. To support Ian’s work at The Daily Herald with a tax-deductible donation, go to www.heraldnet.com/support.

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