EVERETT — State House seats in the 38th Legislative District have been held by Democrats dating back to the 1960s, but a pair of political newcomers are hoping to unseat the incumbents this election cycle.
Rep. Mike Sells, D-Everett, is campaigning for a ninth consecutive term in the state House as Rep. Emily Wicks, D-Everett, seeks to win her seat for the first time after being appointed in May.
Republican Bert Johnson will challenge Wicks for the state House seat designated Position 1 on the ballot after the duo overcame two other opponents in the August primary election. For Position 2, Libertarian David Wiley will face off against Sells after both candidates automatically advanced in the primary.
At stake are a pair of two-year terms representing the 38th, which includes north and central Everett, parts of Marysville and the Tulalip Reservation.
House, Position 1
The goals remain the same for incumbent Democrat Emily Wicks, 34, should she win her first full-term this fall — an emphasis on education, improved health care, quality public transit and restoring the economy.
Wicks, the owner of a consulting firm for local businesses and nonprofits, wants to address inequity in education by removing the 60% supermajority required to pass school bonds.
“We want to make sure the majority gets heard,” she said. “When we invest in our students and our families, I think we are investing in all aspects of our community to help it thrive.”
Regional transit increases opportunities for the economy to work efficiently, she said, and strengthening the public health system would deliver adequate and affordable care to everyone in the state.
Wicks favors using tax credits and individual assistance to regenerate economic activity supporting local businesses and bolstering government budgets.
“With our state being so heavily dependent on sales tax, I think we need to ensure our people have the opportunity and resources to invest back in the economy,” she said.
She vowed to consider every cut, revenue option and tax loophole when evaluating how to balance the state budget. Wicks said a capital gains tax is “a big potential,” also mentioning a head tax on highly paid employees.
The decision by Boeing to end 787 assembly in Everett comes as a blow to everyone, Wicks said, but doesn’t signal the region’s downfall. She said leaders are already looking at options to fill Boeing’s void.
“It is an opportunity for us to deploy our amazing workforce in some more areas of our economy and innovation,” she said. “Washington state is more than Boeing and more than aerospace. This is not the start of the end, it’s the beginning of something even greater.”
Republican Bert Johnson, 62, is running a campaign calling for government accountability and fiscal responsibility. The small business owner from Tulalip said that starts with a balanced state budget and a promise to fight for lower taxes.
If elected to Olympia, Johnson vowed to not let Democrats use the current budget deficit as a chance to institute an income tax or new taxes. With his leadership, necessary cuts will be made, waste will be cleaned up and the state can focus on more important tasks, like the coronavirus.
“How many businesses have we lost out there because we just shut them down, not giving them a way to earn a living?” Johnson asked.
He noted the importance of keeping everyone healthy and following safety regulations but said it’s time to open all businesses, not just big box stores, so family-owned shops have a chance to survive.
With proper protective gear and social distancing, Johnson also supports a return to school for local students. He said kids lose focus with an online education.
Johnson said vocational education is paramount to the future of the region. He advocates for private and public sector partnerships to train students in desired trades.
“It’s incredible, with the right training and knowledge, what people make in these trades,” Johnson said.
Similar re-education can benefit Boeing employees affected by the 787 departure.
Johnson said Boeing’s decision was unfortunate but preventable with negotiated incentives or concessions that state leadership did not make. Now, he said, the focus turns to getting these people employed again.
A born-and-raised Snohomish County resident, Johnson said he’ll remember that government derives its power from the people and act with their best interests in mind.
“I think I have the right motivation and drive to help everyone in the 38th and, after the 38th, the entire state,” he said.
House, Position 2
Stimulating the economy and settling the COVID-19 crisis are Democrat Mike Sells’ priorities for another term in office.
The seasoned state representative said it is paramount to support health districts and the departments instituting protocols for workplace protection.
“I am passionate about workplace safety, and that really dovetails with COVID-19,” said Sells, 75, the chairman of the House Labor Committee. “How do we make sure if people are going to get back to work, that they are as safe as they can be?”
Rules and regulations will continue to be evaluated, but Sells said the ongoing efforts will require funding that may be difficult to find with the strapped state budget.
He said COVID-19 upended the budget, creating a volatile situation. Sells said he would seek other sources of revenue and scrub the budget for cuts that don’t undermine communities.
Sells blamed federal leaders for polarizing mask usage, delaying widespread COVID-19 testing and impeding the return to normal.
“We just don’t have that leadership at the presidential level at this point and time to get people working together on the things that need to be done,” he said.
With the departure of Boeing 787 manufacturing from Everett, Sells said, it would be vital to market the manufacturing assets and strong workforce Snohomish County can offer, but he admitted there isn’t an easy fix. Boeing, he said, can no longer be relied on.
Sells advocates for efforts to revamp the state Employment Security Department to support those facing job loss in addition to parents staying home to educate their kids as learning continues online.
Libertarian David Wiley, 43, said his position as a third-party candidate is what sets him apart from partisan gridlock.
“I am not just bringing my own ideas and agenda,” he said. “I really want to listen to the people, I want to hear about their problems and their concerns.”
If elected, Wiley said, he would begin by reforming a court system that he believes no longer offers justice. He supports ending qualified immunity for law enforcement, stopping the revolving door that puts violent offenders back on the streets and working harder to protect victims.
A quality engineer from Everett, Wiley said regulations and taxes are making Washington a bad place to do business. He said Boeing’s relocation of the 787 line shows the state’s deficiencies and the necessity to shift from production taxes — like business and operation, capital gains and payroll taxes — in favor of consumption taxes.
“The way we tax makes a difference,” Wiley said. “This will protect our labor and manufacturing so Washington state is a good place to do business, and make it so the marketplace for services that are wanted is where we do our tax collection.”
Wiley described the state budget shortfall as short-sighted and a huge burden for future lawmakers.
“It’s unfortunate, but I believe I am ready to step up to the plate and deal with it,” he said.
By January, Wiley said, COVID-19 should be under control. If not, he said, it will be time to copy other countries that have successfully stifled the spread so we can shift our focus to the pressing issues facing the economy.
“Whatever crisis comes up next year, I will be willing to listen to the people,” Wiley said.
Ballots will be mailed statewide starting Friday and must be submitted to a drop box or postmarked by mail by 8 p.m. on Nov. 3.
Ian Davis-Leonard: 425-339-3448; firstname.lastname@example.org; 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.