Bruce Overstreet, John McCoy and Savio Pham

Bruce Overstreet, John McCoy and Savio Pham

McCoy faces two foes who say he’s lost touch with the district

The top two in the Aug. 7 primary will face off in November with the winner earning a four-year term.

EVERETT — Sen. John McCoy is pursuing re-election against a pair of first-time candidates who say voters should make a change because the veteran Democratic lawmaker has lost touch with many of those he serves.

McCoy, a Tulalip resident, is seeking a second term against the challenge of Bruce Overstreet, a fellow Democrat, and Savio Pham, a Republican. Both live in Everett.

They are competing in the 38th Legislative District which encompasses Everett, Tulalip and part of Marysville. The top two finishers in the Aug. 7 primary will face off in November with the winner earning a four-year term. The job pays $47,776 a year.

“I really respect what he’s doing,” Overstreet said. “But I really believe it is time for fresh ideas.”

Pham said he’s met voters who either don’t know the senator or know his name but not his record. That’s an indication he’s not representing the district well, he said.

Another reason Overstreet entered the race, he said, is concern the senator “is going into this with no interest in finishing his term.”

McCoy, who is 74, said he’s focused on getting re-elected and not what happens afterwards.

“I don’t know,” he said. “Right now I do not plan on leaving early.”

McCoy was first elected to the state House of Representatives in 2002. He was appointed to a vacant Senate seat in 2013 and won a full term in 2014. A member of the Tulalip Tribes, he is an Air Force veteran and retired general manager of Quil Ceda Village.

In his tenure, he’s led efforts to extend broadband service into rural areas and incorporate Native American history into public school curriculum. He’s pushed for tougher rules for oil transportation and water quality, as well as expanding production of alternative energy.

A reliable vote for liberal Democrat policies, McCoy said he’s running again because “there’s still work to be done.”

He said he wants to keep working to get internet into under-served areas, bolster services to the mentally ill, increase training for educators, and iron out wrinkles in public school funding in the post-McCleary era.

“That was a little messy,” he said of passage of a bill in 2017 that hiked property tax statewide while capping how much school districts collect from local levies. He voted against the bill .

“We need to straighten that out so there is more capacity for funding for teacher compensation,” he said.

On two potential fall ballot measures, he said he’s leaning toward backing Initiative 1631 creating a carbon emission fee and I-1639 expanding restrictions on sale and storage of firearms.

Overstreet, 57, an Everett High School teacher, said the political process is a subject he’s covered throughout a 31-year career.

“I’ve taught this and I want to walk this,” he said, vowing to tackle the job with “great passion and vision” and an independent mind.

He said he’s open to new taxes on carbon emissions, capital gains and income — “it is a progressive tax” — and offered “solid support” of the firearms initiative.

Overstreet is part of an Everett family with a strong political lineage. His late father, Bob, was a long-serving and much respected Everett city councilman. His sister, Jill McKinnie, is the Snohomish County public advocate and former top staffer for U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Washington.

But Bruce Overstreet is deliberately not tapping into it.

“I want to carve my own path,” he said. “What I’m stressing is the need for change. What’s happening right now, the status quo, is not serving us well.”

Overstreet said he pondered running as an independent but figured he would not be taken seriously.

Once he decided to run as a Democrat, he said he met with McCoy. While the senator wasn’t thrilled, he didn’t try to talk him out of it, Overstreet said.

McCoy said he couldn’t figure out Overstreet’s motive.

“Other people talked to him too,” McCoy said. “I’m not so sure he has a solid campaign policy platform. It seems like he wants to change jobs.”

Pham, 46, was born in South Vietnam. He said his family came to the United States as refugees in 1990 after his father’s release from prison. They initially settled in Kansas City, Missouri. Pham was 18.

He went to college, earning two bachelor degrees, an MBA and a doctor of management in organizational leadership. He moved to King County in 2009.

Pham has never run for political office. Last year he got a job as a field representative for Washington Democratic U.S. Rep. Adam Smith. Pham left in May when he and his wife moved to Everett. Days later he filed for office.

“This is a calling for me,” he said. “I am a product of what the American Dream should be.”

Pham said the three main issues of his campaign are providing affordable living opportunities, fighting the opioid abuse crisis and bringing more family wage jobs to the community.

He said he opposes an income tax and has not made a decision on the carbon emission fee and firearm restriction initiatives.

On the ballot, Pham is listed as an “Independent Republican.” It is not an attempt to distance himself from Republican President Donald Trump, who is unpopular in the Democrat-leaning district

“My intention is not to associate or disassociate myself with or for anyone,” he said. “I want to give myself room so I can look at the issues and independently evaluate them before I vote.”

Ballots for the Aug. 7 primary can be put in a designated drop box until 8 p.m. on Election Day. If returned by mail, they must be postmarked no later than Aug. 7.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@herald Twitter: @dospueblos.

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