The contest for a legislative seat between Democratic Rep. John Lovick and Snohomish Mayor John Kartak at times has been overshadowed by the words and actions of the Republican challenger.
At stake is a two-year term in Position 1 of the 44th Legislative District, which encompasses the cities of Mill Creek, Snohomish, Marysville and Lake Stevens.
Lovick, 69, is seeking a third term in a second tour as a House member from the 44th District. He serves as speaker pro tem, making him one of the chamber’s most recognized, and respected, members.
A retired Washington State Patrol trooper, Lovick began his political career on the Mill Creek City Council. He won a state House seat in 1998 and was in his fifth term in 2007 when he was elected Snohomish County sheriff. He was appointed Snohomish County executive after the resignation of Aaron Reardon. He ran for a full term in 2015 but lost to another Democrat, Dave Somers. A year later, Lovick was picked to fill a vacancy on the Snohomish County Council.
The Mill Creek resident, who has two grown children, describes himself as a “servant leader” and says his experience is critically needed as the state deals with the pandemic and the economic downturn it’s triggered — and looks to heal a racial divide that has sparked a season of civil unrest.
“Elections are about leadership and results,” Lovick said. “We need leaders to enhance unity, diversity and strength.”
Kartak, 55, was born in Seattle, raised on a farm in Snohomish County and has lived in the city of Snohomish since 1996. He worked as a general contractor from the age of 19 until getting elected Snohomish mayor in a hard-fought election in 2017. He has five grown sons.
He touts his experience as a business owner handling demands of budgets and payrolls, and as mayor ensuring critical services are provided to residents.
Running against the tenured Lovick is “an honor,” he said, but the incumbent sides too often with the liberal fiscal and social policies authored by Democrats in Seattle and King County.
“He’s done a miserable job representing our small town, East County values,” Kartak said, pledging to seek “normalcy as we understand it, not normalcy as Seattle understands it.”
Since May, a spate of controversial public comments and social media posts concerning protests have earned Kartak much attention, not all of it positive and some strongly negative.
Earlier this month, for example, he briefly shared a mocking image of protesters being run over by a car on his personal Facebook page. He called it a “terrible mistake” and “deeply apologized. The last thing I would want to do is offend my community.”
Such incidents are likely a contributing factor to why his campaign has failed to garner financial support from the House Republican Caucus to which he aspires to join. He said he understood.
“My heart is completely in this. The community always expects that from me,” he said. “It certainly concerns me how rabid the politics can be. My name is associated with racism. My name is associated with willful violence. This is how wacko and wacky it’s gone.”
The two differ on pretty much every substantive policy issue.
Lovick backs a capital gains tax, which he calls a “wealth tax,” to help plug a budget shortfall. He also supports a low carbon fuel standard, which could drive up gas prices a few pennies a gallon, and embraces the Sound Transit expansion, which has led to much higher vehicle registration bills for many in the district.
Kartak opposes new taxes and increases in existing ones. He backed Initiative 976 to lower the cost of car tabs and ditch vehicle valuation methods used by Sound Transit.
Where Lovick voted to restore state agencies’ use of affirmative action in hiring and require comprehensive sex education in all public schools, Kartak opposed both. Voters in 2019 repealed the Democrat-backed affirmative action measure with Referendum 88. This year, the sex ed mandate is on the ballot with Referendum 90.
Regarding the pandemic, Lovick is calling for creation of a panel to evaluate “what went right, what went wrong and what we can do better” in terms of the state’s response.
Kartak contends one thing Lovick could have already done is not sit on the sidelines while Gov. Jay Inslee issued emergency proclamations and the budget shortfall became known.
Had lawmakers gone into emergency session, they could have “started making small, reasonable cuts” to avoid deeper ones later, and weigh in on the governor’s decisions on the health crisis.
Lovick said he disagreed with the governor’s decision to not call a special session. “I would have gone. We didn’t do it and now we’re not going to start until Jan. 11,” he said.
Policing is another point on which they differ.
Lovick is on a policy team assembling bills to ban no-knock warrants, gather use-of-force data, strengthen the process of de-certifying law enforcement officers and carry out other reforms.
Kartak isn’t pushing any new policies. Rather, he said, he will “loudly and boldly stand with our police. We need to be resolute in supporting them.”
Confronting and easing racial tensions is a matter of most concern for Lovick.
“Healing this racial divide has to be our top priority,” Lovick said at a forum hosted by the Mill Creek Chamber of Commerce. “It is worse than anything I’ve seen in many, many years.”
Entering the final weekend, Lovick had collected $168,873 in contributions to Kartak’s $23,747. And the incumbent had spent about 80% while the challenger reported expending about half of his total.
Most of Lovick’s largest contributors are Democratic Party organizations, labor unions, tribes and political action committees for such groups as charter schools, auto dealers, insurers, dentists, lawyers, card room operators and hospitals.
Kartak’s top donors are family members. He’s also received support from Republican Snohomish County Councilman Sam Low and the county Republican Party.