Top (L-R): Carolyn Eslick, Keith Wagoner. Bottom (L-R): Eric Halvorson, Claus Joens.

Top (L-R): Carolyn Eslick, Keith Wagoner. Bottom (L-R): Eric Halvorson, Claus Joens.

Republicans look to keep grip on seats in 39th District

Concerns about roads, water and gun rights dominate the candidates’ conversations on the campaign trail.

Republicans are looking to maintain the party’s control of three seats in the 39th Legislative District in east Snohomish County.

Sen. Keith Wagoner, of Sedro-Woolley, who was appointed to his position before the 2018 session, is facing Democrat Claus Joens, of Marblemount, the top vote-getter in the multi-candidate primary.

Rep. Carolyn Eslick, of Sultan, appointed to her seat last fall, is up against Democrat Eric Halvorson, of Monroe, a first-time candidate.

And Republican Robert Sutherland is dueling Democrat Ivan Lewis to succeed Rep. Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish, who is retiring at the end of his term. Kristiansen is the former House Minority Leader.

The 39th District takes in rural areas of Snohomish and Skagit counties, and a sliver of King County. It includes the cities of Arlington, Monroe, Sultan, Gold Bar and Index.

Transportation, water, taxes and gun rights are among the dominant issues.

Wagoner, the former Sedro-Woolley mayor, and Joens, a Concrete High School teacher, are competing for a four-year term.

Wagoner took office in January, replacing Kirk Pearson, of Monroe, who resigned to join the Trump administration.

If elected, he said he will focus on accelerating the timetable for widening Highway 522 to four lanes south of Monroe and rebuilding or replacing the U.S. 2 trestle.

“Our citizens shouldn’t have to waste their lives in stop-and-go traffic,” he wrote in his voter pamphlet statement.

He backs incentives for building affordable housing and vowed to defend the rights of gun owners.

Although the state Supreme Court recently found Washington’s death penalty law unconstitutional, Wagoner said he would not support erasing it from the books. “I would like to see the Legislature work toward a solution that fits into the decision,” he said.

Both candidates agree on the need to assist Skagit County property owners who were excluded from a state law dealing with permitting for new wells. The exclusion of Skagit County has meant landowners there are unable to obtain water to develop or improve their property.

Joens also has said he wants to improve sports fishing, bolster salmon fisheries and raise the legal age for using marijuana to 25.

In recent weeks, he’s called for decriminalizing of drug tests administered to students, and destruction of those records upon their graduation. Those who test positive should be ushered toward treatment rather than punished, he said.

“We can’t solve the problem if we can’t get them into treatment,” he said.

The contest to succeed Kristiansen pits Lewis, a progressive Democrat in his first bid for office, against Sutherland, a conservative Republican seeking his third office in four years.

Sutherland ran for Congress in 2014 and 2016, and for Snohomish County executive in 2015.

In this race, he has called for freezing property taxes on existing homes and restoring the ability of Skagit County landowners to obtain water to develop their property. He opposed use of tolls or higher gas taxes to fund widening of Highway 522 and fixing of the U.S. 2 trestle. He said the state’s reserves, projected to be $3.2 billion by the end of the fiscal year, can cover the work.

“They can pay for it in cash right now,” Sutherland said.

He’s made gun rights a focal point of his campaign and strongly opposes Initiative 1639, a ballot measure that would impose new restrictions on buying and storing firearms.

“I will bring our fight to Olympia,” he declared at an April rally of gun owners at which he announced his candidacy.

Lewis, a former volunteer firefighter, manages a tutoring center, and operates a hobby farm.

If elected, he wants to work on improving access to health care, expanding support services for those addicted to opioids and bolstering the state’s education system. That would require investments in colleges and in career and technical education programs.

The state’s tax system needs to be less regressive, he said. Replacing the retail sales tax and gross receipts tax paid by businesses with new taxes on personal and corporate incomes is worth exploring, he said.

Regarding transportation, he supports speeding up the timetable for Highway 522 and undertaking more safety improvements on U.S. 2. He said he opposes tolling on the primary lanes on the trestle but would be open to tolling the carpool lanes.

A gun owner, he supports Initiative 1639. If it doesn’t pass, he said some of its elements “are relatively easy legislative fixes.”

Eslick and Halvorson, who are vying for Position 2, cite widening of Highway 522 as their chief focus in transportation. Halvorson said he wants the project moved up in the state transportation department’s project schedule because “we’re growing a lot faster than the people who put that schedule together thought.”

Rebuilding or replacing the U.S. 2 trestle is next. Both said they disliked using tolls or higher gas taxes to pay for the projects.

On water rights, Eslick said she hoped a task force that is now examining the issues would offer tangible recommendations for resolving concerns in Skagit County.

Eslick also said she will work to increase services for those with mental health challenges, and come up with ideas to address a growing elk population which has been decimating ranch land and crops.

Halvorson, an accountant, said he wants to tackle the state’s system of taxation deemed one of the nation’s most regressive. Reducing or eliminating tax incentives may be a way to increase revenue while enabling changes to more fairly spread the burden of funding services, he said.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

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

Senate

Claus Joens

Party: Democratic

Age: 55

Residence: Marblemount

Experience: Career and technical education/business teacher, Concrete High School; Precinct Committee Officer, Skagit County; Civil Air Patrol, captain.

Website: www.joens39.com

Keith Wagoner

Party: Republican

Age: 57

Residence: Sedro-Woolley

Experience: State senator, 2018-present; Sedro-Woolley mayor, 2015-18; Sedro-Woolley City Council, 2010-15; retired U.S. Navy commander.

Website: www.wagonerforsenate.com

Representative, Position 1

Ivan Lewis

Party: Democratic

Age: 29

Residence: Sultan

Experience: Math and reading tutoring center, owner; hobby farm owner; former volunteer firefighter.

Website: www.electivanlewis.com

Robert Sutherland

Party: Republican

Age: 59

Residence: Granite Falls

Experience: Retired scientist; U.S. Air Force veteran; former Snohomish County Republican Party Executive Committee, congressional candidate, 2014 and 2016; Snohomish County executive candidate, 2015.

Website: www.sutherland4rep.com

Representative, Position 2

Carolyn Eslick

Party: Republican

Age: 68

Residence: Sultan

Experience: State representative, 2017-present, Sultan mayor, 2010-17; Sultan City Council, 1995-2001; Grow Washington, founder and former executive director;

Website: www.eslick4state.com

Eric Halvorson

Party: Democratic

Age: 47

Residence: Monroe

Experience: 39th District Democrats, executive board; Oscar’s Animal Sanctuary, owner; accountant.

Website: www.ericforthe39th.com

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