Two Republicans who’ve sought to serve in the Legislature before and one Democrat who has not are vying for an open state House seat in a district straddling Snohomish and Skagit counties.
Republicans Randy Hayden and Robert Sutherland and Democrat Ivan Lewis are competing to succeed Rep. Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish, who is retiring at the end of his term. Kristiansen, the former House Minority Leader who held the office since 2003, has endorsed Hayden.
The top two finishers in the Aug. 7 primary will advance to the November general election. The eventual winner will serve a two-year term representing residents of the 39th Legislative District, which encompasses parts of Snohomish and Skagit counties, and a sliver of King County.
It takes in the cities of Arlington, Monroe, Sultan, Gold Bar and Index. The largest number of the district’s registered voters live in Snohomish County.
Sutherland, 58, of Granite Falls, is a retired scientist and U.S. Air Force veteran. The conservative Republican might be a familiar name to voters as he’s sought elected office three of the past four years.
In 2014, he ran against Democratic U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene and finished third in the primary. Two years later, he tried again and lost to her in the general election. In 2017, he tried unsuccessfully for Snohomish County executive.
Sutherland said he is encouraged about his prospects because in 2016 he got more votes than DelBene in the portion of the congressional district that also lies in the 39th.
On the issues, he said he wants to freeze property taxes on existing homes. State spending needs to be prioritized with education at the top, he said.
He wants to restore the ability of landowners in Skagit County to obtain water to develop their property. A water use law passed this year in response to the Hirst decision set up a means for property owners to drill wells. But it left out Skagit County.
Protecting rights of gun owners is another focal point. Sutherland opposes Initiative 1639, a measure for the November ballot that would impose new restrictions on buying and storing firearms.
It is billed as a measure to make schools safer but “it is not going to save a single life,” he said. “If we want to protect our kids in schools, we need to protect them with guns.”
Hayden, 61, of Darrington, owns a construction company and a mini-storage business in Darrington. He is also on the executive board of the Snohomish County Republican Party.
In 2012, Hayden, then an Edmonds resident, ran unsuccessfully for a House seat in the 32nd Legislative District. The following year he tried for a seat on the Edmonds City Council but lost.
In this campaign, he has called for a stronger state response to the opioid crisis. He said he would push to increase the availability of treatment and supportive services for those abusing opioids. This would include providing more housing options for people leaving treatment centers so they do not wind up on the street, said Hayden, who serves on the Snohomish County Chemical Dependency and Mental Health Board.
On transportation, he said a lot needs to be done on U.S. 2 and other roads. He said he would listen to ideas on how to finance improvements but is “dead set against a mileage fee.”
Recently, Hayden came under fire for Facebook posts, most made in 2017 and since deleted, that some viewed as demeaning to Muslims, Native Americans, African Americans and the LGBTQ community.
“They are trying to paint me out to be a racist,” Hayden said, referring to unnamed Democrats who discovered and circulated the posts to the media.
“I don’t look at people by the color of their skin,” he said, noting his church is led by a black pastor and has a largely nonwhite congregation. “Call me stupid. Don’t call me a racist.”
There’s been some fallout.
Hayden said he did not lose any endorsements but some, such as Republican Snohomish County Councilman Nate Nehring, asked to have their name removed from his campaign website.
Sutherland said some precinct committee officers told him it was “terrible and now it looks bad after he took (the posts) down.”
And Lewis took to his campaign Facebook page to share his thoughts — without mentioning Hayden by name.
“I am proud of the outcry that spoke against these racist views, but it is not over,” Lewis wrote. “We have to keep fighting against these views and make it clear that we will not stand for leaders who are intolerant of those who are different than themselves.”
Lewis, 29, of Sultan, is making his first bid for political office. An Eagle Scout and former volunteer firefighter, he owns and manages a math and reading tutoring center while running a hobby farm at home.
With four young children, he said he decided to run because his state representatives were not doing what he thought should be done.
“The only way for (my children) to grow up in a better world is to make it a better world,” he said.
Among the issues he’s focused on are creating a single-payer health care system, tackling the opioid epidemic with expanded support services for those addicted and easing commute challenges.
He also wants to reform the state’s tax system to make it less regressive. He suggests one way is to replace the state’s retail sales tax and gross receipts tax paid by businesses with new taxes on personal and corporate incomes.
Lewis entered the final weekend of the campaign as the leading fundraiser in this race.
He had reported $19,256 in contributions and $14,456 in expenditures as of Friday,according to information posted online by the state Public Disclosure Commission.
Hayden had raised $15,602 and spent $12,108 with Sutherland reporting raising $6,255 and spending $8,884, according to the database.