By The Herald Editorial Board
The new legislative district boundaries adopted this year made notable changes for the 44th Legislative District. The district kept its base communities of Mill Creek and Snohomish and south Everett but lost the city of Lake Stevens and neighborhoods just south of 20th Street SE but added communities in North Creek, Maltby, Clearview and Cathcart as well as the region between Echo Lake Road and High Bridge Road.
44th Legislative District, House, Pos. 1
Incumbent Rep. Brandy Donaghy, D-Everett, was appointed to her seat at the end of 2021 to fill a vacancy created when then-Rep. John Lovick, D-Mill Creek, was appointed to the Senate. She is challenged by Republican Mark Harmsworth, of Mill Creek. Harmsworth served two terms in the House, winning elections in 2014 and 2016, but losing reelection in 2018. Harmsworth did not respond to requests to participate in an endorsement interview.
Donaghy, a U.S. Navy veteran who worked with aviation ordnance, has a bachelor’s degree from UW-Bothell in business administration and management information systems. She works with a nonprofit disaster response organization and is certified by the Community Emergency Response Team, working to prepare residents and other volunteers for disaster response.
Joining the Legislature during the covid pandemic, Donaghy drew on her experience with the Navy and in disaster preparedness to focus on public health and safety issues in her first session this year. Donaghy sponsored six bills, five which passed the House and two which were approved by the Senate and signed into law.
One allows emergency medical technicians, at the request of a public health agency, to provide “collaborative medical care,” including medical evaluations, testing and vaccines outside of an emergency, expanding access when necessary.
Another, citing the proven higher visibility and additional safety that flashing blue lights provide police vehicles on roadsides, allows fire department vehicles to be outfitted with blue lights, while extending the same requirement for drivers to change lanes or proceed with caution.
Another bill, which passed the house unanimously but did not advance in the Senate, would have addressed the shortage of paraeducators in school classrooms by increasing time for school districts to provide training and allow online training.
Donaghy said she’s committed to getting things done but wants to get there through bipartisan agreement. As someone who worked with explosive ordinance in a testing facility, Donaghy said she learned the importance of communicating with and trusting team members, regardless of individual opinions.
In her first session this year, Donaghy has proven that commitment to bipartisan solutions and effective legislation. With confidence, voters can give Donaghy a full term to continue that work.
44th Legislative District, House, Pos. 2
Incumbent Rep. April Berg, D-Mill Creek, is seeking re-election to a second full term. She won election to her seat in 2020. She is challenged by Ryne Rohla, of Everett, running as a Republican.
Rohla, who has a doctorate in economics, is an economist with the state Office of the Attorney General in its antitrust division, work that he says has returned $10 million to consumers from illegal corporate practices on pricing. Rhola, 31 and a life-long county resident, also has taught economics at Washington State University and was a researcher at University of California at Los Angeles.
Berg, a Snohomish County resident for 25 years, has served on school boards for Everett and Edmonds school districts, and also served on the Mill Creek planning commission. She has worked for local tech companies, Boeing and owned an Edmonds bed and breakfast inn. Berg has a history degree from Oregon State.
Rohla’s work in the attorney general’s office has provided him insight into the economics of families in the state. He estimates that inflation in the last 16 months has cost the average household in the state about $8,100 from increased costs of living and is doubly hard on lower-income families because it hits those families hardest and limits their ability to build wealth.
Rohla, however, is careful not to blame Democrats for inflation, but he does question policies that discourage solutions to inflation.
Rohla, noting recent increases in violent crime in county communities, does believe that some of that is a result of changes in the last three years in police tactics, believing those reforms sent a message that crime was less likely to result in arrest, prosecution and punishment, especially for gang-related crime and shoplifting.
Berg said her focus hasn’t changed since she was first elected, and remains concentrated on what she believes is important to the district’s residents, including a strong economy, education, health care and transportation. Berg’s committee assignments are geared toward those issues, serving on education and local government committees and the joint legislative audit comment and as vice-chair of the finance committee.
Berg is supportive of the package of legislation that addressed issues of use of force by police and their balance with public safety, but admitted that adjustments were necessary, pointing to one attempt that meant to restrict the use of large-caliber weapons but inadvertently included “beanbag guns,” used as a less-lethal option in standoffs.
Overlooked in terms of improving public safety, she said, were provisions to provide a 10 percent raise to State Patrol troopers and fully fund the state’s criminal justice training center, with plans next session to provide for at least four regional training centers, to increase access to police training.
Berg, in her first two years, was primary sponsor of eight bills that were passed with bipartisan support in the Legislature and signed into law, among them, legislation that:
- Expanded College in the High School credits, offering college-level courses to high school students, to ninth-graders;
- Expanded existing tax breaks for businesses’ data centers in rural counties to include urban areas, expanding job opportunities in her district and elsewhere;
- Eliminated co-payments for student meals in public schools for those students who qualified for reduced-price lunches;
- Required public schools to provide free menstrual products in restrooms for girls and women.
Another of Berg’s bills, which did not advance but the provisions for which were included in broader legislation, sought to prohibit weapons at county auditor election facilities.
Notably, Berg had served her first term while remaining on the Everett School Board, but has since stepped down from her school duties, comparing the dual service not to walking and chewing gum at the same time but to chewing gum and being in a hot-dog-eating contest at the same time, not impossible but not advisable.
Rohla is an intriguing candidate. Bucking a Republican trend — at least at the national level — Rohla said he is not afraid to call out extreme views within his own party, and rebukes the election lies of former president Donald Trump. He presents himself as a skilled moderate problem-solver and would have much to offer fellow lawmakers, particularly on economic issues.
But in her full term of service, Berg has shown herself as an effective and motivating legislator, able to work with fellow lawmakers of both parties, keen on details and concerned about issues — large and small — that make a difference in her district and statewide. Berg’s talents, joined by her commitment to service, make a convincing case for reelection.
Correction: On earlier version of this editorial transposed letters in Ryne Rohla’s name and corrects that April Berg won election to the seat in 2020. It also clarifies that Brandy Donaghy is certified by the Community Emergency Response Team and volunteers with a nonprofit disaster response organization.
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