Editorial: Endorsements for 1st, 39th, 44th House races

The Herald Editorial Board wraps up its primary endorsements for the state Legislature.

By The Herald Editorial Board

Concluding the editorial board’s primary election endorsements with recommendations for races in the 1st, 39th and 44th Legislative Districts:

1st LD, House, Pos. 2

The 1st District, split between Snohomish and King counties, includes the cities of Mountlake Terrace, Brier, Bothell and part of Kirkland and south Snohomish County communities west of High Bridge Road.

Incumbent Rep. Shelley Kloba, D-Kirkland, is running for her third two-year term in the House and is challenged by Republicans Jeb Brewer and Gary Morgan.

Kloba is a former Kirkland City Council member and previously served as legislative director for the state PTA.

Brewer, a state resident for 16 years, owns a business advising construction and restaurant industries and is a licensed home inspector.

Morgan, who served for six years on the Brier City Council, has worked as an accountant and consultant including work with Catholic Housing Services’ affordable housing projects.

Both Morgan and Brewer are critical of what they see as the Legislature’s over-reliance on tax revenue.

Brewer is especially critical of taxes for transportation and how revenue has been spent on projects, pointing to a piecemeal approach to improving Highway 9. Brewer also finds fault with the governor’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. While early decisions helped hold down hospitalizations, the shutdown went on too long, he argues, and the governor should have called a special session.

Considering the expected revenue shortfall because of the pandemic and its response, Morgan is supportive of cuts in spending rather than lawmakers turning to new tax revenue, citing a spending problem and not a revenue problem.

Kloba disagrees, saying new revenue will be necessary to avoid deep budget cuts that would hit those most affected during the pandemic, as well as recent improvements in education funding, child and family services and mental health. Kloba supports elimination of some tax preferences and a broader look at the tax system.

Kloba, who serves as vice chairwoman on committees for commerce and gaming; and innovation, technology and economic development, was primary sponsor on a number of successful bills during her last term, specifically related to issues of personal and consumer data privacy. She also was primary sponsor of a successful bill that allows those with a gambling problem to self-exclude themselves from casinos and lotteries. Even prior to the protests over use of force by police, Kloba sponsored legislation in 2019 and 2020 that would shorten the deadline by which newly hired police officers begin academy training to two months from the current six months.

Kloba in her four years in the House has shown herself as an effective legislator and warrants a third term.

39th LD, House, Pos. 2

The 39th Legislative District includes the rural eastern portions of Skagit, Snohomish and King counties, and includes the cities of Sedro-Woolley, Concrete, Arlington, Darrington, Granite Falls, Monroe, Sultan, Gold Bar, Index and Skykomish.

Incumbent Rep. Carolyn Eslick, R-Sultan, is challenged in the primary by Republican Sandy Mesenbrink of Monroe and Democrat Ryan Johnson of Arlington.

Eslick, formerly the mayor of Sultan, was appointed to her seat in 2017 to fill a vacancy, and won election to a full term in 2018. She serves on committees for human services and early learning, the capital budget and transportation. Among successful legislation for which she was the primary sponsor, Eslick was able to expand access for behavioral health care for youths.

Neither Eslick nor Mesenbrink responded to emails seeking their participation in a joint interview.

Johnson, a former Navy jet mechanic, is a truck driver, who said he is running to offer the perspective of those whose jobs typically exclude them from serving as legislators. Should he be elected, Johnson said, he has arranged a leave of absence with his employer during sessions.

His work as a truck driver has provided perspective on transportation issues, as well as time to think. Johnson is critical of the lack of maintenance on state highways and says adequate funding must be found for improvement projects. While critical of the car tab fee, the problem, he said, is in the way the fee valued vehicles, not in the fee itself. Vehicle owners, he said, would have been more supportive of car tabs if the state had assessed vehicle values reasonably and transparently.

Johnson also has been active in his community regarding issues of school security, and believes school districts need to be held accountable to make necessary improvements, in particular for door locks and fencing that can be installed affordably.

Eslick has been an effective and responsive representative for her district. But Johnson presents his opinions and proposals well and would offer a workaday perspective not seen often among the professionals on the floor of the Legislature. With hopes for a joint interview with both before the general election, the board recommends voters support Johnson or Eslick and move both on to the November election.

44th LD, House, Pos. 2

The 44th District is positioned centrally in Snohomish County and includes all or parts of the cities of Marysville, Lake Stevens, Snohomish, Everett and Mill Creek.

Previously held by Jared Mead, who left the House when he was selected to fill a vacancy on the Snohomish County Council, the open seat drew three candidates: Republican Mark James, Democrat Anne Anderson and Democrat April Berg.

James, of Marysville, has served on the city council there since his election in 2017. An Army veteran, he runs a coupon and advertising magazine. He also serves on the Snohomish County Planning Commission.

Anderson, of Lake Stevens, most recently worked as executive director of Victim Support Services, a statewide advocacy organization for crime victims. She has also served on the board the the Snohomish County Food Bank Coalition.

Berg, of Mill Creek, was elected to the Everett School District board in 2019 and also serves on the Mill Creek planning commission. Berg formerly served on the Edmonds school board and was an aerospace program manager.

District voters can review coverage by The Herald’s Jerry Cornfield in the July 22 Herald for each candidate’s positions on a range of issues.

Their discussion in an interview for the editorial board regarding the state budget’s revenue shortfall illustrates some of the policy differences among the three.

James recommended lawmakers roll back the budget to levels adopted in 2017, then go through programs line by line. Confronting the revenue shortfall during the next three years, he said, can be done without tax increases.

Anderson said programs and costs should be reviewed and there are areas where cuts can be made, but there are other areas where more spending can aid the recovery. In terms of revenue, Anderson said closing of corporate tax preferences should come first.

Berg does support a capital gains tax, and said it can be implemented without affecting middle-class families and retirement investments. New revenue, she said, is necessary to protect the recent investments made to education funding and to avoid the austerity measures that hampered the state’s recovery from the last recession.

In conversation with the editorial board, each candidate demonstrated a detailed understanding of issues lawmakers are likely to face next session. And each offers experience and background that would serve the district.

Among three impressive candidates, Berg’s background in education, planning and aerospace, and her past work as a legislative representative for the Edmonds School Board, prepares her well to serve the district and its residents.

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