Editorial: Liias, McCoy and Hobbs for state Senate seats

The incumbents in the 21st, 38th and 44th district Senate races warrant a return to their posts.

21st Legislative District, Senate

The 21st District includes the cities of Mukilteo, Lynnwood and Edmonds. The Senate race has drawn three challengers to incumbent Sen. Marko Liias. The top two candidates in the Aug. 7 primary will advance to the Nov. 6 General Election.

Liias, who served the district in the House for three two-year terms between 2008 to 2014, was appointed to the Senate in 2014 following the resignation of Sen. Paull Shin. He won election to his Senate seat that fall and now seeks a second term, challenged by three.

Scott West bills himself as an independent and offers impressive credentials following a career with the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s criminal investigation division and with U.S Navy intelligence.

Riaz Khan, a Boeing engineer living in Mukilteo, has run previously for a 21st District House seat and for Mukilteo City Council. He also is a proponent of a mosque in Mukilteo and has become a respected voice for religious tolerance.

Mario Lotmore, employed in aerospace and manufacturing management and has been an advocate and volunteer in STEM programs at Mukilteo and Everett elementary schools.

While each has his area of knowledge, it’s difficult to match Liias in terms of breadth of legislative issues.

Despite lawmakers having satisfied the state Supreme Court on K-12 education funding, Liias recognizes work remains to enable lower class sizes and bolster special education funding. While he ultimately voted for the levy swap that was used to fund schools, he supported property tax relief for 2019 and said he’ll look to extend that relief, taking another run at tax incentives.

Liias has shown himself as an effective legislator, championing a bill that banned gay conversation therapy for those under 18. Liias also was among Democrats that sought compromise on the valuation formula used for Sound Transit’s car tab tax, seeking to ease that tax while preserving funding for a transit option that he says is key to making other transportation modes more effective in the region.

Like most other of the area’s state lawmakers, Liias voted for a bill that would have largely exempted legislators from the Public Records Act, and still supports some exemptions for constituent emails but is open to compromise as the issue returns.

Liias was productive in his first term as senator and represented his constituents well. He deserves re-election.

38th Legislative District, Senate

The 38th District includes Everett, the Tulalip Indian Reservation and the western neighborhoods of Marysville. Two candidates are challenging Sen. John McCoy, D-Tulalip.

McCoy was appointed to a Senate vacancy in 2013 and won election to the seat in 2014. Prior to his Senate service, McCoy served from 2003 to 2013 in the House.

McCoy is challenged by Bruce Overstreet, a longtime educator and coach now with the Everett School District, running as a Democrat; and Savio Pham, of Everett, an “independent Republican” who immigrated from Vietnam with his family when he was 18. Pham is an executive with a business data company.

Pham and Overstreet express a desire to give back to their communities. Overstreet believes he can best work across the aisle with Republicans on legislative issues, focusing on youth and the environment. Pham also said he believes he can work past partisanship and wants to address affordable housing, the opioid crisis, the creation of family-wage jobs and over-taxation.

But in the Senate, and the House before that, McCoy, who formerly served as general manager of the Tulalips’ Quil Ceda Village, has been responsive and productive for his district and the state.

McCoy stood by his concerns over the 2017 levy swap that was used to fund schools, voting against a measure that resulted in dissatisfaction among many property taxpayers. That “messy” situation, McCoy says now needs to be fixed by lawmakers.

McCoy also has shown concern for economic development of the district’s and state’s rural areas and has advocated for expansion of broadband internet to foster the economy. He has proposed legislation to allow public utility districts greater authority to provide internet service to the estimated 200,000 in the state who lack a broadband connection.

McCoy also was the author of legislation that expanded access to dental care on state tribal lands, providing a vital health service to under-served communities. McCoy also helped win passage of oil train safety legislation important to the district and Puget Sound.

The Herald Editorial Board endorsed McCoy four years ago, noting his habit of being “bracingly honest” and not one for false pledges. McCoy doesn’t over-promise, but has shown he can finish what he starts. He deserves a second term in the Senate.

44th Legislative District, Senate

A rapidly growing district, the 44th includes eastern portions of Marysville, Lake Stevens, Snohomish and Mill Creek and adjacent unincorporated areas.

Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, is challenged by Republican Doug Roulstone of Snohomish and Libertarian Jeremy Fitch of Everett.

Roulstone, the former commanding officer of the USS John C. Stennis, has been active in the county, serving as president the Everett Navy League, as Republican chairman for the 44th District, and serving as a state representative, appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee, for the balance of 2014 between the resignation of Rep. Mike Hope and the election of Rep. Mark Harmsworth.

Fitch, the owner of a smart-home technology company, has lived in the county for 13 years.

Both Fitch and Roulstone promise attention to what they see as overtaxation, particularly on property taxes and highway tolls. Yet, Roulstone in particular, has not been helped by fellow Republicans who paid for ads critical of Hobbs for his support of a gas tax increase and the property tax levy swap, both of which were advanced by Republicans.

It’s an odd argument for Republicans to make that property taxes are too high when they pushed that as the only acceptable solution to education funding.

Despite its growth, the 44th district is among the more “purple” districts in the region, and Hobbs, a moderate Democrat, has been a good fit for its constituents. Unlike other Democrats in the region, Hobbs has not lined up behind gun safety legislation, including that for safe-storage measures. Hobbs said he is concern that response times for rural parts of his district argue against such legislation.

Hobbs, like Liias and McCoy, voted for the ill-considered public records legislation. He, too, says he is concerned about protecting the privacy of constituents and whistle-blowers, but is open to continuing the conversation on lawmakers’ responsibility for the law.

Despite differences with Hobbs on the safe-storage and records issues, the board finds Hobbs generally looks for consensus as a senator and is able to work cooperatively with Republicans, something that the district and the region need as a solution is sought to an aging U.S. 2 trestle.

Chairman of the Senate’s transportation committee, Hobbs pushed for a study of the U.S. 2 trestle, and his leadership will be key to developing a solution and finding funding for it, a difficult challenge, considering a gas tax increase is unlikely and public sentiment may be against tolling.

Assuming he is re-elected and Democrats retain Senate leadership, Hobbs will be judged largely on what happens with U.S. 2 in the next four years. We’re endorsing Hobbs as the best shot at a trestle solution.

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