44th Legislative District, House of Representatives
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.
Position 1: Rep. John Lovick, a Mill Creek Democrat, is seeking re-election following his election in 2016 and his appointment that June, following the resignation of Rep. Hans Dunshee. He is challenged by Snohomish Republican Jeff Sax, formerly a member of the Snohomish County Council and economic development manager for the city of Monroe.
Lovick previously served in the House from 1999 to 2007, where he served five years as speaker pro tem. Since completing his earlier tenure in the House he served as the Snohomish County sheriff and Snohomish County executive. He also served on the Mill Creek City Council and worked 31 years with the Washington State Patrol and with the U.S. Coast Guard.
Of all the offices in which he’s served, legislator may be most in his wheelhouse, drawing on his past experience in law enforcement and in working cooperatively with fellow Democrats and Republicans. Reflecting that respect, Lovick again was elevated to speaker pro tem following his return to the House.
Lovick was primary sponsor for a number of bills last session that became law, most of them related to law enforcement, including one that authorized local governments to perform background checks on volunteers as well as employees; another standardizing the collection and distribution of criminal records; one establishing a program of mental health field response teams; and another that updated the requirements for a concealed carry firearms permit to prohibit permits to those subject to court protection orders for extreme risk, stalking and sexual assault.
While Lovick was recorded as a yes vote on controversial legislation this year that would have largely exempted state lawmakers from the provisions of the state’s Public Records Act, Lovick maintains it was his intention to vote against the bill; as he was serving in his pro tem role at the dais, a colleague mistakenly entered his vote at his desk in error as a yes, he says. He later asked for the record to reflect his opposition. Even so, Lovick said, he is open to revisiting the issue and wants to see what a task force of lawmakers and open government advocates will recommend at the end of the year.
Lovick told the editorial board he intends to focus on the issues of the opioid crisis, mental health and school safety during his next term.
Jeff Sax has disqualified himself for consideration for the House, in our opinion, on at least two counts.
Sax showed a surprisingly lack of understanding during an interview with The Herald when he appeared to be under the impression that the state was now responsible for negotiating contracts with public school educators and staff. While the state has taken greater responsibility for the salaries of teachers and others through the property tax levy swap, individual school districts retain the responsibility for negotiating contracts. The strikes and contract negotiations across the state this September should have been Sax’s first clue.
Neither should Sax be rewarded for a cynical attack on Lovick’s character in posting documents to a website that were related to an investigation of assault more than 20 years ago. No charges came of the investigation and the purported victim, Lovick’s daughter, came forward to deny the allegations, expressed her support for her father, and asked that Sax take the website down. He, thus far, has refused.
Regardless, Lovick earns the endorsement on his strengths as an effective lawmaker.
Position 2: Mark Harmsworth, a Mill Creek Republican is seeking election to his second two-year term in the House. He is challenged by Mill Creek Democrat Jared Mead.
Harmsworth deserves appreciation for being one of only a handful of lawmakers who stood against the ill-fated public records legislation, and he remains one of a few who support the full application of the law to state lawmakers. Where some lawmakers have insisted that it may be too onerous to comply with the law in making necessary redactions of information that might identify a constituent, Harmsworth said he routinely does so with this emails and can readily respond to requests.
Less impressive, however, was Harmsworth’s campaign last year to drum up popular opposition to tolls for U.S. 2 trestle when none had been formally proposed. A state study on funding to rebuild the U.S. 2 trestle looked at a long list of possible funding sources, but a Facebook post by Harmsworth painted $6 tolls each way on the trestle as a proposal and one he opposed. An online petition followed, and set public opinion against a project that is desperately needed and will have to find a range of revenue sources, with tolling only one option.
Tolling, including I-405’s express toll lanes, is unpopular with many of Harmsworth’s constituents, but other than loosening rules for some environmental permits, he was vague about what funding sources could be tapped to address the region’s transporation bottlenecks including a idea that he and others support to connect the Boeing freeway in Everett to Highway 9.
Mead, in contrast, professed no great preference for tolls, but doesn’t want to dismiss them without considering all options. And in regard to I-405’s tolls, Mead told the board it makes no sense for the state to have collected that money and now let it sit. What has been collected isn’t enough to fund all work needed on I-405, but it can be used to leverage bonds for those projects, he said.
Mead, a Mill Creek City Council member — as Harmsworth was before him — at 27, would be the youngest member of the Legislature if elected. But he brings some experience with him. Along with his council experience and work with the city’s planning commission, Mead also benefits from time as a legislative assistant to 1st District Sen. Guy Palumbo, D-Maltby.
Mead and Harmsworth agree on more than a few issues, including public records and giving the Legislature’s funding solution for public education time to settle in. Mead, however, has proposed a tweak to the levy cap that would allow school districts to choose between a $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed valuation or $2,500 per student, rather than being required to take the lesser of the two.
Mead also wants to consider some form of property tax relief for some homeowners, to reduce the impact of the levy swap.
Alarmed by overcrowding at schools, such as his own Jackson High, Mead said he supports legislation that would lower the passage rate for school bonds to 50 percent, or even 55 percent, rather than the current 60 percent supermajority requirement.
Harmsworth has our thanks for his vote in support of the Public Records Act, but Mead gets the endorsement.
Senate: Prior to the Aug. 7 primary election, the editorial board endorsed the re-election of Steve Hobbs to the 44th District Senate seat. The board considers Hobbs, a Democrat, to be a good fit for a district that is among the more “purple” districts in the region.
Hobbs is opposed on the General Election ballot by Republican Doug Roulstone of Snohomish, former commanding office of the USS John C. Stennis, who has been active in the community and briefly served the district in the House in 2014 following the resignation of Rep. Mike Hope and the election of Harmsworth.
Assuming the Senate remains in Democratic control, Hobbs is expected to return as chairman of the Senate’s transportation committee and will be key to pursing a solution for the U.S. 2 trestle and other transportation bottlenecks in the larger Snohomish County region.