Continuing with the editorial board’s endorsements for the Aug. 3 primary election:
21st Legislative District
The 21st District includes the cities of Mukilteo, Lynnwood and Edmonds and parts of Everett. Both House seats for the district drew two challengers to the incumbents. The four-year Senate seat, now held by Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood, is up for election in 2022.
Rep. Strom Peterson, D-Edmonds, is challenged by Democrat Gant Diede of Everett and Republican Brian Thompson of Edmonds.
Peterson, who owns an Edmonds restaurant and cheese shop and previously served on the Edmonds City Council, is running for his fourth two-year House term. He is challenged by Diede, a mechanic at Boeing who also is secretary of the county Democratic Socialists of America, and Thompson, who runs a building and fire-code design and consulting business.
How lawmakers will address a significant revenue shortfall caused by the economic impacts of COVID-19 outlined some of the differences among the three candidates. Thompson held that taxpayers cannot be furthered burdened with new or increased taxes and suggested that cuts, specifically eliminating redundancies, could solve the budget hole. Diede sees opportunity for the state, as “home to some of the richest” corporations and individuals, to reduce taxes for working class residents, and also wants to consider a proposal to create a state bank that would allow the state to provide its own financing for infrastructure spending. Peterson said the state won’t be able to rely on either, solely, and will have to look at spending cuts as well as new tax revenue, such as a capital gains tax and closing tax loopholes. Peterson agreed that lawmakers also need to find ways to lower the state’s most regressive taxes, such as the sales tax, as well as the state’s business and occupation tax, which he says too often is a disadvantage to small businesses.
All three candidates demonstrated detailed understanding of various issues likely to be addressed by the Legislature, including law enforcement reforms and standards, funding on transportation infrastructure, affordable housing and the environment, but Peterson has the advantage of having previously worked on legislation regarding these and other issues.
Peterson particularly has been a leader on environmental issues, and was the prime sponsor in the last two years on successful legislation regarding compliance with the federal Clean Water Act, providing review of voluntary cleanup of hazardous wastes and proper collection of unused paint. Peterson and seatmate Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self also sponsored successful legislation that prohibited juvenile solitary confinement of more than 15 minutes by county detention and juvenile rehabilitation facilities.
Vice chairman on both the environmental and capital budget committees, Peterson also has worked as cooperatively with Republicans on those committees as he has with fellow Democrats.
With daunting sessions ahead for the Legislature, Peterson’s experience will serve his constituents and fellow lawmakers.
For the same reason, Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self, D-Mukilteo, also should be returned to her House seat for a fourth term. Ortiz-Self is employed as a counselor and educator with the Everett School District.
Ortiz-Self has two challengers: Republican Amy Schaper of Lynnwood and Willie Russell of Everett. Schaper, who two years ago ran against Peterson, did not respond to requests to participate in an interview. Russell, who stated no party preference when he filed for office and ran last year for a Snohomish County Council seat, is not qualified for the position in the editorial board’s opinion because of his past criminal background; Russell is a Level II sex offender with convictions in 1989 for second-degree rape, attempted third-degree statutory rape and attempted second-degree rape.
Drawing on her career experience, Ortiz-Self has made issues related to education, counseling, mental health and homeless a focus of the legislation she has sponsored in recent sessions.
While she agrees that some spending cuts will be unavoidable in coming sessions, Ortiz-Self said she would work to limit cuts to the most vulnerable, and avoid reversing the Legislature’s recent gains in addressing issues related to services for the homeless and those with mental illness. On the revenue side of the budget, Ortiz-Self said she wants to consider a proposed capital gains tax, and regarding transportation funding, a carbon tax. She would also like to see work on reducing the sales and property taxes.
As lawmakers prepare for either a special session or next year’s session, Ortiz-Self said she has participated in task force discussions on public safety and hopes to work on a range of proposals regarding mandatory police body cameras and independent review of officer-involved shooting cases.
While lawmakers in recent years have made impressive progress on K-12 education funding, Ortiz-Self said work remains to address the funding gap for special education students and funding and opportunities for students of colors. Among the bills she intends to return to next year is one that would improve the offering of ethnic studies curriculum in schools.
Ortiz-Self’s perspective as an educator and counselor, paired with her three previous terms as a lawmaker, makes her the clear choice for the district’s voters.