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Editorial: Retain Sen. Liias, Rep. Peterson in 21st district

The long-serving Democrats’ record of legislative success has earned leadership posts for both.

By The Herald Editorial Board

Voters in the 21st Legislative District are considering candidates for its Senate seat and two House seats, but following last year’s redistricting effort, boundary change for almost all legislative and congressional districts in the state, mean new candidates for many voters.

For the 21st Legislative District, which serves areas of Mukilteo, Edmonds and Everett, the boundary changes have added neighborhoods in Mukilteo, near Paine Field and Edmonds, while neighborhoods surrounding Silver Lake and elsewhere joined either the 1st, 32nd or 44th districts.

21st LD, Senate

Sen. Marko Liias, D-Everett, is seeking his third full term to the Senate, following his 2014 appointment to fill a vacancy. He is challenged by Republican Janelle Cass of Edmonds.

Cass, who ran for Edmonds City Council in 2021, is a bio-environmental engineer who has worked for the U.S. Air Force and the Federal Aviation Administration and currently is president and founder of an oxygen therapy provider in Edmonds. She has a Air Force Academy degree in civil and environmental engineering.

Liias, born and raised in the county, previously served on the Mukilteo City Council and in the state House, representing the 21st district. He has a bachelor’s degree in international politics from Georgetown. He works part-time for the county executive’s office and as an instructor at Everett Community College and University of Washington.

Cass acknowledges positive changes in the district but also sees significant problems. Those can be successfully addressed, she said, through bipartisan efforts. Among her chief concerns are rising crime and addiction; education and parental rights; affordable housing; and the protection of single-family residential zoning.

Cass, informed by conversations with city and law enforcement officials, believes recent reforms by the Legislature have made it more difficult for police to address a rise in crime and have led to early retirements and officers leaving the state. Specifically, she said, lawmakers need to again make possession of drugs illegal.

Liias defends the bulk of reforms, particularly regarding the ban on choke holds and no-knock warrants and the duty of officers to intervene in incidents involving mistreatment. The legislation was intended to allow police to do their jobs but with greater oversight and accountability. While the law on police pursuit does need to be reconsidered, Liias said, the result of the current law has been a reduction in threats to bystanders from accidents resulting from those pursuits.

Transportation and its intersection with environmental and climate change concerns provide a look at the approach each candidate offers.

Cass called it unfortunate that a nearly $17 billion transportation budget did not earn bipartisan support, believing Republicans were left out of the process. Because of that, she said, the package, although it avoided a gas tax, relies on fee increases she believes will be crushing for families. Nor did it adequately fund the maintenance and replacement of bridges and roadways. Cass would have supported a shift of the sales tax on vehicle sales to fund transportation needs and believes that recent state surpluses would have been enough to make up for their loss from the general fund.

Liias — who was appointed chair of the Senate’s transportation committee when the past chairman, Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, was appointed to the secretary of state’s office — was one of the package’s chief architects and shepherds. He acknowledged Republican complaints about their exclusion from the budgeting process, but said he believed there was a need to adopt a package this year to take advantage of funding from the federal infrastructure spending act and the passage of the state’s climate commitment act, setting up significant new funding sources.

Working within a short 60-day session, Liias said it took time to get House and Senate Democrats in alignment before working with Republicans. Even so, Liias said, he talked often with Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, the ranking member on the transportation panel, regarding GOP priorities. Liias pledged to continue working with King and other Republicans on implantation of the budget.

On the funding package’s fee increases, Liias said the fees were specifically targeted not to hit working families, noting that someone who can afford a $45,000 vehicle can afford a $50 increase to the cost of licensing that vehicle.

Liias deserves a good deal of credit for the crafting and passage of the $16.9 billion Move Ahead Washington package, which will start and continue work for transportation projects in Snohomish County and the rest of the state. Along with maintenance and preservation work for roads and bridges, the package also makes important investments in green infrastructure, including electrification of transit and ferries and projects that protect the safety of pedestrians and cyclists.

Beyond transportation issues, Liias has proven himself an effective legislator and advocate regarding firearm safety, affordable housing, the environment and K-12 and higher education.

His success with the transportation package in one session of his committee leadership is proof of the experience he has gained in his legislative tenure and a convincing argument for a third term in the Senate.

21st LD, House, Pos. 1

Rep. Strom Peterson, D-Edmonds, is seeking election to a fifth term representing the district. He is challenged by Republican Amy Schaper of Mukilteo. Schaper ran against Peterson for the seat in 2018, and in 2020 for Position 2. As she did in 2020, Schaper did not respond to requests for an interview.

Peterson, prior to his first election to the House in 2014, served on the Edmonds City Council for six years, and until recently owned an Edmonds restaurant and cheese shop. He has lived in Edmonds since 2001.

Peterson, noting the political acrimony at the national level, believes it’s necessary for government at the state and local level to concentrate their efforts, “not to sound overly dramatic, on saving democracy and making sure that the democratic process is trusted and peoples’ voices are heard.”

Peterson is chairman of the Housing, Human Services and Veterans Committee, and also serves on committees for capital budget, civil rights and judiciary and joint administration rules.

Recent legislation for which Peterson has been primary sponsor has focused on the environment, public health, law and justice, homelessness and housing and tenant concerns.

Firearms safety has also been a focus for Peterson, who passed in partnership with Liias in the Senate the ban on high-capacity firearm magazines. Peterson also plans to refile legislation on a ban on the sale of assault-style weapons, working with state Attorney General Bob Ferguson on that bill.

Other legislation that Peterson said he plans to pursue next session is a ban on solitary confinement in state corrections facilities, a practice that he — and now some in the corrections department — believes is detrimental to those who are incarcerated, as well as to corrections staff.

Peterson also plans to propose legislation that would limit law enforcement use of deception when questioning suspects, using ruses and lies to elicit a confession. Noting that some in law enforcement have objected to the legislation, others in police and prosecution circles have said such tactics can result in bad police work, false confessions and wrongful convictions, he said.

On the package of recent legislation on law enforcement, Peterson acknowledges that some provisions of bills were not perfect, but overall the legislation addressed public concerns regarding law enforcement accountability, training and procedure. In the last session, lawmakers, he said, sat down with police representatives to work on language to clarify and correct bills. Legislation to clarify police pursuit standards passed in the House, but didn’t get through the Senate this year, but is likely to be addressed next session.

On housing issues, Peterson said he will introduce another bill that would require more notice by landlords of rent increases, giving tenants more time to prepare for the increase or locate different housing.

For both the city council and Legislature, Peterson has long been an advocate for practical but meaningful legislation on a range of issues, particularly at the local level where it has the greatest affect on the lives of community members.

At a time of great concern regarding housing issues, Peterson’s leadership on the housing committee promises opportunities for resolution of those issues.

Voters should retain Peterson.

21st LD, House, Pos. 2

Prior to the Aug. 2 primary election, the editorial board endorsed Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self, D-Mukilteo, for a fifth term in the House. Ortiz-Self, a defender of public education and advocate for mental health resources for children, adults and seniors, has based much of her work in the Legislature on those issues.

Candidate forums

The League of Women Voters of Snohomish County has scheduled upcoming candidate forums, available live on YouTube at www.youtube.com/lwvsnohomishcounty:

LD 44, Senate and House, 5 and 6:30 p.m., Sept. 29

Snohomish County Prosecutor, 6:30 p.m., Oct. 5,

See earlier record forums for other races at lwvsnoho.org.

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