Editorial: Wagoner, Lewis for 39th District posts

Republican Keith Wagoner and Democrat Ivan Lewis would represent the rural district well.

By The Herald Editorial Board

Editor’s note: For the reasons outlined below, The Herald Editorial Board has pulled its endorsement of Randy Hayden for the 39th District, and now recommends Ivan Lewis to voters.

39th Legislative District

The 39th Legislative District covers 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.

The Aug. 7 primary will determine the top two candidates who will advance to the General Election in November among the four candidates for the Senate seat and three candidates for Position 1 in the House.


Following the resignation in November of Sen. Kirk Pearson, R-Monroe, to take a position with the Trump administration, former Sedro-Woolley mayor Keith Wagoner was appointed to the Senate seat in January, served during the last session, and is now running to complete the term’s remaining two years.

Wagoner, a Republican, is challenged by fellow Republican Elizabeth Scott of Monroe, who was also among those considered for the Senate appointment; Democrat Claus Joens, a business teacher at Concrete High School; and Jamal Rabieh, a Burlington independent who served in the U.S. Army and worked as a substitute teacher in Mount Vernon schools.

Joens and Rabieh will likley appeal to those in the district who identify as Democrats.

Although running as an independent, Rabieh was a Bernie Sanders delegate. He identified the costs of housing, higher education and health care and living-wage jobs as issues he would address.

Joens background as a teacher and career and technology instructor, would provide experience in education issues. Recognizing that Skagit County was left out of the last session’s fix to the Hirst water rights issue, Joens said he would seek to restore the ability of that county’s residents to apply for well permits but would work with tribes on their concerns. While supportive of gun safety measures, Joens does not see that as incompatible with Second Amendment rights.

Scott has previously served two terms in the House for the 39th district. She was first elected in 2012 and won re-election in 2014. In 2016, she ran for Congress rather than seek a third state term, but dropped from the race when she contracted whooping cough. During her time in the House, Scott was an active in getting support and relief to the Stillaguamish Valley following the 2014 Oso landslide.

Scott and Wagoner are closely aligned on most issues, particularly those related to taxes, fiscal issues and small government.

But Wagoner, a retired Navy aviator and commander and the unanimous choice for appointment by county council members for Snohomish, Skagit and King counties, has represented his district well in his first session this year.

While the editorial board would differ with him on some votes he took, Wagoner demonstrated independence and careful consideration as a senator as one of only two area lawmakers who voted against legislation that would have largely exempted legislators from the state’s Public Records Act, voted for a bill that prohibits conversion therapy for minors and approved passage of legislation that established the state’s own net neutrality policy. Wagoner also worked to win funding in the district for opioid response and mental health care.

Voters should confirm his appointment to the Senate and return him for the term’s remaining two years.

House, Position 1

The announcement in March that Rep. Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish, had decided not to run for re-election after serving in the district since his first election in 2002, opened the race to three candidates: two Republicans and a Democrat.

Democrat Ivan Lewis is a Sultan turkey farmer with past service as a volunteer firefighter and EMT.

Republican Robert Sutherland, a Granite Falls resident and biochemist who has worked on cancer drug development, has made several runs for office: twice for Congress and once each for Snohomish County council and county executive.

Randy Hayden, owner of a construction and mini-storage business in Darrington, has been long active with the county and state Republican Party, currently serving his second term as state committee member and executive board member.

Lewis, promising a focus on issues vital to families in the district, said he wants to address the state’s regressive tax system, which places a heavier burden on working families and small businesses. Lewis said he would also advocate for a single-payer health care system and continued attention to the opioid crisis affecting all communities. In regard to transportation issues, Lewis pointed to past practices that have funded localized projects but have not addressed the larger needs of corridors such as Highway 522 and U.S. 2, advocating a regional rather than piecemeal approach to projects and funding.

Sutherland, along with advocating for stronger property and gun rights and extending the Hirst fix to Skagit County, also wants to freeze property taxes, return car tabs to $30 and remove tolls on roads. Sutherland also calls for extensive spending on transportation infrastructure and increased bus service, but was not specific about how to fund those investments.

The Herald Editorial Board originally endorsed Hayden for the House, but has reconsidered in light of a number of Facebook posts that were brought to its attention following the endorsement’s publication on Thursday.

Hayden’s posts, most made in 2017, have since been deleted, but shared memes that some would find demeaning to Muslims, American Indians, African Americans and members of the LGBTQ community.

In a phone conversation Friday with The Herald opinion page editor, Hayden admitted the posts were “stupid,” but insisted that he does not hold racist beliefs, belongs to a church with many black parishioners and has people of color on his campaign.

Regardless, had the editorial board been aware of the Facebook posts prior to making our endorsement, we would not have recommended Hayden to the voters of the 39th.

In recommending candidates for the Legislature, we accept that there will be a range of opinions on political issues and don’t require candidates to agree with us on all subjects, but we do expect candidates will strive to represent all constituents and can work with all fellow legislators and to do so respectfully. Hayden’s Facebook posts cause the board to question his abilities in that regard.

The Herald now endorses Ivan Lewis to represent the 39th District for Position 1 in the House. We believe that Lewis will fairly and respectfully represent his district.

House, Position 2

Another vacancy in the 39th district was created last July when Rep. John Koster, R-Arlington, resigned to lead a state agency.

Former Sultan mayor Carolyn Eslick, a Republican, was appointed to serve the remaining year on the two-year term. She is challenged by Democrat Eric Halvorson, a Monroe tax account. Both Eslick and Halvorson are expected to qualify for the November ballot. An endorsement in that race will follow this fall.

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