Editorial: Williams, James should represent 38th in House

With open seats, voters have the chance to build a team that balances voices from both parties.

By The Herald Editorial Board

The editorial board concludes its endorsements for the Aug. 2 primary election with two open House races for the 38th Legislative District, centered in Everett, Marysville and Tulalip.

As with nearly all legislative districts, boundaries have shifted as part of the state’s redistricting of legislative and congressional districts. The 38th Legislative District lost neighborhoods east of Lake Goodwin and in south Everett, but gained neighborhoods between Marysville and Lake Stevens.

In addition to these and earlier recommendations, which will be recapped in the July 31 Herald and available online, voters also are directed to their local voters pamphlet — mailed to registered voters — the state’s online voters guide and a series of recorded candidate forums available at the website of the Snohomish County League of Women Voters.

The decision by its current representatives to step down — Emily Wicks, D-Everett, in Position 1, and the retirement of Mike Sells, D-Everett, in Position 2 — meant increased interest in this year’s election, with four candidates filing for each seat. The Aug. 2 primary will determine the top-two finishers, regardless of party, who will face off in the Aug. 8 general election.

38th LD, House, Position 1

Voters are choosing among:

Bert Johnson, a Marysville Republican, who works in event management, is making his fourth run for a seat in the district.

Gary Kemp, Republican, of Marysville, who is an electrician and a former IBEW representative and has served on the county’s audit committee.

Julio Cortes, an Everett Democrat, who is communications and marketing manager for the city of Everett’s communications and economic development departments and formerly worked with Cocoon House.

Daryl Williams, a Marysville Democrat and Tulalip tribal member, who has had a 45-year career with the Tulalip Tribes in environmental and other policy areas.

Johnson said he’s made his repeated runs for office out of a desire to serve his community and intends to focus on concerns over education, law enforcement and crime. Johnson supports more investment and attention on vocational and trades education at the high school level. On law enforcement issues, Johnson understands the concerns over unnecessary police pursuits and thinks there are other options at times for investigation and arrest, but believes, with training, police should have greater discretion over making pursuit decisions.

Kemp said his focus would be on public safety, housing and homelessness issues. Criminals, Kemp said, have been emboldened by the perception they can flee and not be pursued by police. Kemp wants a reexamination of recent changes to police pursuit limits. Public safety also has been compromised, he said, by drug addiction and homelessness. Kemp supports the pairing of social workers and police patrols. On affordable housing, Kemp would support reforms to the Growth Management Act that he believes has made it difficult to provide a range and stock of housing that would ease prices.

Cortes’ initial emphasis would be on the linked issues of affordable housing and homelessness as well as public safety. His work with Cocoon House, which provides shelter and services to homeless youths and young adults, provides insight that more than just low-income families are at risk of homelessness. Noting the continuing work of nonprofits and others to aid those suffering from homelessness, Cortes said he wants a greater investigation into homelessness’ economic and others causes to help build wrap-around services for lower- and middle-income individuals and families that can “turn off the tap” of circumstances that threaten loss of housing.

Building on his work with the Tulalip Tribes, including more than 30 years of work on environmental issues with state lawmakers, Williams sees work remaining in the district and statewide on fish and wildlife habitat and air and water quality. Williams would also put a focus on affordable housing, homelessness, drug abuse, mental health and livable wages.

On issues of public safety, Williams supports the aims of recent legislation meant to reduce the incidence of police-involved violence, especially those disproportionately affecting minority communities. But Williams has talked with Tulalip officers who feel that some recent legislation has made their work more difficult. While some adjustments already have been made, Williams said more is needed in that direction, particularly around police pursuits.

On environmental issues, Williams generally supports what was called the Lorraine Loomis Act, which sought stream-protecting buffers on agricultural land. While the buffers are necessary to protect salmon habitat, Williams said consultation is needed with farmers and others to come up with a riparian management plan that is fair.

Water quality, particularly for coho salmon, also is being harmed by residue from tires, fire retardants and prescription and other drugs that runs off from stormwater and wastewater into streams, rivers and coastal waters. Projects to remove some harmful residue from runoff are working, he said, and now need to be broadened to improve water quality. Williams also wants the state Department of Ecology to increase its efforts to look at methods for more effective treatment of wastewater and stormwater to remove toxic chemicals and other pollutants.

Among a field of strong candidates well-versed on leading issues, Williams stands out for his past work in Olympia, including as current chairman of the state Conservation Commission and past work with the Puget Sound Action Team.

Williams’ membership in the Tulalip tribes also should be noted. Currently, the only other Indigenous state lawmaker is Rep. Debra Lekanoff, D-Bow.

Paired with his familiarity with policy and legislation and connections with lawmakers and tribal officials, Williams would continue the legacy of Indigenous lawmakers, such as former state Sen. John McCoy, and would represent the district well.

38th LD, House, Position 2

Voters are choosing among:

Mary Fosse, a current Everett City Council member elected last year, and a former small business owner who recently left her job as a legislative assistant in the state House in order to run for the House seat.

David Wiley, an Everett Libertarian, who has worked in quality assurance for aerospace and biomedical industries. He previously ran against Sells in 2020.

Mark James, a Marysville Republican and small business owner, who won a second term on the Marysville City Council last year, and serves on the county Law and Justice Council, and the county Board of Health and has served on the county Planning Commission. James also has completed the Association of Washington Cities certificate of municipal leadership program.

Christopher Elliot, who runs a counseling service, lives in Everett. He has stated no party preference. Elliot declined to participate in a joint interview.

Fosse said if elected she would draw from her work as a legislative assistant but also from her extensive work as a “chronic volunteer” and advocate, including with the city’s Neighborhoods Association, the Asarco cleanup campaign, the city’s districting commission, the Everett School District’s fiscal advisory council and work as a volunteer teacher for Denney Juvenile Justice Center.

Born to a single mother and homeless as a child for a time, Fosse identified homelessness and affordable housing as a key focus. She sees a lack of housing at all income levels and also sees a need to strengthen social safety-net programs that help prevent families from falling into homelessness

On law enforcement reforms, Fosse said appropriate adjustments have been made, though she agrees reconsideration of police pursuit limits is necessary and will be addressed next session. Fosse said she understands police are stretched thin responding to drug and mental health calls and is hopeful that new funding, integration and coordination of services with the new 988 crisis line can result in improvements.

Wiley said his purpose in running is to offer an alternative to the status quo. His run in 2020 and this year is focused on law enforcement and justice reforms, the state’s economic policy and its tax policy and the shortage of affordable housing.

Recent law enforcement reforms aren’t working, he said, and he believes what is needed is an end to the state’s policy of qualified immunity for police, which shields bad actors from lawsuits and accountability.

Wiley says the country’s economic outlook is uncertain, which increases the need for the legislature to concentrate on the state’s economy; avoid taxes that hurt the economy, such as an income tax; eliminate the state’s gas tax; and make budget cuts that would limit the need for new revenue.

On housing, Wiley also said he’s experienced homelessness as a father with children, and is supportive of the county’s reforms, particularly to allow accessory dwelling units, also known as mother-in-law apartments. Wiley said protection of single-family residential zoning has limited options for housing; he prefesr to see the market have a freer hand in offering a better range of housing.

James said he intends a focus on public safety, housing affordability and government accountability and transparency.

Noting the rise in property crime, James said “handcuffing law enforcement was the wrong move.” First-responders should be getting more funding for training programs. He also wants reconsideration of the Legislature’s response to the state Supreme Court’s Blake decision, which complicated arrests for drug possession. Likewise, he’s opposed to the current law on police pursuits.

On issues of taxes and the coming budget session, James sides with fellow Republicans in criticizing the Democratic majorities’ decisions not to return some of a recent surplus to taxpayers through reductions in the state’s property or state sales taxes. Inflation, he said, has only increased the burden on state taxpayers, and he supports a suspension of the gas tax.

Fosse and James were asked about serving both on city councils and the Legislature. Fosse said, because she’s already freed up time otherwise, she can serve both on the Everett council and as a state legislator without compromising effectiveness for either. James said he enjoys serving on the Marysville council, but has decided to step down from the council if elected to the Legislature.

Again, voters are presented with three strong candidates with relevant experience, each representing a different perspective.

Fosse’s past legislative experience and connections with current lawmakers and community connections would allow her a quick start as a lawmaker.

With no other Libertarian currently serving in the Legislature, Wiley could use his independence to work with either party on a range of issues.

James’ tenure and demeanor on Marysville’s council, his community work and his commitment to training in municipal service would serve district constituents.

The election of a Republican to the 38th District’s second seat would represent a significant change; Sells has held the seat since 2005. But James is among the county’s more moderate members of the GOP and could provide a better balanced voice for district residents, especially if Democrats continue to hold majorities in both chambers.

Given a chance to build a new legislative team for the district, voters should back James as part of bipartisan representativon.

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