Editorial: Woodard, Paul for state House’s 10th District

The Herald endorses: Suzanne Woodard and Dave Paul for the ‘purple’ multi-county legislative district.

By The Herald Editorial Board

Until recently, voters in the 10th Legislative District had counted on veteran legislators to represent them; including Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, who served for nearly 17 years before retiring in late 2019, and Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton, who served a dozen years before deciding not to seek reelection following this year’s session.

Sen. Ron Muzzall, R-Oak Harbor, was appointed to complete Bailey’s term, and now will face Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson, a Democrat, in the general election. An endorsement in that race will be made following the primary election.

Five candidates are running to succeed Smith in Position 1 of the House, while Rep. Dave Paul, D-Mount Vernon, has two challengers in his first bid for reelection to Position 2.

The two candidates with the most votes in the Aug. 4 primary for each seat will move on to the Nov. 3 general election

The 10th Legislative District encompasses all of Whidbey Island, Camano Island and their cities, as well as parts of south Skagit and north Snohomish counties, including the cities of Mount Vernon, La Conner and Stanwood.

Position 1

Smith’s departure has attracted the candidacies of five strong candidates to the seat, four Democrats and one Republican.

Ivan Lewis, Democrat, lives in Coupeville, where he and his family run a small farm. Lewis ran unsuccessfully for the House in 2018, then for the 39th District, when he lived in Sultan. Lewis earned The Herald’s endorsement that year.

Angie Homola, Democrat, lives in Oak Harbor and runs an architectural design firm. She served as an Island County commissioner from 2009-13, and as a plans examiner and building inspector for Island County from 2001-04. She has lived on Whidbey Island for 23 years.

Greg Gilday, Republican, lives on Camano Island with his wife and two boys. Gilday is an attorney and real estate broker, who earned his law degree from Seattle University in 2005. Gilday has served previously on the boards of Stanwood’s Safe Harbor Free Clinic and the Stanwood Camano Food Bank.

Scott McMullen, Democrat, lives in Mount Vernon and served on its city council from 2004-12. McMullen, the son of the late state Sen. Pat McMullen, served in the Air Force and worked as a firefighter for the Boeing Co. and as a volunteer firefighter.

Suzanne Woodard, Democrat, is a Clinton resident, and is making her first run for office, following a 30-year career as a nurse in neonatal, obstetrical and critical care and as a health care educator. She and her husband have six adult children.

In a joint interview for The Herald Editorial Board, all five candidates demonstrated detailed understanding of the issues likely to confront the Legislature during coming sessions, including the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact on state residents and on the state budget; calls for law enforcement reform; the state’s transportation needs; affordable housing and other issues.

Regarding an estimated $8 billion to $9 billion revenue shortfall expected during this year and the next two-year budget cycle, the four Democrats were in general agreement that additional tax revenues would be necessary to avoid destabilizing cuts to recent gains in education funding and social services, with most supportive of proposed capital gains tax, a wealth tax or both. Gilday, who said the Legislature should have already been called into a special session to address the budget, said he was opposed to such tax proposals and believed the budget could be cut back to its 2017 levels.

All candidates also were generally supportive of the Legislature’s consideration of law enforcement reforms, in the wake of the in-custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and others and the protests that followed regarding the use of force by police.

Homola and McMullen have past elected experience and working relationships with current local officials that would serve them well as lawmakers, but Gilday, Lewis and Woodard also have work and community service that would inform their representation and connect them with their constituents.

Among a strong field of candidates, however, Woodard offers skills and background that would be valuable to 10th District residents and to her fellow lawmakers. Her experience in nursing and health care issues can be drawn on during the consideration of related bills, including keeping health care affordable and serving those who struggle with addiction, mental health issues and homelessness. Woodard would be well-placed to protect and expand on recent efforts to improve the state’s service to those vulnerable communities, services that could be threatened in a search for budget cuts.

Position 2

Rep. Dave Paul, an administrator at Skagit Valley College’s Mount Vernon campus, faces a challenge from Progressive Party candidate Taylor Zimmerman and Republican Bill Bruch of La Conner.

Zimmerman included no email or phone number for his campaign when he filed for office and could not be contacted; Bruch declined an invitation to participate in a joint interview.

Paul was elected in 2018 by a slim margin, defeating Rep. Dave Hayes, R-Camano Island. In two years, he has built a reputation as an effective lawmaker, serving as vice-chairman of the House Education Committee and on committees for college and workforce development and transportation.

He sees no easy fixes to the state’s revenue shortfall, but is wary of repeating the deep cuts during 2009-11 sessions that slowed the state’s economic recovery. At the same time, he’s critical of the decision not to call the Legislature into session to begin addressing budget concerns now, and he’s not convinced that some tax proposals will be able to provide revenue as quickly as is expected by some fellow Democrats. Instead, Paul advised a combination of use of the state’s rainy day fund and consideration of careful cuts and some proposals on tax loopholes and new revenue.

Regarding law enforcement reforms, Paul said he wants to consider promotion of regional training programs for officers and deputies, as well as creation of civilian oversight panels to review use-of-force incidents. He would also like to see expansion of programs that pair social workers with law enforcement patrols to better connect those with mental health and addiction into treatment and other services.

An advocate for higher education and workforce training, Paul said that prior to the pandemic, higher education was in an improved position, but will now face renewed challenges regarding funding and enrollment; he hopes to increase access to Running Start and College in the High School programs.

Paul said he intends to place additional focus on issues related to health care, the public health system, rural health and prescription drug prices.

Paul is the first Democrat to serve the district in several years, but he has provided good representation for constituents in a “purple” district and should be retained for two more years.

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