Patty Kuderer
Patty Kuderer speaks at a candidate forum

A sur­pris­ing­ly con­tentious Sen­ate race is unfold­ing in the 48th Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict this year, where Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Kud­er­er and peren­ni­al par­ty switch­er Rod­ney Tom are vying to see who will advance to the Novem­ber gen­er­al elec­tion with the most votes in the qual­i­fy­ing round, which ends this Tues­day, August 7th.

The dis­trict encom­pass­es neigh­bor­hoods in Red­mond, Belle­vue, and Kirk­land, as well as Clyde Hill, Yarrow Point, Hunts Point, and Medina.

Con­stituents there have until 8 PM this Tues­day to decide between Kud­er­er, a stead­fast pro­gres­sive who pre­vi­ous­ly served in the state’s House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives and was elect­ed as a State Sen­a­tor in 2017, or Tom, a Repub­li­can-turned-Demo­c­rat-turned-Repub­li­can again. When he was last in the Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate, Tom engi­neered a pow­er coup that deliv­ered the Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate into Repub­li­can hands and installed him­self as Major­i­ty Leader.

A vic­to­ry for Tom could threat­en the progress made in its suc­cess­ful 2018 ses­sion and jeop­ar­dize any chance of pro­gres­sive tax reform in the 2019–2010 biennium.

In an inter­view this week with NPI, Kud­er­er empha­sized that Wash­ing­ton has already seen the dis­as­trous results that divid­ed gov­ern­ment produces.

In 2017, the Leg­is­la­ture was in ses­sion way past its April Sine Die date and came very close to shut­ting down state gov­ern­ment because the Repub­li­cans want­ed to run out the clock in the hopes of extract­ing a more favor­able bud­get deal.

And not only did Sen­ate Repub­li­cans waste the pub­lic’s time and mon­ey for their own polit­i­cal ends, Kud­er­er says, but they killed off a lot of bipar­ti­san bills that had major­i­ty sup­port and could have passed the Sen­ate if they’d been giv­en a vote, just as they had dur­ing the pre­ced­ing four years.

“That’s what you got under Repub­li­can con­trol of the Sen­ate — you got rul­ing,” said Kud­er­er, “What you got this year was gov­ern­ing.”

Kud­er­er not­ed that this last 2018 ses­sion (in which con­trol flipped to the Democ­rats thanks to Man­ka Dhin­gra’s spe­cial elec­tion vic­to­ry last autumn) was remark­able for a num­ber of rea­sons. “First and fore­most, nine­ty-eight per­cent of the bills that came out of this ses­sion [had] bipar­ti­san sup­port,” she explained.

This total includes six bills that she intro­duced. While she is proud of all the bills she intro­duced, two in par­tic­u­lar are real­ly important.

With Sen­ate Bill 6160, the State of Wash­ing­ton took major steps for­ward to reform its juve­nile jus­tice sys­tem. “I’m a for­mer pros­e­cu­tor,” Kud­er­er explained, “so I was real­ly alarmed about the one in three recidi­vism rate. This bill aligns with the sci­ence that says the brain doesn’t ful­ly mature until the age around twen­ty-five, so it extends juve­nile court juris­dic­tion [to that age].” SB 6160 also front-loads ser­vices like men­tal health, fam­i­ly dys­func­tion health and education.

“Edu­ca­tion is real­ly cru­cial here,” Kud­er­er told NPI.  “Because, again, as a for­mer pros­e­cu­tor, I know the cor­re­la­tion between lack of edu­ca­tion and incar­cer­a­tion. And as tax­pay­ers, we pay for this.” She believes by tack­ling the issue in the begin­ning, with eas­i­er access to edu­ca­tion and men­tal health ser­vices when crim­i­nals first enter the sys­tem, tax pay­ers actu­al­ly pay less. “We’re going to be pay­ing a lot more on the back end with the one in three recidi­vism rate… Every­one should be alarmed by that. I mean, that is a real­ly high recidi­vism rate,” she said.

“So that bill is designed to make a dent in that rate and also to address the racial dis­pro­por­tion­al­i­ty that we have in our prison sys­tem,” Kud­er­er continued.

“This is part of the inequities that we have in the crim­i­nal jus­tice system.”

She point­ed out that while tack­ling these issues from the start may save tax pay­er dol­lars, ulti­mate­ly for her, it’s about sav­ing lives.

“We’re not just keep­ing [peo­ple] out of jail, we’re actu­al­ly return­ing them to the com­mu­ni­ty as pro­duc­tive mem­bers. They pay tax­es, get jobs, buy homes and have fam­i­lies, so it’s crit­i­cal that we’ve done this.” She observed that only a hand­ful of states have decid­ed to move in this direc­tion and oth­er states are look­ing at Washington’s suc­cess to poten­tial­ly move for the same kind of bill.

Should she win anoth­er term, Kud­er­er hopes to also cre­ate a young adult court for those aged eigh­teen to twen­ty-five and put them on a sim­i­lar path to set them up to be pro­duc­tive mem­bers of their communities.

“The oth­er [bill] I’m real­ly, real­ly proud of,” Kud­er­er said, “is [one] that was part of a slate of bills that expands access to vot­ing.”

This slate of bills, known as the Access to Democ­ra­cy pack­age, was designed to low­er bar­ri­ers to vot­ing to expand par­tic­i­pa­tion in our elec­tions. Kud­er­er, the Vice Chair of the Sen­ate State Gov­ern­ment Com­mit­tee, was the prime spon­sor of one of the Access to Democ­ra­cy bills, which estab­lish­es same-day vot­er reg­is­tra­tion begin­ning in 2019. In the states that already allow same-day reg­is­tra­tion, it has been shown to increase vot­er turnout by up to ten per­cent­age points.

Some Repub­li­can-dom­i­nat­ed states are mov­ing to restrict par­tic­i­pa­tion in elec­tions by impos­ing vot­er ID require­ments and oth­er schemes to sup­press turnout.

“Not in Wash­ing­ton. We’re not doing that,” Kud­er­er declared.

Here in the Ever­green State, we’re not just mov­ing towards imple­ment­ing same-day vot­er reg­is­tra­tion. Thanks to Kud­er­er and the Democ­rats, the Leg­is­la­ture also passed a bill pro­vid­ing for pre-reg­is­tra­tion of vot­ers aged six­teen and sev­en­teen, as well as auto­mat­ic vot­er reg­is­tra­tion. And, after being stuck in the Sen­ate Repub­li­cans’ Grave­yard of Progress for many years, the Wash­ing­ton Vot­ers Rights Act was passed to empow­er fair elec­tions at the local level.

Kud­er­er not­ed that dur­ing her time has a tri­al attor­ney she han­dled com­pli­cat­ed prob­lems which have helped her as an elect­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tive. “I take assign­ments because I’m not intim­i­dat­ed by com­plex prob­lems and I’m a nat­ur­al prob­lem solver,” she explained. “I also under­stand that some­times prob­lems don’t require one solu­tion, they might require a lot of dif­fer­ent solutions.”

Should she win anoth­er term, Kud­er­er hopes to improve access to health­care for Wash­ing­to­ni­ans, as well as strength­en pub­lic edu­ca­tion (preschool, K‑12, and col­lege). She also hopes to adopt sen­si­ble gun laws.

And Kud­er­er is ready to fight hard to reform Wash­ing­ton’s upside down tax code, which hap­pens to be the most regres­sive sys­tem in the country.

“We’ve lost [the vot­ers’ trust] when it comes to tax­es because all we ever do is keep increas­ing them,” she explained, “So what I would like to do is low­er prop­er­ty tax­es and imple­ment a cap­i­tal gains tax [on the wealthy]. That’s the first step towards com­plete­ly over­haul­ing our bro­ken tax system.”

Kud­er­er’s oth­er top rev­enue reform pri­or­i­ty is estab­lish­ing a pub­lic co-op bank, an idea that has been dis­cussed in Olympia for quite some time.

In 2017, Kud­er­er served on the State Bank Task Force and they wrote a bill that made it out of com­mit­tee with bipar­ti­san support.

This was the first time that hap­pened for a pub­lic bank­ing bill.

The pub­lic co-op bank mod­el would allow local gov­ern­ments to bor­row from the bank at a low­er inter­est rate than for-prof­it, pri­vate­ly owned banks cur­rent­ly offer.

Kud­er­er says this race will decide whether ideas like those get a true oppor­tu­ni­ty to advance, or whether the Sen­ate returns to being a place where good ideas die.

“If I go back, we will con­tin­ue to gov­ern, and we will not be mired in grid­lock and dis­func­tion like we were the last five years thanks to what my oppo­nent did.”

Tom’s treach­ery five years ago is still fresh in the minds of Democ­rats every­where, but espe­cial­ly in the 48th Dis­trict. At their urg­ing, Tom was cen­sured by the Wash­ing­ton State Democ­rats for “gross dis­loy­al­ty” and “per­fid­i­ous behav­ior.” Tom has had no access to par­ty resources since he defect­ed to the Republicans.

“[Rod­ney Tom] nev­er asked any of us for per­mis­sion to do that,” said Kud­er­er,. “We gave him the author­i­ty to be there and to rep­re­sent us.” She not­ed that she in fact knocked on doors dur­ing his cam­paign to per­suade oth­ers to vote for him. “I didn’t vote for him […] so that he could go cau­cus with Repub­li­cans,” she said.

Kuderer’s re-elec­tion cam­paign is out in full force this week­end lead­ing up to Tuesday’s Top Two elec­tion, with a goal to knock on at least 25,000 doors. She says she recent­ly spoke with a con­stituent who said they were vot­ing for her not because they dis­liked Rod­ney Tom, but because they believed in her.

“That’s a big moti­va­tor,” said Kuderer.

The 48th Dis­trict Sen­ate race is con­sid­ered to be a com­pet­i­tive con­test that might deter­mine which par­ty has a major­i­ty in the Sen­ate, mak­ing it one of the top races of the cycle. As men­tioned, bal­lots are due back this Tues­day, August 7th. If you’re a Wash­ing­ton vot­er, be sure to get your bal­lot to a drop box by 8 PM or to a post office that day by the last out­go­ing mail col­lec­tion time.

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