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Erin Frasier vs. Jim Walsh: The closest contest of 2018 could be in Washington’s 19th District

Top Two election results in Washington State rolled in last month, leaving many  Democratic candidates across the state feeling hopeful about their chances of winning in November. One of those candidates is Erin Frasier, who is trying to unseat fiery (and Trump-loving) Republican Jim Walsh in the coastal 19th Legislative District, which encompasses Pacific County and Wahkiakum County plus parts of Grays Harbor, Cowlitz, and Lewis counties.

Frasier and Walsh finished the Top Two in a near tie, with Walsh slightly ahead of Frasier. She received 17,469 votes, or 49.81%; Walsh ended with 17,605 votes, or 50.19%. That’s a difference of just one hundred and thirty six votes.

As mentioned, the 19th Legislative District is geographically large and mostly rural, with only a couple of urban centers. It is located in Western Washington, south of the Olympic Mountains, and runs from Aberdeen to Longview.

Outline of the 19th Legislative District

Outline of the 19th Legislative District, from the current Washington State Map Book

Besides Walsh, it is currently represented by State Senator Dean Takko and State Representative Brian Blake, both of whom are Democrats.

As rural elected representatives, Takko’s and Blake’s positions on the issues sometimes differ from the positions taken by their Democratic colleagues.

For example, Senator Takko voted against Senate Bill 6620 in the last legislative session. The bill sought to expand background checks on the purchase of semiautomatic rifles and raise the legal age to purchase from 18 to 21.

Senator Takko argued that the Second Amendment “seems to resonate more” with voters in the 19th Legislative District, given how rural it is.

Takko did, however, vote in support of banning bump stocks, as well as a bill restricting domestic abusers from possessing firearms.

Erin Frasier stresses that access to education and affordable healthcare should be a priority for the 19th District’s delegation to Olympia. She believes that lawmakers need to open up the discussion surrounding education again as well.

“There’s many that think that we’ve met our K-12 obligations because we fulfilled the McCleary requirements,” Frasier explained, “So, many think we’re done and don’t need to do anything else. But we definitely need to address how funding is allocated and utilized across the state to ensure that we’re supporting our teachers and the work that needs to be done to support students.”

She says the while the district has seen improvements with their K-12 schools, she believes more focus needs to be given to early childhood education and post-secondary career options and career pathways, so that the district has “a strong and solid education pipeline for youths in the area.”

The other piece is access to healthcare, “in a much broader definition than we usually consider,” said Frasier. She says that while coverage is paramount, the 19th District struggles with a need for actual physical access. She argues that there are not enough facilities and providers to support the dispersed nature of the district’s population. Frasier believes Medicaid reimbursement rates need to be addressed to ensure providers and healthcare facilities can thrive in the district.

Lack of public transportation is another barrier for those seeking medical care. As noted above, the district spans five counties: All of Pacific County, as well as parts of Grays Harbor, Wahkiakum, Lewis, and Cowlitz Counties.

Pacific Transit System provides bus transit options in Pacific County.

However, RiverCities Transit only serves the Kelso and Longview area in Cowlitz County, on the very edge of the 19th, and Wahkiakum County offers very limited transit options. Twin Transit in Lewis County serves Centralia and Chehalis, neither of which are located in the 19th.

Frasier believes the 19th has historically been treated as an afterthought, given how rural and far away it is from Washington state’s capital and urban hub. She says she’s adamant about bringing her district’s voices and needs to the forefront.

“I’ve seen a lot of applications for resources or funds where many areas in this district, their demographics are used to make the pool bigger, but then the resources don’t actually get out there,” says Frasier.

“Their potential impact as far as numbers is not as high as other areas so a lot of the time they’re not even eligible for resources.”

Frasier believes that if the Legislature wants to improve lives in districts like hers, the quality of the impact should hold more weight than the quantity of the impact.

The contest between Frasier and Walsh could go down to the wire this November as one of the state’s closest races. The outcome likely won’t be known until the end of November, when the election is actually certified.

In the intervening three weeks, there’s likely to be plenty of ballot chasing activity, as Democratic and Republican activists reach out to voters to cure ballots that have a problem — like a signature mismatch.

Ballots for overseas and military voters have gone into the mail for the November general election. Voters residing at home in Washington State will get their ballots in the mail in about a month, about three weeks before November 6th.