NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, September 18th, 2018

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.

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