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.

Friday, October 19th, 2018

Claire Wilson: Washington’s 30th District deserves an effective progressive senator

Although Wash­ing­ton’s 30th Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict has a his­to­ry of vot­ing for Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­dates up and down the bal­lot, there was a time not so long ago when the dis­tric­t’s entire del­e­ga­tion in Olympia was Repub­li­can.

The year was 2016; the month was Jan­u­ary. Democ­rats had just lost a 2015 spe­cial elec­tion for the state House to the Repub­li­cans and Teri Hick­el. Hick­el and fel­low Repub­li­can Lin­da Kochmar were the dis­tric­t’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives. Repub­li­cans fig­ured that with their vic­to­ries in the 30th, they had a viable path to secur­ing a House major­i­ty in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion — or at least forc­ing a tie.

To their sur­prise, Democ­rats recruit­ed two extra­or­di­nary can­di­dates to run against Kochmar and Hick­el lat­er that year (Mike Pel­lic­ciot­ti and Kris­tine Reeves). Both won, and thanks to their vic­to­ries, the 30th LD went from being rep­re­sent­ed exclu­sive­ly by Repub­li­cans to most­ly Democ­rats again. The twin wins also kept the House in Demo­c­ra­t­ic hands for anoth­er two years, to Repub­li­cans’ dis­gust.

The 30th con­sists most­ly of neigh­bor­hoods in King Coun­ty, plus a few precincts across the bor­der in Pierce Coun­ty. Major cities with­in it include Fed­er­al Way, Des Moines, Auburn, Algo­na, Pacif­ic and Mil­ton, Wash­ing­ton.

The 30th is diverse and becom­ing more pop­u­lous; it is a dis­trict where Hilary Clin­ton won by twen­ty-one points in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

Giv­en its strong Demo­c­ra­t­ic lean, it may seem sur­pris­ing to those unfa­mil­iar with the region that it is rep­re­sent­ed by a Repub­li­can in the State Sen­ate.

But that sen­a­tor, Mark Milos­cia, actu­al­ly iden­ti­fied as Demo­c­ra­t­ic for decades until 2014, when he switched par­ties and ran as a Repub­li­can for the Sen­ate. He won that elec­tion over Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­date Shari Song by eleven points.

Claire Wil­son, Miloscia’s Demo­c­ra­t­ic com­pe­ti­tion, is an out­spo­ken sup­port­er of women’s repro­duc­tive rights and LGBTQ+ rights, two issues that Milos­cia nev­er agreed with his old par­ty on. On those issues, Milos­cia has a typ­i­cal Repub­li­can vot­ing record. He vot­ed against the recent bill that banned con­ver­sion ther­a­py, as well as against a bill requir­ing state insur­ers to cov­er abor­tion and con­tra­cep­tion.

Wil­son was one of two Democ­rats who filed against Milos­cia back in May. She secured 38.3% of the vote in the Top Two elec­tion, while fel­low Demo­c­ra­t­ic chal­lenger Tirzah Ida­hosa gar­nered anoth­er 13.6%. That left Milos­cia with 48.1% of the vote, while the Democ­rats cumu­la­tive­ly achieved 51.9%.

Demo­c­ra­t­ic strate­gists say the results show Milos­cia is in big trou­ble.

Wil­son proud­ly iden­ti­fies as a les­bian and believes Milos­cia no longer rep­re­sents the increas­ing­ly diverse 30th Dis­trict, espe­cial­ly when it comes to LGBTQ+ and youth issues. “I think there’s a lot of change that could hap­pen in my dis­trict,” said Wil­son. “We need some dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive and that’s what I’m ready to [pro­vide].”

The Sen­ate hope­ful, who has a long his­to­ry in edu­ca­tion and is cur­rent­ly serv­ing her sec­ond term as the Fed­er­al Way School Board Pres­i­dent, told NPI that edu­ca­tion is a major issue in the 30th. She hears about it con­stant­ly while can­vass­ing.

She cites the unin­tend­ed con­se­quences the Leg­is­la­ture’s McCleary response bills had on Fed­er­al Way schools. Sev­er­al years ago, the Wash­ing­ton State Supreme Court ruled that the Leg­is­la­ture had con­tin­u­ous­ly and detri­men­tal­ly under­fund­ed pub­lic schools, neglect­ing its para­mount duty. The Court even held the Leg­is­la­ture in con­tempt for fail­ing to com­ply with its orders to rem­e­dy the sit­u­a­tion.

The Leg­is­la­ture took years to purge its con­tempt, in large part because obsti­nate Repub­li­cans chafed at the Court’s rul­ings and blocked pro­pos­als to reform Wash­ing­ton State’s hor­ri­bly inequitable, worst in the nation tax code. Even­tu­al­ly, the Leg­is­la­ture did adopt leg­is­la­tion increas­ing teacher com­pen­sa­tion and school fund­ing. But at the same time, the Leg­is­la­ture also adopt­ed a Repub­li­can scheme to restruc­ture prop­er­ty tax­es, which are a prin­ci­pal fund­ing source for our schools.

This levy swipe scheme, as it has some­times been called, cre­at­ed a host of new prob­lems for school dis­tricts like Fed­er­al Way.

Wil­son has talked about these prob­lems on many occa­sions, includ­ing how Fed­er­al Way was short­changed on fund­ing. She also cites a lack of spe­cial edu­ca­tion fund­ing and eval­u­a­tion assess­ments as oth­er unin­tend­ed con­se­quences.

Wil­son believes that a cap­i­tal gains tax on the wealthy could be part of the the solu­tion to the con­tin­u­ous­ly under­fund­ed Fed­er­al Way Pub­lic School Sys­tem, cit­ing fair rev­enue as anoth­er major issue for the 30th.

“We need to look at [our] regres­sive tax sys­tem and how we change things so that the peo­ple who make the most mon­ey pay their fair share,” said Wil­son.

Last May, NPI research found that 58% of Wash­ing­to­ni­ans sur­veyed sup­port a cap­i­tal gains on the wealthy to fund pub­lic schools and high­er edu­ca­tion. NPI has asked about sup­port for a cap­i­tal gains tax for four con­sec­u­tive years and has found a major­i­ty of Wash­ing­to­ni­ans in sup­port of the idea every sin­gle time.

Many leg­isla­tive can­di­dates run­ning in the cur­rent elec­tion cycle have voiced con­cerns about Wash­ing­ton State’s tax struc­ture, which is con­sid­ered the most regres­sive in the coun­try because those with the least have to pay the most. For exam­ple, in Seat­tle, a fam­i­ly mak­ing $25,000 pays an aver­age of 17% of their income in state and local tax­es. A fam­i­ly mak­ing $250,000, how­ev­er, ends up pay­ing about 4.4% of their income in state and local tax­es.

Wil­son hopes to, in the short term, close loop­holes writ­ten into the state’s tax code that ben­e­fit big cor­po­ra­tions and spe­cial inter­ests, as well as levy a cap­i­tal gains tax.

Pro­gres­sive tax reform is the answer to our fund­ing prob­lems, not cuts to essen­tial ser­vices, Wil­son explains. “It’s not about cut­ting ser­vices to do that, it’s look­ing at how and what it is that we’re doing and how we’ve cre­at­ed sys­tems that are upside down,” she observed. “The peo­ple that make the least should not be hit hard­est because of the cost of what it takes to stay in their home, buy food or med­ica­tion. We have to cre­ate a sys­tem that is not so upside down.”

Wil­son is also con­cerned that the 30th LD has his­tor­i­cal­ly been con­tribut­ing to ser­vice improve­ments that haven’t yet reached the dis­trict.

The 30th, like most pop­u­lat­ed areas in Wash­ing­ton, is deal­ing with more and more con­ges­tion and projects like Fed­er­al Way Link remain years away from com­ple­tion.

“Folks in this dis­trict and in South King Coun­ty as a whole have paid for a num­ber of years for trans­porta­tion [improve­ments] and still have not seen any ben­e­fit from the dol­lars they put in. They under­stand it takes a num­ber of years and the light rail [expan­sion] is what we have to do, but we have to have oth­er options so they can get where they need to go,” Wil­son told NPI.

Edu­ca­tion and trans­porta­tion aren’t the only issues peo­ple in the 30th are wor­ried about, of course. The 30th could ben­e­fit from invest­ments in pub­lic health, too, espe­cial­ly men­tal health and ser­vices to assist those strug­gling with addic­tion.

“So real­ly it’s any­thing we can do,” Wil­son not­ed. “Whether it’s ear­ly learn­ing, as we look at edu­ca­tion, or cre­at­ing solu­tions to drug and alco­hol addic­tion… all those peo­ple [who are strug­gling] get blamed and shamed. There’s work to be done to leave this place a bit bet­ter than it is right now.”

With so many crit­i­cal issues await­ing action by the next state Leg­is­la­ture, it’s imper­a­tive that Wash­ing­to­ni­ans vote this autumn. Bal­lots have been mailed to vot­ers across the date and must be post­marked by Novem­ber 6th or in a drop box by 8 PM that same day. Bal­lots being returned through the Postal Ser­vice do not need a stamp, as all bal­lot return envelopes have pre­paid postage.

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