Claire Wilson, Democratic candidate for Senate
Claire Wilson, Democratic candidate for Senate

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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