NPI's Cascadia Advocate

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

Thursday, October 4th, 2018

Is the 26th ready to swing blue with Emily Randall, Connie FitzPatrick, and Joy Stanford?

Swing dis­tricts, as the say­ing goes, are where majori­ties are made… and lost. Per­haps no place in Wash­ing­ton bet­ter epit­o­mizes the phrase swing dis­trict than Wash­ing­ton’s 26th Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict, which spans the south­east­ern Kit­sap Penin­su­la. At the end of the Bush error, the dis­trict was rep­re­sent­ed exclu­sive­ly by Democ­rats, but Repub­li­cans grad­u­al­ly wrest­ed back all three seats.

Now Democ­rats believe they’re poised to once again flip the dis­trict blue.

The 26th’s cur­rent leg­is­la­tors are Repub­li­cans Jan Angel, Jesse Young, Michelle Caldier. Angel is the dis­tric­t’s sen­a­tor; Young and Caldier are its representatives.

Angel was the first of the three Repub­li­cans to win an elec­tion in the 26th.

In 2008, a Demo­c­ra­t­ic wave year, she defeat­ed Kim Abel to become Demo­c­ra­t­ic State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Patri­cia Lantz’s suc­ces­sor. Angel held the seat through the 2010 and 2012 cycles, and moved up to the Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate in 2013, defeat­ing Dr. Nathan Schlich­er in an expen­sive spe­cial election.

Schlich­er had been try­ing to keep the seat in Demo­c­ra­t­ic hands fol­low­ing the depar­ture of Derek Kilmer, a pop­u­lar Demo­c­rat who left the Leg­is­la­ture at the end of 2012 to take over for leg­endary Con­gress­man and Wash­ing­ton insti­tu­tion Norm Dicks in the Unit­ed States House of Representatives.

Last May, how­ev­er, Angel unex­pect­ed­ly dropped her reelec­tion bid, choos­ing retire­ment over yet anoth­er cam­paign. She threw her sup­port behind Mar­ty McClen­don, the Pierce Coun­ty Repub­li­can chair­man and a peren­ni­al candidate.

When Angel moved up to the Sen­ate at the end of 2013, Repub­li­cans tapped Jesse Young to take her place in the House. Young was reelect­ed in 2014 and 2016.

In 2014, Repub­li­cans com­plet­ed their takeover of the dis­trict by sweep­ing out retired U.S. Navy Cap­tain Lar­ry Seaquist, who had been elect­ed as part of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic wave in 2006. Seaquist was defeat­ed by Repub­li­can Michelle Caldier in one of the nas­ti­est, most bit­ter leg­isla­tive cam­paigns in state history.

Democ­rats are anx­ious to reverse all those loss­es and believe that they have three can­di­dates who can swing the dis­trict back into their col­umn this year: Emi­ly Ran­dall, Con­nie Fitz­Patrick, and Joy Stan­ford. In the August 2018 Top Two elec­tion, all three can­di­dates fin­ished in first place ahead of their Repub­li­can oppo­nents.

State Sen­a­tor
Emi­ly Ran­dall (Demo­c­rat): 49.58%
Mar­ty McClen­don (Repub­li­can): 46.39%
Bill Schei­dler (Oth­er): 4.04%

State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive – Posi­tion 1
Con­nie Fitz­patrick (Demo­c­rat): 48.92%
Jesse L. Young (Repub­li­can): 42.13%
Nao­mi Evans (Repub­li­can): 8.94%

State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive – Posi­tion 2
Joy Stan­ford (Demo­c­rat): 41.77%
Michelle Caldier (Repub­li­can): 34.89%
Randy Boss (Repub­li­can): 18.01%
Mar­co Padil­la (Oth­er): 5.34%

None of the Repub­li­can can­di­daes got any­where close to secur­ing a major­i­ty of the vote in the pre­lim­i­nary round, not even the incum­bents Caldier and Young, which is an omi­nous sign for the par­ty of Don­ald Trump.

Democ­rats, mean­while, say they’re fired up and ready to go.

All three Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­dates cit­ed afford­abil­i­ty being a cen­tral issue fac­ing the coun­ty, as well as how the 26th cur­rent­ly deals with growth. The Puget Sound Region­al Coun­cil expects growth in Kit­sap Coun­ty to steadi­ly increase over the next two decades; from 117,300 res­i­dents in 2018 to a like­ly 363,928 res­i­dents by 2040.

“We need to do some real work around bring­ing good pay­ing jobs to our com­mu­ni­ty,” said Emi­ly Ran­dall, the State Sen­ate hopeful.

Emily Randall speaks at her campaign kickoff, flanked by her campaign team

Emi­ly Ran­dall speaks at her cam­paign kick­off, flanked by her cam­paign team (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

She said that, to her, that looks like “cre­at­ing good edu­ca­tion­al path­ways and expand­ing our appren­tice­ship oppor­tu­ni­ties, but also allow­ing small busi­ness­es to thrive by increas­ing the busi­ness and occu­pa­tion (B&O) tax exemp­tion level.”

Because Wash­ing­ton does not have an income tax, the state col­lects a busi­ness and occu­pa­tion tax which is cal­cu­lat­ed on the gross receipts from busi­ness activ­i­ties. Labor, mate­ri­als, tax­es, and oth­er busi­ness costs can­not be deducted.

Con­nie Fitz­Patrick, the Demo­c­ra­t­ic chal­lenger tak­ing on Jesse Young in one of the dis­tric­t’s two House races, echoed Randall’s sentiments.

“From what I’m hear­ing at the doors, I feel [the biggest issues fac­ing the 26th] is prop­er­ty tax­es ris­ing that are not com­mis­er­ate with the ris­ing of income and the lack of smart growth solu­tions,” said FitzPatrick.

“And to me, those are the top [issues] that lay the back­bone for the com­mu­ni­ty, and I hear it over and over through­out the district.”

Fitz­Patrick believes that it will take mul­ti­ple solu­tions to tack­le lack of rev­enue need­ed to fund pub­lic ser­vices in her dis­trict. She’d like to see Wash­ing­ton low­er the require­ment for pas­sage of bonds. The state Con­sti­tu­tion cur­rent­ly requires super­ma­jor­i­ty votes to pass bonds at both the state and local levels.

She also believes Wash­ing­ton is sore­ly in need of tax reform. (The Insti­tute on Tax­a­tion and Eco­nom­ic Pol­i­cy has ranked Wash­ing­ton’s tax code as the most upside down, regres­sive tax code in the coun­try.)

Joy Stan­ford, who is chal­leng­ing Caldier for the oth­er House seat, agreed, say­ing: “We have issues that we’re try­ing to react to because we did not plan for growth.” Stan­ford hopes that by reduc­ing the thresh­old required to pass a bond, the 26th Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict could final­ly see two schools built, one in the Penin­su­la Dis­trict and the oth­er in the South Kit­sap School District.

“As we move for­ward, I think there is room with a Leg­is­la­ture that will work togeth­er in fig­ur­ing out how we can equi­tably fund edu­ca­tion at the state lev­el,” she said.

South Kit­sap School Dis­trict, in par­tic­u­lar, has been feel­ing the pains of over­crowd­ing and saw mul­ti­ple bond mea­sures fail over the years to build anoth­er high school. In July, the dis­tric­t’s board of direc­tors autho­rized a gen­er­al oblig­a­tion bond mea­sure to appear on the Novem­ber ballot.

Fitz­Patrick, who grad­u­at­ed from South Kit­sap High School, said that even when she was at the school thir­ty-one years ago, it felt packed. She explained that many vot­ers in the dis­trict have voiced their frus­tra­tion over years of con­ver­sa­tions about new con­struc­tion for schools but bonds con­tin­u­ous­ly failing.

“They have built all these devel­op­ments [in the dis­trict],” she said. “Yet they’ve need­ed a high school out there for at least twen­ty years.”

Fitz­Patrick said that vot­ers across the 26th seem excit­ed and ener­gized lead­ing into the gen­er­al elec­tion, and says of her fel­low Demo­c­ra­t­ic chal­lengers: “We real­ly like each oth­er! We’re in con­stant contact.”

Stan­ford con­curred, say­ing that when she’s knock­ing on doors, she’s hap­py. She described it as the best part of run­ning for office. “It’s talk­ing to peo­ple in their own space,” she explained, adding that her mes­sage is well received.

“Our com­mu­ni­ty […] self-iden­ti­fies as pret­ty fierce­ly inde­pen­dent,” Ran­dall told NPI. “This is where my fam­i­ly has called home for decades, since the fifties and six­ties and this is the com­mu­ni­ty that shaped me.”

“I think we have great oppor­tu­ni­ties to dri­ve and grow in a way that’s right for us, but that takes work. And we know how to work here.”

Ran­dall added that she thinks vot­ers in the 26th final­ly feel heard, and they want those rep­re­sent­ing them in Olympia to work as hard for them as they have to work to take care of their fam­i­lies in a dis­trict in flux.

“I think almost all of us care about most of the same things,” she said. “About being able to build a life that’s afford­able and ful­fills our dreams.”

Bal­lots for the gen­er­al elec­tion will be mailed to Wash­ing­ton State res­i­dents in about two weeks. For the first time in a gen­er­al elec­tion, no postage will be required to return a bal­lot through the Unit­ed States Postal Service.

If 2018 is any­thing like 2006, the 26th could have very dif­fer­ent rep­re­sen­ta­tion than it does now when Jan­u­ary 2019 rolls around.

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