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)

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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