Mari Leavitt
Mari Leavitt

Wash­ing­ton State’s 28th Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict, locat­ed in Pierce Coun­ty, is one of sev­er­al bat­tle­grounds that has elect­ed both Demo­c­ra­t­ic and Repub­li­can can­di­dates to the Leg­is­la­ture in recent elec­tion cycles. It is thus a swath of the state that both par­ties are tak­ing a high inter­est in dur­ing these midterms.

The dis­trict is cur­rent­ly rep­re­sent­ed by two Repub­li­cans (State Sen­a­tor Steve O’Ban, State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Dick Muri) and one Demo­c­rat (State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Chris Kil­duff). The Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty is hop­ing that by the time 2018 is in the rearview mir­ror, the num­bers will have flipped, and there will be two Democ­rats rep­re­sent­ing the dis­trict instead of only one. To that end, the par­ty is mount­ing an aggres­sive effort to send Dick Muri into retire­ment, as O’Ban isn’t up this year.

The 28th includes part of Taco­ma, as well as the cities of Fir­crest, Uni­ver­si­ty Place, Lake­wood, Steila­coom and Dupont. It also includes Ketron Island, McNeil Island and Ander­son Island. Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) — one of the largest employ­ers in the Seat­tle-Taco­ma met­ro­pol­i­tan area — is also in the district.

Demo­c­ra­t­ic chal­lenger Mari Leav­itt is hop­ing to unseat Muri and join Kil­duff in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. She pre­vi­ous­ly ran for the same seat back in 2016, los­ing the elec­tion with only 47.9% of the vote. How­ev­er, Leav­itt led with 53.2% of the vote after Wash­ing­ton State’s Top Two Elec­tion in August.

Leav­itt wor­ries that many of the crit­i­cal issues affect­ing the 28th Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict are accel­er­at­ing in scope and sever­i­ty. Some of these issues include health­care, in par­tic­u­lar men­tal health and behav­ioral health services.

An issue impor­tant to the dis­trict, and some­thing Leav­itt is par­tic­u­lar­ly con­cerned about, was West­ern State Hos­pi­tal’s loss of $53 mil­lion in fed­er­al fund­ing in June of this year. The psy­chi­atric hos­pi­tal is locat­ed in Lake­wood and run by the Wash­ing­ton Depart­ment of Social and Health Ser­vices. It is one of only two state-run men­tal health hos­pi­tals in Wash­ing­ton and has rough­ly eight hun­dred and fifty beds. Patients are those who are invol­un­tar­i­ly com­mit­ted due to men­tal health disorders.

“Iden­ti­fy­ing ways to off­set that impact and what that looks like for health­care, both for West­ern State and also for the rest of our dis­trict, has to be a focus,” said Leav­itt, look­ing ahead to the work the Leg­is­la­ture must do in 2019. “We have a frag­ment­ed behav­ioral health sys­tem, and we need to con­tin­ue to work on it.”

Leav­itt believes that build­ing more public/private part­ner­ships with­in the 28th could ease the strain on con­tin­u­ous care for those suf­fer­ing from men­tal health dis­or­ders. “I think mov­ing groups togeth­er to facil­i­tate con­ti­nu­ity of care as it relates to our behav­ioral health sys­tem and work­ing on that frag­men­ta­tion is important.”

Leav­itt comes from a mil­i­tary fam­i­ly, and with JBLM such a major employ­er in the area, it’s no sur­prise that she believes vet­er­ans’ care should be a top focus for the 28th Leg­isla­tive District’s rep­re­sen­ta­tion in Olympia.

“Serv­ing our vet­er­ans who have served, cur­rent­ly serv­ing mil­i­tary mem­bers, as well as their fam­i­lies, is impor­tant for our dis­trict..  whether that is ensur­ing that we have ade­quate ser­vices for tran­si­tion, ser­vices for folks who are trans­fer­ring out of ser­vice, or sup­port­ing mil­i­tary fam­i­lies and spous­es while they’re here,” she says.

Wash­ing­ton State has around 560,200 vet­er­ans, as well as 45,343 Active Duty ser­vice­mem­bers and 18,723 in Guard and Reserve. Con­se­quent­ly, our state is home to about two mil­lion indi­vid­u­als who are part of mil­i­tary families.

Like many dis­tricts in Wash­ing­ton state, the 28th is also deal­ing with increas­ing home prices, lit­tle avail­able inven­to­ry and gen­er­al­ly high com­pe­ti­tion. It was report­ed in June that homes in Pierce Coun­ty were list­ed for on aver­age only twen­ty days before the clos­ing of a sale. Homes that are in the low­er price range of $249,000-$350,000 are on the mar­ket for even less time.

“We’ve been talk­ing about a theme of afford­abil­i­ty, and I think that’s the over­all umbrel­la issue in the 28th,” said Leav­itt. “Whether it’s seniors being able to remain in their homes, vet­er­ans get­ting the ser­vices they need, our home­less youth hav­ing access to ser­vices and places to stay in order to be successful.”

“We’re a diverse com­mu­ni­ty in socioe­co­nom­ic sta­tus, eth­nic­i­ty, ori­en­ta­tion, and more,” she con­tin­ued, reflect­ing on the 28th’s con­stituen­cy. “We need lead­ers who appre­ci­ate that diver­si­ty and focus on shared val­ues. I think that’s what makes [the 28th] so unique and impor­tant to the econ­o­my of our state.”

As a nation, we have seen vio­lence against mar­gin­al­ized pop­u­la­tions this week at a lev­el many did not think pos­si­ble in twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry Amer­i­ca, as well as attempt­ed vio­lence against promi­nent pro­gres­sives. It is always impor­tant to use our vot­ing pow­er, but it’s espe­cial­ly impor­tant we all vote this year.

Bal­lots are due back by Novem­ber 6th at 8 PM (for deposit in a drop box) or by the last out­go­ing col­lec­tion time if being returned through the Unit­ed States Postal Ser­vice. NPI urges all read­ers to use the pow­er of your vote this midterm elec­tion cycle to advance pro­gres­sive caus­es. Our endorse­ments for statewide bal­lot mea­sures can be found on our Advo­ca­cy page.

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