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.