NPI's Cascadia Advocate

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

Sunday, November 4th, 2018

Mari Leavitt hopes to double Democratic representation in Washington’s 28th LD

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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