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.

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2022

Sharon Shewmake, Joe Timmons, and Alicia Rule want to turn the purple 42nd fully blue

One of the most com­pet­i­tive leg­isla­tive dis­tricts in the state for sev­er­al cycles now has been Washington’s 42nd, a What­com Coun­ty dis­trict that is cur­rent­ly rep­re­sent­ed by two Democ­rats and a Repub­li­can. The dis­trict used to be solid­ly Repub­li­can, but Democ­rats picked up a House seat in 2018 and then anoth­er in 2020 while just falling short of oust­ing the late Doug Erick­sen four years ago.

The Demo­c­ra­t­ic Posi­tion 1 incum­bent, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Ali­cia Rule, is fight­ing off a chal­lenge from Repub­li­can Taw­sha Thomp­son. Rule received the most votes with 48.8% to Thompson’s 35.5% but was unable to earn a major­i­ty in August’s Top Two elec­tion. A third can­di­date, Repub­li­can Kamal Bhachu, was also on the bal­lot and received 15.7% of the vote, elim­i­nat­ing him from the election.

Rather than seek­ing reelec­tion to Posi­tion 2, Rule’s Demo­c­ra­t­ic seat­mate Sharon Shew­make is leav­ing the House to chal­lenge incum­bent Repub­li­can Simon Sefzik for the 42nd’s Sen­ate seat. That cre­at­ed an open seat.

Shew­make received a plu­ral­i­ty of votes in the August Top Two, earn­ing 47% to Sefzik’s 33.2%. There was also anoth­er Repub­li­can on the bal­lot, Ben Elen­baas, who was elim­i­nat­ed after receiv­ing 19.7% of the vote.

The open race for Posi­tion 2 House seat drew four candidates.

Demo­c­rat Joe Tim­mons won a plu­ral­i­ty of votes in August with 28.9%, fol­lowed by run­n­er-up Repub­li­can Dan John­son who received 27.9%. These two can­di­dates are fac­ing off in the gen­er­al elec­tion. Repub­li­can Kyle Chris­tensen and Demo­c­rat Richard May were elim­i­nat­ed after receiv­ing only 23.8% and 19.4%, respectively.

Recent­ly, John­son admit­ted that a post he made on social media was anti­se­mit­ic, when he com­pared Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee’s COVID-19 man­dates with the Nazi Par­ty’s oppres­sion and slaugh­ter of Jew­ish peo­ple dur­ing World War II.

The slight­ly redrawn 42nd now includes most of What­com Coun­ty, run­ning from Blaine and Fer­n­dale to the west and Mount Bak­er to the east.

I had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to speak with Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Shew­make and can­di­date Tim­mons on a Thurs­day after­noon in mid-Octo­ber, to learn more about their leg­isla­tive pri­or­i­ties and visions for rep­re­sent­ing the 42nd Leg­isla­tive District.

Shewmake takes on Sefzik

Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Shew­make is run­ning because while she believes that “we did a lot of the work that I set out to do when I first ran, one of the big things that still needs to change is that we need to sort out our hous­ing mar­ket… we are just not on the right track there,” she said when we talked about her candidacy.

“Hav­ing some­one who is an econ­o­mist and can explain to peo­ple that afford­able hous­ing…. is an envi­ron­men­tal solu­tion, an afford­abil­i­ty solu­tion, it’s a jobs solu­tion… I think it’s some­thing that will be hard­er with­out a voice like that.”

When asked about her leg­isla­tive pri­or­i­ties apart from hous­ing, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Shew­make dis­cussed the impacts of recent flood­ing in the dis­trict and the need for improved infra­struc­ture. “Our dis­trict expe­ri­enced some hor­rif­ic flooding…going for­ward we are going to see more water dur­ing flood sea­son and so we’ve got­ta build bet­ter infra­struc­ture here.”

She went on to dis­cuss how while work­ing with the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment, she saw the gaps left by the Fed­er­al Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agen­cy’s aid system.

“I’s cheap­er to buy [peo­ple] out than to con­tin­ue to pay the flood insur­ance pay­ments, but the buy­outs won’t hap­pen until next win­ter — and it’s just not fea­si­ble — it sys­tem­i­cal­ly cuts out the low and mod­er­ate income folk.”

She went on to empha­size the need for a state aid pro­gram that can sup­ple­ment FEMA and ensure fam­i­lies have the aid they need in a time­ly manner.

Anoth­er pri­or­i­ty Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Shew­make iden­ti­fied is the need to con­tin­ue the work of the tax struc­ture work­ing group. “Reg­u­lar folks are pay­ing too much in tax­es, but unlike my oppo­nent, I don’t want to cut school fund­ing, I don’t want to cut social ser­vices, all of those things are real­ly impor­tant. But what we need to fig­ure out is how to fund our gov­ern­ment a lit­tle more equi­tably and fund it with the very wealthy pay­ing their fair share, which right now they are not.”

Giv­en the increas­ing impor­tance of equi­ty and jus­tice, I asked the Rep­re­sen­ta­tive to elab­o­rate on how these val­ues have influ­enced or anchored her campaign.

Shew­make explained:

“If you look at the eco­nom­ics of racism, racism is stu­pid. One of the rea­sons why is we are miss­ing out on all sorts of tal­ent and all sorts of ideas when we don’t pro­vide the means for the black girl from a poor fam­i­ly to inno­vate at the same lev­el as we see white men from fam­i­lies that make $100,000 or more.

“If we could get every­one else to inno­vate at the lev­el of white men from fam­i­lies mak­ing $100,000, we would see a growth rate, accord­ing to…an econ­o­mist at Har­vard, 3 to 4 times high­er.” She fur­ther empha­sized that while there is no sin­gu­lar answer, there needs to be seri­ous thought about what bar­ri­ers his­tor­i­cal­ly mar­gin­al­ized com­mu­ni­ties face and how these bar­ri­ers can be removed.

When asked about how she plans to make progress on intran­si­gent issues, Shew­make talked about being able to make both a pro­gres­sive and con­ser­v­a­tive argu­ment for hous­ing, such as addi­tion­al dwelling units and high­er den­si­ty hous­ing, among oth­er issues.

“If you want to turn your garage into an apart­ment, why is the gov­ern­ment able to tell you no? I don’t think those are good con­ser­v­a­tive val­ues and I don’t think those are good lib­er­al val­ues either, so being able to make these argu­ments, not just from one frame point — and being able to point out the good eco­nom­ic poli­cies — I think that’s real­ly help­ful because when you talk about an issue like afford­able hous­ing, our val­ues aren’t that different.”

She reit­er­at­ed her belief that if we all can agree on the end goal, then it is a mat­ter of using research to work through the bias­es and bar­ri­ers (some­thing she feels well-sit­u­at­ed for as an economist).

Dis­cussing the cam­paign trail, Shew­make said it’s an inter­est­ing expe­ri­ence to run against the son of the woman she beat two years ago.

While he has soft­ened his stance on com­pre­hen­sive sex­u­al health edu­ca­tion com­pared to his moth­er, “he is still very much Trump, guns, and anti-abor­­tion. Abor­tion is big on the trail right now. Peo­ple, espe­cial­ly women, are just real­ly mad and they have every right to be mad. I think that’s one of the moti­vat­ing fac­tors. Crime is a big fac­tor — I think my mes­sage on crime is bet­ter than my oppo­nents, although he likes to politi­cize it — and infla­tion is a big issue, which again I’m pret­ty well sit­u­at­ed to deal with as an economist.

“There are some levers we have at the state lev­el to help out the peo­ple suf­fer­ing the most.” She also empha­sized how she has shift­ed focus to afford­able hous­ing based on the mes­sage and need from the community.

Shew­make empha­sized that she does­n’t think Sefzik has been very forthright.

“My oppo­nent won’t tell you his views on abor­tion. He won’t talk about his views on guns. When asked about home­less, he imme­di­ate­ly switched to reg­u­la­tion of the hous­ing mar­ket… he works for Trump, he’s a MAGA Repub­li­can, all of that he’s real­ly try­ing to hide. I think it’s dis­gust­ing when you try to hide your views from vot­ers. I think that’s anti-demo­c­ra­t­ic and moral­ly wrong.”

Timmons faces Johnson

“I’ve worked in pub­lic ser­vice for the last decade,” Joe Tim­mons told me when I asked why he’s run­ning. “I have a back­ground in this work and an under­stand­ing of how Olympia works, but why I’m run­ning is because I love my community.”

“believe in pub­lic ser­vice and I think What­com Coun­ty deserves a Rep­re­sen­ta­tive who will work hard on their behalf and stand up for their val­ues. We have a tod­dler, a two-year old, my wife grew up in Belling­ham and we live in Belling­ham now. And set­ting down roots in this com­mu­ni­ty with our tod­dler has made me more com­mit­ted to serv­ing this com­mu­ni­ty than ever.”

In terms of his leg­isla­tive pri­or­i­ties, Tim­mons first iden­ti­fied housing.

“Right now we have a hous­ing short­age cri­sis in our com­mu­ni­ty. Last year for exam­ple, our rent went up 35% and when I go door to door and talk to folks about hous­ing, unfor­tu­nate­ly I know our family’s not unique.”

“I think we need to pro­vide more hous­ing for our low­est income earners…but we also need more work­force hous­ing for mid­dle class folks.”

“To me it’s not just a moral issue — I believe every­one deserves to have a roof over their head — but it’s also an eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment issue.”

He fur­ther explained that when he talks to lead­ers at the Port of Belling­ham or Cham­ber of Com­merce, “the num­ber one pro­hibitor in terms of our econ­o­my grow­ing is a lack of access to work­force hous­ing and child­care. We need to be build­ing more hous­ing, par­tic­u­lar­ly in our more urban areas and around transit.”

Edu­ca­tion is anoth­er area of focus Tim­mons empha­sized as a priority.

Before get­ting his Master’s in Pub­lic Admin­is­tra­tion at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton, he “worked at a non-prof­it preschool for a year, where [I] was a preschool teacher and real­ly learned the val­ue and the impor­tance of urban learn­ing.” He added that as a prod­uct of Wash­ing­ton state pub­lic schools from kinder­garten through high­er edu­ca­tion, he “real­ly believes in pro­vid­ing a great edu­ca­tion for kids from urban learn­ing through high school and beyond.”

“That includes four-year degrees but also our com­mu­ni­ty and tech­ni­cal col­leges and appren­tice­ship programs.”

He also empha­sized the need to pro­vide options and more career and tech­ni­cal edu­ca­tion for stu­dents in high school, so that peo­ple can have good pay­ing jobs that fill our cur­rent and future needs.

The last pri­or­i­ty Tim­mons iden­ti­fied was repro­duc­tive rights.

“With what we’ve seen in the Supreme Court recent­ly, I think it’s more impor­tant now than ever that we stand up as a state to pro­tect the right to choose. I’m 100% pro-choice and the only pro-choice can­di­date in my race.”

He fur­ther explained that while on the cam­paign trail he often hears that abor­tion rights are not under attack in Wash­ing­ton, that is just not true. “Every year bills are intro­duced by Repub­li­cans to either restrict or ban a woman’s access to abor­tion and it’s some­thing that I think we need to stand up for more than ever. And not just for Wash­ing­to­ni­ans but to be a safe haven for oth­er states.”

When asked how equi­ty and jus­tice fac­tor into his cam­paign and leg­isla­tive pri­or­i­ties, Tim­mons said that “it’s a lens that I kind of look through with every pol­i­cy deci­sion. When I think of hous­ing, to me that’s an equi­ty issue. When I think of edu­ca­tion that’s def­i­nite­ly an equi­ty issue, I don’t think someone’s zip code, race, or income lev­el should dic­tate of they receive a qual­i­ty edu­ca­tion in Wash­ing­ton State pub­lic schools. I think every­one should have access to that.”

He believes that leg­is­la­tors and elect­ed offi­cials need to be using a equi­ty lens in all parts of deci­sion mak­ing to ensure that inequitable bills are not passed. Addi­tion­al­ly, Tim­mons explained that “ we need to be look­ing at the sys­temic injus­tices, sys­temic rea­sons for inequal­i­ty in our soci­ety too.”

With regards to why he’s well poised to tack­le intran­si­gent issues, Tim­mons spoke about how his back­ground in gov­ern­ment affairs and pub­lic ser­vice make him the strongest can­di­date. “I’m the can­di­date most qual­i­fied when it comes to under­stand­ing how Olympia works, and under­stand­ing how state gov­ern­ment works. After grad­u­ate school I spent the last decade work­ing at the local, state, and fed­er­al lev­els of gov­ern­ment. I’m par­tic­u­lar­ly pas­sion­ate about state gov­ern­ment and mak­ing gov­ern­ment work for everyone.”

“One thing I have learned and take with me is nobody can do any­thing by them­selves. It takes work­ing well with oth­ers, it takes build­ing rela­tion­ships and that includes across the aisle,” some­thing he’s done in the gov­er­nor’s office.

He elab­o­rat­ed that dur­ing the pan­dem­ic he often had to com­mu­ni­cate dif­fi­cult deci­sions made by the Governor.

Although this could be a chal­lenge, local lead­ers knew they could call him and get a straight answer and that he would work with them to pro­vide clarity.

“It’s very pur­ple up here — I think we need to be work­ing across par­ty lines while also stand­ing up for our cap­i­tal D Demo­c­ra­t­ic values.”

Asked about his expe­ri­ences on the cam­paign trail, Tim­mons expressed enjoy­ment at get­ting to bet­ter know peo­ple in the com­mu­ni­ty as a candidate.

“I was just at a meet-and-greet event in East Coun­ty and get­ting to have con­ver­sa­tions impact­ing our rur­al com­mu­ni­ties that I wouldn’t have oth­er­wise had — I’m real­ly enjoy­ing the process.” He went on to say that “access to abor­tion health­care is absolute­ly on the top of people’s minds, hous­ing is on top of people’s minds, an access to behav­ioral health and pub­lic safe­ty are on top of people’s minds too — and afford­abil­i­ty in general.”

Tim­mons not­ed that he grew up in a work­ing class fam­i­ly, with a father was a union pip­efit­ter. His par­ents cre­at­ed a small busi­ness out of their garage.

“I real­ly learned the val­ue of hard work that way, about treat­ing peo­ple with dig­ni­ty and respect. That’s some­thing that I car­ry with me in my career today and will def­i­nite­ly take with me if giv­en the chance to serve,” he said.

Like Shew­make, he cit­ed the dif­fer­ences between him­self and his opponent.

“When I am out there at doors, I real­ly try to talk about myself and what I can bring to the table, my val­ues and where I stand on issues… but the stakes are real­ly high this year in terms of the dif­fer­ences and qual­i­fi­ca­tions between myself and my oppo­nent [Repub­li­can Dan Johnson].”

The vot­ing peri­od will end on Tues­day, Novem­ber 8th. Bal­lots are due back to a drop box by 8 PM or to a post office by the last out­go­ing mail col­lec­tion time.

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