Offering daily news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

A NEW MAJORITY: Democrats capture control of the U.S. House of Representatives

The Democratic Party has won control of the United States House of Representatives and will be able to provide a much-needed check on Donald Trump’s power beginning in just a few weeks, NBC News is projecting.

Democrats were able to build a House majority by knocking out Republican incumbents in a wide swath of states, from Virginia to Pennsylvania to New York to New Jersey to Texas. NBC News made its projection before the deadline to return ballots in Washington, Oregon, and California, where Democrats are hoping to knock out even more Republican incumbents — especially in Southern California.

Because we still don’t have results in many jurisdictions, the size of the incoming majority isn’t clear, but the important thing is that control of the House has flipped, and Democrats will be able to put an end to the days of a Republican Congress continually doing Donald Trump’s bidding in the United States Capitol.

The Republicans will still have control of both chambers of Congress until early January — when Republicans will be forced to turn over their gavels to the Democrats — so there are a few weeks left for them to inflict further damage on the country by passing destructive legislation. However, Democrats do retain the ability in the Senate to filibuster legislation (at least for now), which could help foil Republican dreams of passing bad bills during the lame duck session.

Democrat Donna Shalala pulls it out, picking up Florida’s 27th Congressional District

Democrat Donna Shalala has flipped Florida’s 27th Congressional District seat, beating Republican contender Maria Elvira Salazar. Both women were competing for the seat after it was announced in April 2017 that Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen would not be seeking re-election. She had held the position since 1989.

Shalala, seventy-seven, previously served in the Clinton Administration as the US Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Earlier in her career, she served as president of University of Miami and most recently was President of the Clinton Foundation from 2015 – 2017.

Shalala is winning with 51.7% of the vote. This is a key pickup for Democrats, with early polling showing a shift in the district; the 27th had previously been considered a “toss-up” before shifting to “lean Democrat.”

After court-ordered redistricting in 2015, Hillary Clinton won the district in the 2016 Presidential Election by about nineteen points.

Shalala took to Twitter to thank voters saying:

We did it.

It’s all thanks to you. Thousands of Floridians from across the district stood up, and decided to fight for a brighter future for all.

Together, we mobilized — to stand up for a platform of common sense gun reform, support for higher education, environmental protection, and affordable healthcare. To everyone who put their faith in me, I won’t let you down.

Miami is my home — it is the reason why we fought so hard during every day of this campaign, and why we’ll take that resolve to Washington.

Until every child has a fair shot at a higher education, we’re not done.

Until Medicare and Social Security are secure for every senior, we will not rest. Until this heartless administration is held accountable for their numerous injustices, we will not stop. I’m proud to know you had my back. Now, it’s time to fulfill my end of the bargain.

Florida Democrats are still hoping for victories in the hotly contested, high profile gubernatorial race between Andrew Gillum and Ron DeSantis and the U.S. Senate race between Bill Nelson and Rick Scott .

Democratic voters kick Republican Bruce Rauner out of the Illinois governorship

One of the Republican governors that Democrats set their sights on defeating at the beginning of this cycle has now been toppled, according to media projections.

Illinois’s next chief executive will be a Democrat, the Chicago Tribune reports. “Republican Bruce Rauner’s staff says the governor has conceded to Democrat J.B. Pritzker and promised a smooth transition,” the newspaper’s Jeff Coen reports.

Rauner’s concession call to Pritzker came about 30 minutes after polls closed, campaign spokesman Will Allison said.

Barely any votes had been counted in the bitter race in which the two candidates broke national campaign spending records by tapping their personal fortunes for hundreds of millions of dollars.

Pritzker pumped $171.5 million into his campaign fund over the course of two years. The money paid for a nonstop stream of advertising on TV and the internet to both attack Rauner and get Pritzker’s name in front of voters in a state where he’s never held elected office.

And some of it went to other Democratic campaigns and causes, building the party with his personal wealth just like Rauner did for Illinois Republicans.

Rauner has now been defeated in a manner similar to how he was elected four years ago — a rather interesting turn of events.

Pritzker will inherit a state government grappling with a lot of fiscal problems, but he will have a Democratic Legislature to work to try to move his reform agenda.

Early results: Democrats get their first U.S. House pickup, Florida contests very tight

Polls have now closed in a number of states on the East Coast, and while many votes remain to be counted, Democrats are seeing a few early signs of progress in their quest to capture the United Stated House of Representatives, many governorships, and maybe even the United States Senate.

In Virginia, Democrats netted their first U.S. House pickup with Jennifer Wexton, who is the projected victor over Barbara Comstock in Virginia’s 10th District. This is one of the House districts that voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election but is currently represented by a Republican.

In Florida, Democratic candidates Andrew Gillum and and Bill Nelson held leads for much of the evening, but after many Republican-dominated counties reported in, their Republican opponents Ron DeSantis and Rick Scott took narrow leads. Two vote-rich counties that are key for Democratic hopes, Broward and Miami Dade, have many ballots left to count, so the Democrats could easily recapture leads.

Exit polling by one of two media consortiums surveying voters suggests that many voters consider healthcare to be the most important issue in the 2018 midterms, ranking well ahead of immigration, the economy, and other issue buckets.

Friendly Pacific NW rivalry: Oregon catches — and passes! — Washington’s voter turnout

Yesterday evening, we reported here on the Cascadia Advocate that Washington’s voter turnout was surging, with 44.9% of ballots returned, while Oregon, the vote-at-home pioneer, was lagging somewhat behind at just 39.8%.

Well, not anymore.

Oregon has really stepped up its turnout since its last report and has rocketed past Washington to a 49% ballot return rate statewide. Washington hasn’t been sitting still, though… its turnout is now up to 47.6%, and should surpass 50% by tonight.

Washington is still in a position to do just as well, if not better, than Oregon on turnout this year, which is really important, because Washington’s voter turnout has historically not been as good as Oregon’s in midterm years like these.

Many Oregon counties have now passed the hugely important milestone of 50%, including Multnomah, the state’s largest, which is two and a half points ahead of the state as a whole, turnout-wise. Lane County, home to Eugene, is also ahead of the state average with 49.5% turnout as of the most recent report.

Other big Oregon counties remain under 50%. Washington County, in the Portland metro area, has only 41.7% turnout. Clackmas is much closer to majority voter turnout with 48.6% of ballots returned. Marion is currently clocking in at 44.8%.

In terms of votes by party, 60.2% of registered Democratic voters in Oregon have returned their ballots, compared to 59.4% of registered Republicans.

In Washington State, many counties have also surpassed 50% turnout. Kitsap has crossed over to majority turnout territory, as have Cowlitz and Whatcom.

King County is getting ready to join them, with 48.8% of ballots in.

Snohomish County, meanwhile, is in last place among the state’s larger counties, with just 40.3% of ballots returned. Even perennial turnout laggard Pierce County has passed Snohomish at this point. Hopefully Snohomish has a strong finish.

Tiny Columbia County is currently the turnout leader with 66.3%. Jefferson is in second place with 63.4%. Most of the others in the top ten are all small counties, some in Western Washington and some in Eastern Washington.

Last place belongs to Douglas County (37.8%).

Yakima County is second last, with 38.2% turnout.

Today is General Election Day 2018. Haven’t voted yet? It’s time to get that ballot in!

Today is General Election Day in Washington State and across the United States. Much is at stake. Thirty-six governorships, four hundred and thirty five seats in the U.S. House, and a third of the seats in the Senate are all on the line. And that’s just the federal level positions. Thousands of state legislative positions are also being voted on, along with thousands more local contests.

Oregon and Idaho are two of the states with gubernatorial races on the midterm ballot. Since Washington elects its entire nine-officer executive department in presidential years, the only statewide races in the Evergreen State this cycle are for U.S. Senate and Supreme Court. NPI’s research suggests Maria Cantwell is heavily favored to win reelection in the U.S. Senate, while our early Supreme Court polling found three out of four voters unsure of who they would vote for.

Have you voted yet? If you have, congratulations on fulfilling your civic duty. Now, go check up on your friends and family and make sure they’ve voted, too.

Haven’t voted yet? It’s time to get that ballot in! You’ve only got a few hours left before time runs out to participate. There’s no excuse for not voting.

You should have received your ballot in the mail a few weeks ago from the county you reside in. If you did not receive a ballot, or if you have misplaced your ballot, you should call your county auditor or elections office to obtain a provisional ballot.

Don’t forget to sign your ballot before putting it in a drop box or the mail. Washingtonians, locate the nearest drop box to you by going here.

If you live in Oregon, don’t take your ballot to a post office, as it’s too late to mail it. Find a drop box instead, and take your ballot there.

Not sure who to vote for? If you belong to or prefer a particular political party, you may want to consult their list of endorsements.

There’s also the Progressive Voters Guide maintained by Fuse Washington.

NPI has taken positions on the following statewide ballot measures in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho (we do not endorse candidates for office).

Washington

  • Initiative 940 (improve police accountability): YES
  • Initiative 1631 (put a price on pollution): YES
  • Initiative 1634 (Big Soda’s self-serving scheme): NO
  • Initiative 1639 (bolster our gun safety laws): YES
  • “Advisory Vote” #19: Vote MAINTAINED

Oregon

  • Measure 102, referred by the Oregon Legislature: YES
  • Measure 103, spearheaded by Coca-Cola and Pespsi: NO
  • Measure 104, promoted by the Oregon Realtors: NO
  • Measure 105, an effort to repeal Oregon’s ban on police racial profiling: NO
  • Measure 106, an effort to restrict public investments in reproductive care: NO

Idaho

  • Idaho Proposition 1 (expanding gambling): NO
  • Idaho Proposition 2 (expanding Medicaid): YES

Happy voting!

What to expect on Election Night? Nothing! Why it’s best to have no expectations at all

It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”

— Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes (A Scandal In Bohemia)

Tomorrow evening is Election Night 2018, the zenith of the 2018 midterm election cycle. The cycle doesn’t truly end until all the ballots are counted and the results are certified, so it’s a mistake to characterize tomorrow as the end or the finale of a grueling election — it’s really the beginning of the end as opposed to the end.

The mass media, impatient for data to breathlessly report, is speculating (as usual) about what tomorrow night’s results could look like. This, in my view, is a very counterproductive exercise, particularly after the events of November 9th, 2016.

I salute every pundit out there who has courageously refused to offer or make a prediction about the results when prompted by a television anchor or radio host.

Here is the truth: no one knows what is going to happen tomorrow.

No strategist, no candidate, no prognosticator, and no pollster can see into the future. Anyone who claims to be a seer or a knower of events yet to transpire is not to be trusted, period. And public opinion surveys, while unquestionably useful, only give us an idea of where the electorate might be, not what will happen when an election is actually held. We have no definitive data until results start rolling in, and it is simply not a good idea to theorize before data is available.

Right now, we can draw some conclusions about turnout because we have definitive data from an election in progress. We know how many ballots have been returned in states like Washington and Oregon, for example, because county elections officials are regularly reporting those statistics. What we don’t have is data telling us how many voters voted for which candidates. That will become available starting tomorrow. Until we’ve got it, we’re all best served by having no expectations at all.

This is easier said than done, of course. We humans don’t like uncertainty; in fact, bad news has been demonstrated in research studies to be more palatable than uncertainty. But trying to fill the void of uncertainty with expectations is just not a good idea. It won’t move our country forward and it won’t make you feel better.

If you do not have to work at a day job tomorrow or can afford to take the day off, pick a campaign that you want to help and donate your time to that campaign.

Instead of watching cable news, obsessively checking Nate Silver’s blog on FiveThirtyEight, and scrolling through your news feed on Facebook, try getting a good night’s sleep and reserving your waking hours for productive activities.

For example:

  1. Eating a healthy breakfast (and grabbing lunch when midday rolls around)
  2. Meditating for at least a few minutes (put all screens out of reach!)
  3. Going for a walk, bike ride, or swim to get your blood circulating
  4. Contacting voters to ask if they voted (by phonebanking, texting, etc.)
  5. Sign waving with a campaign
  6. Providing rides to the polls or bringing a friend’s ballot to a drop box
  7. Helping people who are waiting in line to vote (if you’re not in the NW)

Notice these suggested activities have two themes: (1) Self care and (2) GOTV.

Give yourself time to think and to do useful work that you want to do. Recognize any feelings of anxiety, but don’t stew over those feelings. Own your time.

Don’t worry about Election Night — it’ll arrive soon enough. Take deep breaths, focus on work that will make a positive difference, and do that work.

Again, own your time. You don’t want to wake up on November 7th wishing you had done more for a campaign you care about. Facebook and Instagram can wait. The Internet will still be there when you’re done getting out the vote and taking care of yourself. Cable news and sites like FiveThirtyEight can spare your attention during these critical hours before the polls/drop boxes close.

If you walk your precinct and check up on your neighbors by going to their doors, you can do suggestions #3 and #4 simultaneously.

Remember, the true activist is a doer, not an observer. Our democracy is at stake in this election. Participate — don’t spectate. Getting out the vote will counteract any feelings of anxiety you have and leave you feeling satisfied instead.

Voter turnout surges in Washington with just over twenty-four hours to go; Oregon lags

Voter turnout in Washington (PDF) is easily outpacing the last midterm cycle four years ago and might even approach historic levels, if the most recent ballot return rates are any indication. As of this evening, 44.9% of Washingtonians registered to vote had returned their ballots. This morning, the number was 40% — so, in the span of just eight hours, it went up by four percent. That’s big. On Election Night four years ago, only 31.32% of ballots across Washington State had been returned.

Washington’s turnout has rebounded to such a big degree this year that the Evergreen State has eclipsed Oregon, the pioneer of voting-at-home and a state that elects its governor in midterm cycles. Only 39.8% of ballots had been returned across the Beaver State (PDF) is as of today’s update, whereas Washington is now in the mid-forties and likely to top 50% by tomorrow night.

Four years ago, Oregon had hit 49.9% the day before the election.

As of today, Multnomah County — easily Oregon’s largest population center and a key source of votes for Democratic candidates and progressive causes — is now ahead of the state average, with 40.1% of ballots returned.

The story is similar up in Washington, where King County is slightly ahead of the state as a whole at 46%. That wasn’t the case four years ago.

For years, Washington has grappled with declining turnout across all types of elections. The 2016 presidential election, which Secretary of State Kim Wyman confidently predicted would be a record breaker, saw less turnout than 2012 or 2008. Turnout in the 2014 midterms came nowhere close to 2010 levels, and turnout in the in-between local years got so bad that Washington set two records for the worst turnout in state history in the span of just three years.

After last year’s embarrassingly awful turnout, the Legislature finally got to work removing barriers to voting, passing the Access to Democracy package, which includes automatic voter registration, preregistration for sixteen and seventeen year olds, same-day registration, and the Voting Rights Act.

King County then decided to raise the bar even further and implement prepaid postage this year, prompting Wyman and Governor Jay Inslee to pool discretionary funds from their office budgets to ensure the other counties could do likewise.

Thanks in part to prepaid postage for ballot return envelopes, turnout in the August Top Two election went up for the first time in years instead of down. Prepaid postage is now helping drive turnout in this general election.

We are relieved that action has finally been taken to arrest and reverse our declining voter turnout trend. But while this positive momentum is welcome, we cannot take it for granted. Next year is a local election year without a U.S. Senate race or any U.S. House races on the ballot, so it will take more work to catalyze voter turnout.

Turnout is not merely a function of what is on the ballot, as Secretary of State Kim Wyman has often incorrectly stated. Rather, it is one factor that influences turnout. There are other factors, one of which is barriers to voting. Washington has done a good job this year of tearing down a lot of those barriers. But we could do more.

Washington lawmakers can also make voters’ lives simpler and reduce voter fatigue by changing state law to streamline the elections we hold.

Instead of having four election windows in a given year (February, April, August, November), we should go to two (May or June and November). And to simplify what’s on the ballot, we should end the practice of considering state-level initiatives and referenda in odd-numbered years, since those are local election years.

These moves would also save money — particularly for small cash-strapped counties in Eastern Washington — in addition to reducing voter fatigue.

Speaking of counties in Eastern Washington, Spokane deserves a huge kudos for being the first major county in the state to surpass 50% turnout. The big milestone happened this morning. Spokane County hasn’t looked back: the county is now up to 52.7%, which is truly impressive. Clark is also doing fairly well, with 47.0% in.

Democratic hopes of capturing WA-03 and WA-05 are dependent on robust turnout in populous Clark and Spokane counties, so these high return rates could bode well for Democratic challengers Carolyn Long and Lisa Brown.

The state’s other large counties have some catching up to do. Snohomish only just reached 40.3%, and Pierce is even further behind at 36.6%. Thurston is barely ahead of Pierce with 36.8%. As mentioned, King is ahead of the curve with 46% turnout, and will likely pass 50% when it makes its first report tomorrow.

Only one county in Oregon has seen a majority of its voters turn out yet, and that’s Grant (50.2%). Curry, Wallowa, and Deschutes are close behind, with both at or over 48%. All of those counties are fairly small — Grant only has 5,325 voters.

The state’s second largest county, Lane (home to Eugene), is seeing about the same turnout as Multnomah so far… 40%. Other big counties are further behind: Marion County stands at 36.3% and Washington County is at 36.5%.

Meanwhile, Clackamas County — the third of the major counties in the Portland metro area besides Multnomah and Washington — has reached 41.6% turnout and is thus the current turnout leader among the populous counties in Oregon.

Unlike Washington, Oregon has party registration, so elections officials down there also break out their turnout statistics by party. 49.3% of eligible Democratic voters have returned ballots so far, and 49% of Republican voters have done likewise. 40.1% of independent voters, meanwhile, have returned ballots.

Turnout among nonaffiliated Oregon voters is a measly 22.1%, while turnout for minor party voters ranges from 22.5% (Working Families) to 38.7% (Pacific Green), with the Libertarians and others in between.

Priscilla O’Leary: 1958-2018

Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned from being involved in progressive politics since the early 2000s is that the people you have the opportunity to work with are just as important as the work that you do. Friendships and teamwork are the key to effective activism. No one makes it on their own… we only succeed with the help and support of our friends, family, teachers, coaches, and mentors.

Neither I nor the team at the Northwest Progressive Institute would be where we are today without the stalwart support of friends like Priscilla O’Leary. Priscilla was one of our dedicated Commonwealth Bondholders — people who give monthly to sustain NPI’s essential research and advocacy. She had a brilliant mind and was skilled at working with data. Her contributions to NPI, the Democratic Party, and other progressive organizations were more than substantial… they were immense.

Last night, after having battled cancer and the complications of surgery to remove it, Priscilla passed away. She was fifty-nine, just a week shy of her sixtieth birthday. A long-term thinker with a keen intellect and a strong will, Priscilla had opted last week to begin palliative care. She had decided that it was time for her to go.

It is truly fitting she passed on from this life on her own terms.

Priscilla O'Leary

Priscilla O’Leary enjoying a cruise to Alaska

My team and I will miss her greatly, but we are glad that her suffering is over. We will always cherish her support and wise counsel. She was a treasure.

I first met Priscilla through my involvement in the Democratic Party. We both joined our local party at around the same time in the mid-2000s. Then, the 45th Legislative District was a battleground mostly represented by Republicans, with just one Democratic legislator: Larry Springer. That changed in 2006, when for the first time, the district elected an all-Democratic delegation to go to Olympia.

That historic victory was unfortunately not replicated in the next midterm election.

Although the district returned to having a mixed delegation in 2010, it became all Democratic again last year when Manka Dhingra was resoundingly elected to the Washington State Senate in a fiercely contested special election. This year, Dhingra and her colleagues Larry Springer and Roger Goodman face only token opposition, and each received over 60% of the vote in the August Top Two election.

Never before have the voters in the 45th so overwhelmingly backed all three of the Democratic legislative candidates on their ballots. It appears that the 45th is no longer a battleground at all. Rather, it has become a safe Democratic district.

The Top Two election was held at around the same time that Priscilla had her surgery. I am very glad that she lived long enough to see and hear those numbers. As a committed Democratic activist and a longtime member of the Washington State Democratic Central Committee (WSDCC) from the 45th, Priscilla cared deeply about electing effective Democratic candidates to represent the district.

She and I served on the board of the 45th District Democrats together for over ten years. For five of those years, we represented the 45th together on the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, the governing body of the state party.

Priscilla knew before she passed on that her work had helped create a strong Democratic Party in the 45th. Her legacy will unquestionably continue to benefit progressive causes and candidates on the Eastside for years to come.

No one worked harder over the years to prepare the 45th District Democrats at caucus time than Priscilla — especially in 2008 and 2016. If it weren’t for her, I’m not sure the 45th’s precinct and legislative district caucuses could have even taken place. Without her preparation and organization, I think we’d have been sunk.

It is thanks to Priscilla’s foresight that we never had any problems with our caucus paperwork. We always knew who we had elected to be delegates to the next level, and we knew what support each presidential candidate had received.

While Priscilla cared passionately about many progressive causes, I think it’s safe to say that protecting and expanding LGBT rights was at the top of her list of concerns. I can still vividly remember her giving a passionate speech in support of approving Referendum 71 in 2009. (It passed, keeping expanded civil unions intact in Washington, and paved the way for marriage equality three years later.)

Priscilla’s partner Kris passed away several years ago, depriving Priscilla of her closest companion. In the aftermath of Kris’ death, Priscilla asked me for my expertise in setting up a website to remember her, and I gladly obliged. Even in difficult times, Priscilla always kept her focus and maintained a strong work ethic.

I have many fond memories of my years-long friendship with Priscilla. We weren’t simply colleagues… we shared interests beyond politics, like moviegoing. Priscilla really loved taking in movies at iPic Theatres, often with a friend. For her, the cinema was a place to relax, unwind, and escape for a few hours.

For example, earlier this year, she and I screened Ava DuVernay’s groundbreaking film A Wrinkle In Time at iPic. The film was a box office disappointment for Disney, but we certainly enjoyed spending an evening watching it. (The film is currently available to stream on Netflix, and I recommend it to anyone who hasn’t seen it.)

The Democratic Party was not the only institution Priscilla cared about. Priscilla was also a valued, devoted employee of T-Mobile, specializing in corporate information security. She will doubtless be remembered this week for her many years of contributions to the company by her colleagues in Factoria.

Priscilla appreciated my passion for security and keeping people safe from scams of all kinds thanks in part to her work with T-Mobile. I could always rely on her to offer thoughtful guidance when faced with a dilemma or a problem of any kind. She was an excellent listener as well as a critical thinker. I valued every conversation I ever had with Priscilla, including our final chat a few days ago.

I will really miss being able to strategize with her, but I’m grateful to have known her and worked with her since the mid-2000s. I hope to be able to celebrate many much-needed victories tomorrow night in honor of her, Al Garman, Elaine Phelps, and all the other NPI supporters that we have lost this year.

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.

Big Oil giants are raking in massive profits while spending massively to defeat I-1631

Seen those ads urging a NO vote on Initiative 1631, featuring the likes of Chevron lawyer Rob McKenna? They’re appearing on pretty much every commercial break on local television stations, and they’re paid for by a few extremely wealthy oil companies that really don’t want to be held accountable for their polluting ways — even though they’re flush with money. Lots and lots of money:

BP: Black PestBP [formerly British Petroleum] has hailed its best quarterly profit in five years as it reaped the benefits of a higher oil price as well as bigger earnings from its stake in Russia’s Rosneft.

The UK-based oil giant said underlying replacement cost profit – its headline earnings figure – had more than doubled to $3.8bn (£3bn) in the third quarter compared to last year.

Brent Crude prices averaged $75 a barrel during the July-September period, up from $52 for the same quarter in 2017.

Initiative 1631 is a proposed law currently being voted on by the people of Washington State. It would put a price on pollution beginning in 2020 and use the revenue raised to accelerate our region’s transition to clean energy responsibly and equitably. The measure is supported by a coalition of many hundreds of organizations that includes the Northwest Progressive Institute.

The Yes on I-1631 coalition is easily one of the most diverse political coalitions in state history. It includes businesses like Microsoft, Expedia, and REI; unions like UFCW Local 21, SEIUHealthcare 775NW, AFSCME, and AFT-WA; environmental organizations like the Nature Conservancy, civic organizations like the League of Women Voters, hospitals, and health advocacy groups, plus newspapers like The Olympian, The News Tribune of Tacoma, The Herald of Everett, and The Stranger.

The NO on I-1631 campaign is doing its best to astroturf, but the PDC reports don’t lie. Pretty much all the money behind I-1631 is coming from out of state oil companies that own refineries here and don’t want to have to pay for the pollution they emit. It would detract from their massive profits — and they don’t want that.

BP is by far the largest funder of the NO on I-1631 campaign, having supplied nearly $13 million to bring the clean energy and clean water plan down. Eight years after BP wreaked havoc on the Gulf of Mexico when it lost control of its Deepwater Horizon oil rig, the company is back to making big bucks from its polluting ways.

However, BP isn’t the only Big Oil giant doing very, very well. The second largest contributor to NO on I-1631, Philips 66, also had a bountiful third quarter.

Phillips 66 beat analysts’ estimates for third-quarter profit on Friday, as it benefited from higher refining margins, sending shares of the independent oil refiner up as much as 5.4 percent in late-afternoon trading. Margins for most independent U.S. refiners, which processes heavy crude from countries such as Venezuela and Canada to diesel, gasoline and other products, have been boosted as U.S. crude’s discount to Brent widened to more than $10 a barrel.

Ditto for Marathon Petroleum, the third largest NO on I-1631 funder:

Marathon Petroleum Corp. made a profit of $737 million in the third quarter. The Findlay-based refiner released its earnings Thursday. For investors, the profit worked out to $1.62 per diluted share, but was down 18 percent from the third quarter of 2017.

And Chevron, Rob McKenna’s patron? Their profits are way up, like bigly:

Chevron reported quarterly earnings that beat analysts’ expectations on Friday, as record-setting oil and gas production boosted the company’s bottom line. Shares of the oil major were rose more than 2 percent on Friday. Chevron posted a profit of $4.05 billion for the quarter, more than double its earnings from a year ago. That came out to a profit of $2.11 per share, slightly beating Wall Street’s expectations for $2.06 per share, according to Refinitiv.

What all these recent earnings reports tell us is this: All of these oil companies can easily afford to clean up their act… they just don’t want to. What they want is business as usual. Their rationale for fighting I-1631 can be summed up by villain Lord Cutler Beckett’s infamous mantra in the second and third Pirates of the Carribbean movies: It’s just… good business.

It's just... good business.

“Nothing personal, Jack. It’s just… good business.”

Big Oil can’t buy votes directly because the law won’t allow that, so they’ve settled for the next best thing: Spending record sums on ads to convince as many Washingtonians as possible to doubt the wisdom of investing in a future that doesn’t involve burning fossil fuels to generate energy for the Pacific Northwest.

If we could eavesdrop on Big Oil’s lobbyists and the executives they report to, we might hear them saying something akin to Beckett’s slogan when scheming against I-1631, only tailored for 2018: Nothing against your clean energy ambitions, Washingtonians. Defeating 1631 is just… good business for us.

Big Oil doesn’t want I-1631 to pass because they’re convinced it would be bad for their business. But what about our business? Specifically, our business climate here in this great green land known as Cascadia? Well, the truth is, passage of I-1631 will benefit our economy. I-1631 makes investments that will enable us to generate energy sustainably without polluting our air and water to the degree we do today. That’s why companies like Microsoft, Expedia, and REI have endorsed it. They understand we have a responsibility to care for our common home.

The future of the world economy also rests on efforts to fight the climate crisis.

Big Oil? Their entire business model is based on extracting the remains of decomposed organisms, refining them, and burning them to create energy. Big Oil executives know that humanity’s addiction to fossil fuels is causing catastrophic climate damage and polluting our air and water, but they don’t care. They’re too invested in their ways to change. It seems they’d rather become fossils themselves than disrupt (pardon the cliche) their own fossil fuels dependent business model.

With the federal government under the control of Big Oil’s henchmen, it’s up to the states to lead. Washington can take a big step forward for clean air and clean water this autumn by passing this groundbreaking initiative.

We have a moral responsibility to act.

As the old Native American proverb says, we do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children. We cannot leave a legacy of inaction and failure for future generations. Please join us in voting YES on I-1631.

If it weren’t for local newspapers, many local judicial races might have gotten no coverage

Editor’s Note: This post is the third installment in a series focusing on mostly ignored state and local judicial contests in the 2018 midterm elections. Read the first post in the series — focusing on the Washington State Supreme Court and the contest between Justice Steve Gonzalez and his challenger — by following this link. The second post in the series, focusing on this year’s sole contested race for Court of Appeals, in northwest Washington, is also worth reading.

Newsprint has been called a dead medium many times in the last few years, but if it weren’t for local daily and weekly newspapers, we’d be totally bereft of coverage of many important issues and concerns… like judicial elections, which many voters have difficulty figuring out because of a lack of information about the candidates.

All judicial contests in Washington are nonpartisan, so the candidates’ names appear on our ballots with no party affiliation or cues of any kind. The ballots don’t even say who is an incumbent judge or justice (if one is running). They simply list the candidates’ names, the position they are seeking for, and the term length.

Television and radio stations almost never cover judicial races, not even high profile ones, which means that our surviving newspapers are almost the only media outlets devoting resources to producing journalism about these elections.

There aren’t many other resources available to voters to compensate for the dearth of coverage, either. There’s VotingForJudges.org, but in most races, it simply offers the candidates’ voter pamphlet statements and links to their PDC reports.

Some organizations vet judicial candidates prior to preparing sample ballots or endorsement guides for their members, but the information they collect (like questionnaire responses) isn’t necessarily made available to the public.

Here at NPI, we’ve been trying to shine a spotlight on as many judicial contests as we can before November 6th through the Cascadia Advocate, and urging more media outlets (especially television and radio stations) to do likewise.

While we have published our own posts exploring judicial contests on this blog and plan to publish more, we also want to recognize the newspapers that have been doing the same over the past few weeks without any prompting or cajoling.

Our first shout-out goes to The Daily Herald of Everett, which published a story examining the race for Cascade District Court up in Snohomish County.

As a judge in north Snohomish County seeks another four years on the bench, the local legal establishment is lining up behind her challenger — and urging voters to do the same.

Kristen Olbrechts ran unopposed four years ago for judge in Arlington-based Cascade District Court. This campaign promises to be harder. It is proving to be pricey and largely self-financed.

Challenger Jennifer Rancourt, a Snohomish County public defender and chairwoman of the state Clemency & Pardons Board, has shored up overwhelming support from the county’s sitting and retired judges, along with other key local legal figures. The county’s other seven district court races are all uncontested.

Read the whole thing.

Our second shout-out goes to The Daily World in Aberdeen, which published a story looking at the race for Grays Harbor County Superior Court.

The two candidates for Grays Harbor Superior Court Judge Position 3 discussed their qualifications with The Daily World editorial board on Thursday and differed widely in their views about a recent controversial attempted abduction case currently being appealed.

The case was decided by current Judge Ray Kahler.

His challenger is David Mistachkin, a lawyer and partner with the Aberdeen firm of Ingram, Zelasko & Goodwin. Mistachkin served as a Grays Harbor District Court Judge (2015-2016) and often works as a defense attorney. Kahler was appointed to the court last January to fill the seat of retired Judge Mark McCauley.

Kahler was an attorney and former partner at Stritmatter Kessler Whelan (offices in Hoquiam and Seattle) for twenty-one years prior to his appointment, working mostly in the area of personal injury cases.

Read the whole thing.

In addition to that story, The Daily World also published a Q&A with each of the candidates plus an editorial laying out their rationale for backing Kahler.

Bravo to them for providing this coverage to their readers!

Our third shout-out goes to the Cashmere Valley Record for covering the judicial contests that Chelan County voters will have to sort out this year.

Two by two they were introduced, but not to debate nor to enter an ark, but simply to answer a few questions and give their opening and closing statements. It wasn’t exactly a barn-burner of a night, but it did give a chance for the people to see and compare candidates for Chelan County District and Superior Court judges.

Most of the audience of around fifty were partisan to one or another candidates with placards, T-shirts and various paraphernalia extant in the gallery. Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Shiloh (Schauer) Burgess introduced the format and ended the evening at the community room of the Pybus Public Market, Thursday, Oct. 18.

Read the whole thing.

Our fourth shout out goes to the Skagit Valley Herald for covering their community’s Superior Court race between Rosemary Kaholokula and Laura Riquelme.

Skagit County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Rosemary Kaholokula is challenging Judge Laura Riquelme for her seat on the Skagit County Superior Court bench.

The winner of the election will serve the remaining two years of the term of Michael Rickert, who retired in 2017.

Riquelme has twice been appointed a Skagit County Superior Court judge by Gov. Jay Inslee, once in 2016 and again in 2017, to fill vacancies created by retiring judges Susan Cook and Rickert.

Prior to being appointed, the Mount Vernon resident served Skagit County for more than a decade — first as a prosecutor and then as a public defender where she represented low-income clients.

Read the whole thing.

Our fifth and final shout out goes to the Spokesman-Review of Spokane for publishing a comprehensive piece on their Superior Court race back in September, pitting attorney Dennis Cronin against Judge Michelle Szambelan.

Both candidates have a storied history in the county and as such have received widespread support in the nonpartisan race.

Szambelan, who has received endorsements from nine sitting Superior Court judges, all eight District Court judges and her three ex-colleagues at Municipal Court, also has earned the support of Mayor David Condon, City Council President Ben Stuckart and Councilwomen Candace Mumm and Lori Kinnear, according to her website.

“I’ve had really good experiences with Judge Szambelan as a Municipal Court judge. I think she’s excellent,” said Stuckart on Thursday. “But I also think Dennis Cronin is great as well. I think he’s really knowledgeable.”

Cronin, meanwhile, has won over many local labor unions, the county Democratic Party and local activists, including Pastor Walter Kendricks of the Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church. He also has endorsements from a long list of local attorneys, as does Szambelan.

The Spokesman-Review has also had the best coverage of any paper in the state of our State Supreme Court race. Their editors and reporters were producing much-needed journalism long before other media outlets took an interest in the race.

I hope I’ve succeeded in this post in demonstrating the value that our surviving daily and weekly newspapers have to our communities. Without them, we’d have pretty much no reporting whatsoever about critical judicial contests at the county and local level. Online-only media are simply not a replacement for local newspapers and can’t always provide the kind of high quality coverage that newspapers do. Please subscribe to your local paper if it’s not a free weekly, and help keep it in business.

Hey, Northwesterners: Is your vote for sale? Big Soda would buy it from you if they could

During my lifetime, I’ve seen some pretty grotesque, obscene, and over-the-top political campaigns. But there’s something particularly offensive and disgusting about the high fructose syrup soaked campaign to pass Initiative 1634, Big Soda’s shameless attempt to strip cities in Washington (except for Seattle) of the freedom to impose a sweetened sugary beverage tax down the road.

A recent Elway Poll hilariously showed the initiative losing, even though the opposition coalition (which includes NPI) has almost no money and has done little campaigning. Big Soda’s response to this was to open their wallets and pump millions more into the coffers of the I-1634 campaign. Much of the money is going to deceptive mailers that are flooding into mailboxes all over the state.

A grand total of ten — yes, ten — almost identically-designed mailers have showed up in my mailbox thus far, and I’m guessing more are on the way.

All of these mailers contain outrageous falsehoods, like “Close the grocery tax loophole” and “Stop politicians from taxing groceries”. Of course, there is no grocery tax loophole and no elected leader is proposing that groceries be taxed. But facts are not important to Big Soda and their allies — profits are.

One of their mailers depicts a black woman holding a carton of what appears to be milk. Another has stock photos of toast, bananas, meat, cheese, broccoli, and noodles on it. None of these groceries are currently taxed in Washington — not by the state, nor by any of its local governments — and there is no chance of them being taxed in the future, either, but Big Soda wants everyone to think otherwise.

This is self-serving propaganda at its worst.

If Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, and Red Bull could buy your vote… say, for five bucks… they most assuredly would. It’s not legal, which is why they’re doing TV media buys and these pathetic, fraudulent mailers instead.

But if it were legal, it’s not hard to imagine Big Soda offering ten bucks in return for proof of a “Yes” vote on their stupid scheme to rob local communities all over Washington of their freedom to consider raising money for public health purposes from a sugary sweetened beverage tax like the one Seattle has.

Consider that Big Soda and their comrades have already spent $15,817,596.55 in an attempt to pass I-1634. That’s $3.71 for every registered voter in the state as of September 13th, when there were 4,252,913 active voters. Big Soda isn’t going to get everybody’s vote, so if you figure that forty percent of the voters vote no, then that means they’ll have spent around $6.20 to acquire each “Yes” vote.

Of course, they’re not done spending money — and if the percentage of Washingtonians who see through their con is anywhere close to what the Elway Poll and our own polling suggests it might be, then they will wind up having spent somewhere close to $10 in pursuit of each “Yes” vote.

South of the border, in Oregon, Big Soda is running a similar con.

Measure 103 is a proposed constitutional amendment to prohibit state and local governments from enacting any taxes on groceries. Oregon does not currently levy a state sales tax at all, and only two cities — Ashland and Yachats — levy a sales tax of five percent on prepared food and non-alcoholic drinks, which aren’t groceries.

As in Washington, there is no effort afoot in Oregon to levy a tax on groceries. No elected leader is talking about one, and no local government is proposing one.

But again, facts do not matter to Big Soda. Reality is irrelevant.

“Yes! Keep Our Groceries Tax Free” is the name of Big Soda’s operation in Oregon, which is very similar to the name of Big Soda’s aforementioned Washington scam, “Yes! to Affordable Groceries”. The American Beverage Association, the corporate trade lobby for Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, and Red Bull, is by far the top contributor to the Oregon Measure 103 campaign, followed by Albertsons Safeway, Costco, and the Northwest Grocery Association.

To date, the ABA has donated $2,988,595.71 to the effort.

A survey conducted by DHM Research for Oregon Public Broadcasting in early October found that despite Big Soda’s big spending, Oregonians are just not enthused about Measure 103. 47% of those surveyed say they’re leaning towards voting no or certain to vote no, while 33% were leaning yes or certain to vote yes.

NPI has taken positions opposing Initiative 1634 and Measure 103.

We emphatically urge all our readers to take a stand against greed this autumn by saying NO to these self-serving schemes from Big Soda to change the laws of Washington and the Constitution of Oregon for their own benefit.

Pinky Vargas, Sharon Shewmake, and Justin Boneau hope to make history in 42nd District

Washington’s 42nd Legislative District spans a significant chunk of Washington’s State’s border neighborhoods, taking in many rural Whatcom County communities as well as a portion of the City of Bellingham.

While Bellingham is the home of Western Washington University (WWU) and considered to be a bastion of progressivism, the 42nd District is represented entirely by Republicans in the Legislature and has been for many years.

The 42nd’s current State Senator is former Trump campaign chair and regime cheerleader Doug Ericksen (a favorite pal of Tim Eyman’s), while its two State Representatives are Luanne Van Werven (Position 1) and Vincent Buys (Position 2).

However, in the recent August Top Two Election, the trio’s Democratic opponents each collectively received more votes than they did — a historic accomplishment.

For State Senate, the two Democrats on the ballot secured 54.01% of the vote, with Bellingham City Councilmember Pinky Vargas advancing to the General Election ballot. Fellow challenger Tim Ballew II has endorsed her for the general.

Democratic challenger Justin Boneau was able to lock down 50.68% of the vote for Position 1, with incumbent Van Werven and another Republican cumulatively earning 49.32% of the vote. And finally, Democratic challenger Sharon Shewmake secured 52.21% of the vote against incumbent Republican Vincent Buys.

Like many districts across Washington, as well as the country, the 42nd is plagued with affordability problems. The cost of living is increasing, with wages remaining stagnant. From housing and healthcare, to childcare and education, the 42nd Legislative District is grappling with many issues.

The district is in need of strong, results-oriented representation in Olympia.

Vargas is one of the Democratic Party’s top prospects, and is campaigning energetically on a host of issues, including caring for our common home, the Earth. She spent yesterday doorbelling the Lummi Nation, undeterred by the rain.

Her opponent, Ericksen, is perhaps the biggest friend that Big Oil has in the Washington State Legislature. Oil companies are among Ericksen’s top donors, and when Ericksen was the Chair of the Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee (a position he lost following Manka Dhingra’s special election win last year in the 45th District), he actually tried to advance legislation to prohibit policies to clean up our air and water.

Gun safety is another one of Vargas’ priorities.

“There have been three school shooting threats this week in Whatcom County,” she lamented in a post last week. “Two at Ferndale High School, and one at Nooksack Valley High School. We need responsible gun safety laws. That’s why I am supporting I-1639, for safe schools and safe communities.”

And although the Legislature did make historic progress earlier this year on pay equity, Vargas says there’s more than needs to be done.

“Women deserve equal pay for equal work,” she declared.

“Although the Equal Pay Opportunity Act was passed, the pay gap still exists. At the State Senate, I will advocate for women, and stand up for them. Every time. We must continue to push for equal pay for equal work laws, so that women and men earn the same pay if they do the same job.”

Sharon Shewmake, the Democrat hoping to unseat Representative Buys, is a professor of economics at Western and looks at investing in social services for the district as a win-win for the state and its residents.

“I never thought I’d run for office,” Shewmake explained. “But looking at how our state was making policy decisions alarmed me.”

“Economists and other social scientists have worked out really great ways of achieving these goals […] We need to be using these tools that have really good evidence, and people have literally won Nobel Prizes for studying and developing, and make lives better for Washington State residents.”

Shewmake described the need to make sure funding is distributed equitably — not just to the more populated and affluent schools in Bellingham, but also out to the many rural parts of the district so teachers are motivated to take jobs there.

She also hopes to bring more affordable higher education to the district, potentially through free tuition for the first two years of community college or technical school. (This is an idea many Democratic legislators want to pursue.)

She cited a model the State of Tennessee has used as proof that providing certain types of tuition free school as a positive investment in the community. The state has a program where the first two years of community college and technical school are free. Since the Tennessee program was introduced, there has been a 60% increase in students who completed degree and certificate programs. Fifteen other states have adopted similar programs driven by Tennessee’s results.

“It doesn’t cost as much as you think,” Shewmake told NPI. “Education is one of the best investments we can make in our society.”

Justin Boneau, the Democrat hopeful vying to unseat Representative Van Werven, worries about the cost of childcare in the district. “We actually have the most expensive childcare in the state here,” he explained.

He explained how the majority of the families in the district survive on dual incomes and the lack of childcare options either makes the couples split shifts if their schedules allow, or pay the expensive amount for childcare in the area.

According to a recent Bellingham Herald article, the number of licensed child care providers dropped 25% in Whatcom County in the four years leading up to 2016. The article cited hard and confusing barriers to enter into the childcare facility industry, including opaque regulations and compliance with the state’s minimum wage and benefits requirements (which are important and necessary to protect workers, but which could be better explained to prospective entrepreneurs.)

Boneau said he became aware of the issue when there were high prices and long waitlists when trying to get his four-year-old child into care. “I’m of the mind that we as a state should have a comprehensive, one-through-five-year-old childcare system that’s universal and available to all Washington State residents,” he said.

Shewmake and Boneau agree that the district also needs less barriers preventing enrollment of children in childcare and preschool programs.

Shewmake offered an economic analysis of the issue, stating that the state should invest in preschool for every child whose parents want to send them.

“There are high quality studies where they followed kids who went to preschool versus kids who didn’t, and the difference was the flip of a coin,” she said.

One study followed kids for about forty years and found that for every one dollar invested, we get about six to nine dollars’ worth of benefits back.

“About half of those kids who went to preschool did not need as many social services later on in their life, including incarceration,” said Shewmake. “These differences persist throughout the rest of the kid’s education and the evidence shows how not receiving that early childhood education can potentially negatively impact the rest of their lives, and I think that is unacceptable.”

Besides access to education, both candidates believe the housing crisis is one of the district’s biggest issue. Ever increasing prices of single-family homes — coupled with stagnant wages — have put home ownership out of reach for many families.

Boneau explained that the county had a health assessment done that showed that nearly 60% of Whatcom County households are burdened by the cost of housing, meaning they spend over 30% of their income on housing alone.

“My rent has gone up three times in two years,” said Boneau. “And I know that I’m not alone in this.” He said of the many voters he’s talked to during the campaign, many of them understand and feel the burden of this particular issue.

“I would like to see serious increases in our Washington Housing Trust Fund,” Boneau said. “We need to bring that back to pre-recession levels and then double that to have a big investment in social housing.” And he argues ending a ban on rent regulation at the state level would give tools back to local municipalities to let them best decide how to deal with their hyperlocal housing crisis.

Shewmake also agrees that the state should fully fund the Housing Trust Fund.

She believes the housing crisis is principally a supply problem, and that there is only so much we can do at the state level.

“It has to be local decisions, but I’d like to find ways for us to build denser, more affordable housing in transit-oriented areas,” Shewmake said, noting she lives in a Bellingham neighborhood where her family is able to use public transit and bikes to go most places, a life experience which has informed her views on the subject.

She added that there are ways to build more buildings while preserving the character of neighborhoods in the district.

“It’s really a local conversation we need to be having,” she said.

“I’d also say that healthcare is another big thing that affects households here in the 42nd,” Boneau told NPI. He believes that voters in the district would rather have a single-payer system instead of dealing with insurance companies.

“There [are] a couple versions of a single-payer health system currently in state Legislature, and that is something that would be high on my legislative priorities.”

Shewmake points out that the U.S. spends more per capita than any other country on healthcare and gets worse results. She believes pricing for medical procedures should be transparent and that the for-profit model in insurance companies is not working. “I’d like to see that reformed,” she said.

She is open-minded about the way forward, whether it’s Medicare For All, or whether it’s a nonprofit insurance system, or a public option. Any reform plan that expands coverage would be an improvement on our current, ineffective system, and it would save families money in the end.

“I think it’s a really exciting year,” said Shewmake.

She believes that Democrats have a good chance of flipping the district blue and providing much more effective representation to its residents.

Boneau agreed, saying even independents and Republican voters have been receptive to his progressive message. “These are big issues that affect all Whatcom County households no matter where you’re at ideologically,” he said.

Ballots for Washington’s general election were recently mailed to all in-state residents. They are due back no later than November 6th at 8 PM. Ballots being returned through the United States Postal Service must be postmarked no later than that day. There is no cost to return a ballot through the Postal Service, as all return ballot envelopes this year have prepaid postage.

Please vote and encourage family and friends to vote.

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