The words “uphill battle” don’t go far enough to describe the task of candidates trying to unseat two Democrats in the solidly left-leaning 29th Legislative District that includes parts of Tacoma, Lakewood, Parkland, Spanaway and Frederickson. The same holds true for the one gutsy Republican challenger in the deep-blue bleeding 27th District of North Tacoma.
In the 29th, the key decision points for our endorsements of House incumbents David Sawyer of Parkland and Steve Kirby of South Tacoma are their well-grounded experience and good fit for the district.
This is the first time that Republican challengers Rick Thomas of Parkland and Jessica Garcia of Tacoma have run for political office.
For House Pos. 1, Sawyer cited unfinished business as his reason for seeking a third term. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, he’s positioned to advocate for funds on issues that top his priority list, including affordable housing and universal preschool.
His own personal creative financing drew attention this summer from the Public Disclosure Commission. Sawyer, who is a law clerk studying to be an attorney, created a GoFundMe page to bankroll his trip to the Democratic National Convention. The PDC dismissed the complaint, but Sawyer still removed his online plea, canceled his trip and left Bernie Sanders down one delegate. It wasn’t one of Sawyer’s brightest moments.
But Sawyer does show up for charter school proponents, and for that he deserves praise for splitting with his caucus. In 2014, he also was the prime sponsor of a good bill that supported homeless programs by tacking a $40 surcharge on recording real-estate documents.
Challenger Thomas, a self-avowed moderate Republican, has an impressive military résumé to include former JBLM 1st Special Forces Group commander. Thomas could be a credible candidate in the future, after he spends more time in the district and gains greater command of the issues.
For House Pos. 2, Kirby jokingly says he’s seeking re-election because he finally has a good parking space. But perks of power aside, the 16-year veteran correctly asserts that now is not the time for Pierce County to lose the senior member of its House delegation.
Kirby is a leader on business and banking legislation, and he’s a refreshing straight talker. When asked about the state’s K-12 school funding conundrum, he minced no words: “We are not going to get it done. We should have told the Supreme Court we will do the best we can with what we have to work with.”
Of the constituents he knows so well, he said, “They are taxed out.” To increase state revenue, he says he’d consider a capital gains tax with middle-class exemption. Regarding the $54 billion Sound Transit 3 package, the one that promises to finish 108 miles of light rail and finally bring it to Tacoma, Kirby kept it short and sweet: “It’s not politically viable.”
Republican challenger Garcia has a compelling personal story and would give the Legislature a needed Latina voice. Her passion for charter schools ignited her interest in politics, which we applaud, but her enthusiasm is no match for Kirby’s track record.
He might have a slightly jaded perspective, but he still delivers for his district. Let him keep his parking space two more years.
Another no-doubt Democratic bastion is North Tacoma’s 27th Legislative District, where Sen. Jeannie Darneille is a shoo-in for re-election.
She continues a tradition of unabashedly liberal female senators well-tuned to the temper of the 27th, from the late Lorraine Wojahn to Debbie Regala.
We don’t agree with all Darneille’s positions. Her legislative meddling in a proposed Port of Tacoma methanol plant helped undercut the project before scientific studies could be done. But credit her with asking tough questions about the port’s untimely lease with Northwest Innovation Works before nearly anyone else did.
Darneille, a longtime nonprofit director, has capably served 16 years in the House and Senate. While she isn’t an insider on education, the marquee issue at the Capitol these days, she’s a leading voice on social services and will fight to ensure the poor and vulnerable aren’t left with scraps in the K-12 debate.
Her Republican opponent, Greg Taylor, is a Tacoma-born technology consultant with a libertarian fire in his belly, no experience and no chance to win in this district.
The 27th is such a lost cause for the GOP that it mustered no challengers to take on Democratic Reps. Laurie Jinkins and Jake Fey.