Politics & Government

In Tacoma’s 27th District, House seats attract a motley mix

Incumbents in the 27th Legislative District are up against challengers with little or no money to spend and, in some cases, criminal records to explain.

Democratic Reps. Jake Fey and Laurie Jinkins each face two opponents for the Aug. 5 primary election.

Jinkins, running for the district’s Position 1 seat, faces Republican Rodger Deskins, a West End Tacoma real estate agent, and Robert Hill, a perennial candidate and convicted felon.

Fey, defending his Position 2 seat, is running against Republican Steven Cook, a pastor from Tacoma’s South End, and Micah Anderson, a Framers Party member who said he lives in an abandoned home in Tacoma’s North End.

The Democratic-leaning 27th District includes several Tacoma neighborhoods: Northeast, North End, East Side, New Tacoma, Central Tacoma and a northern portion of the South End.

Fey and Jinkins have significant cash on hand compared to their opponents. As of early July, Jinkins had raised nearly $46,000 and had spent nearly $12,000. Fey had raised more than $52,000 and spent $36,000, mostly on campaign consultants and mailers.

Among the challengers in both races, only Cook has reported raising any money of the challengers. He has collected nearly $1,100 and spent $613, according to the state Public Disclosure Commission.

Position 1

Jinkins, who works at the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department and was elected to her first legislative term in 2010, said education and transportation are her top two priorities. Her third, by extension, is the state budget.

She called funding education “a moral obligation.” The state Supreme Court ruled two years ago that the Legislature was failing its constitutional duty to K-12 education and gave lawmakers until 2018 to fully fund it.

Jinkins believes the Legislature could raise part of the money by closing tax loopholes or exemptions, such as those for people who buy personal airplanes. Instead of charging a tax on the value of aircraft, the state charges an annual flat fee.

“If you can afford to buy yourself a personal airplane,” you should pay the tax, she said.

Jinkins also said Washington is one of three or four states in the country that have no state capital gains tax, which includes the tax a property owner would pay after a sale. A capital gains tax is also paid on stock investments.

If the state had a capital gains tax in place last year, Jinkins said the state would have earned more than $500 million. Jinkins said homeowners selling their only home would not have to pay state capital gains tax under a plan she supports, while others selling investment properties would.

The state’s transportation system is also running on an outdated funding model, the state’s per-gallon gas tax, she said. In recent years, hybrid and electric vehicle technology has allowed drivers to travel farther with less gas, or none at all. This means the state collects less money per mile traveled, and Jinkins said this needs to change. She said she wants to see the state shift to a per-mile tax, but doesn’t think it will happen anytime soon.

Her Republican opponent, Deskins, 68, could not be reached by phone for comment. But in an email, Deskins, a West End real estate agent, said he wants to create jobs for youths and veterans.

He also wants to “have a balanced and equal government to support the people. We need to run the government as a business.”

Deskins wrote that he wants to create tax relief for small businesses.

“As their business grows it will generate more tax dollars and eliminate the need for tax increases,” he wrote.

Robert Hill, who has no party preference, could not be reached. As of Thursday, he was being held in the Kitsap County Jail on a charge of promoting prostitution.

Hill, who sometimes goes by the nickname “The Traveller,” has been convicted of stalking, forging a judge's signature on a temporary restraining order and intimidating a judge. At least 20 people have filed 21 restraining orders against Hill since 2008, said Tacoma Police spokeswoman Loretta Cool.

Position 2

Fey, a Northeast Tacoma resident, said he, too wants to bolster state education and transportation funding in the coming legislative session.

“We are not setting up the next generation for success,” Fey said. “We need to bite the bullet finally and not do temporary funding solutions.”

That means a tax increase, he said. His first preference for an education funding source is a statewide property tax levy.

For transportation infrastructure, Fey said the Legislature could raise the gas tax with enough votes.

“We don’t have the miles traveled (funding source) figured out yet,” he said.

Extending state Route 167 from Puyallup to the Port of Tacoma is a priority to increase the Port of Tacoma’s competitiveness, he said. Many of the projects in last session’s failed transportation package would have helped Pierce County, he said.

“The other ports in the world are not getting less competitive, they are getting more competitive,” he said.

Higher education funding rounds out Fey’s top three issues for the coming legislative session. He is the director of Washington State University Extension Energy Program.

“The last budget was the first time we didn’t raise tuition in many years,” Fey said. “I would say we have to hold the line. No further increase in tuition. It’s not tough to do if you do a tax increase (to fund K-12 education).”

Cook, a South End Tacoma Republican, also lists transportation and education as his top-two priorities, with the third, eliminating waste in government, paying for the others.

Extending Route 167 would be a lot less expensive, he said, if the Legislature would waive the requirement to buy wetlands to compensate for environmental damage done during the road’s construction.

Cook also said there are too many administrators in education.

“I want to figure out what the cost is for educating students at the minimal administrative level,” he said. If districts want more administrators, then they can ask the voters to pay for it.

Similarly, Cook said an example of government waste is there are too many managers at the state Department of Health and Human Services.

“There are a whole slew of managers who are managing one or two other people. Managers should be managing seven to 10 other people,” Cook said.

Cook said cutting costs should be enough to pay for both education reforms and transportation needs.

“Raising taxes is a last resort because our economy hasn’t recovered yet,” Cook said.

Anderson, who said he’s a member of the Framers Party because “the word ‘Constitutionalist’ is a terror watch word these days,” said his top three priorities are education, housing and new industry.

“There are six vacant homes for every homeless person,” Anderson said. “I look on a block and see homes being vandalized. Something needs to change. These are assets to the community.”

Earlier this year real estate agents discovered Anderson living in a Lakewood home without permission, according to court documents. Anderson said the home was abandoned. He faces three misdemeanor charges in Lakewood Municipal Court, with a possible court hearing scheduled for the end of this month.

He’s also due for a jury trial in November on allegations that his former medical marijuana business, the Hashford Compassion Club, sold marijuana-infused beer to a minor in 2012. The business did not have a liquor license, and authorities seized a number of cases of beer. According to Pierce County Superior Court records, Anderson faces three felonies and two gross misdemeanor charges.

He pleaded guilty in 2003 to asking a minor to sell marijuana for him, a gross misdemeanor.

When asked about his criminal history, Anderson said, “I’ve been charged with numerous felonies but I’ve never been convicted.”

In May, Anderson posted on Facebook that he wanted to foreclose on Tacoma Public Utilities and sell the city-owned utility at a sheriff’s auction. That’s because TPU refuses to provide power to his North End Tacoma residence, he said.

When asked if that property also was abandoned, he said “not anymore.”

Pierce County property records show the four-bedroom home as belonging to CMG Mortgage Inc. of New Jersey.