4 candidates seek Fraser’s 22nd District Senate seat


Four candidates are pursuing the 22nd District state Senate seat held by Karen Fraser, who is running for lieutenant governor.

Sam Hunt, Steve Owens, Erik Lee and Spencer Baldwin are facing off in the Aug. 2 primary election, with the top two finishers advancing to the Nov. 8 general election.

The 22nd Legislative District includes Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater and parts of unincorporated Thurston County.

▪ Sam Hunt, a Democrat, was first elected to the 22nd District state representative position 2 in 2000. He has long called for reforming the state’s revenue and tax system. Other priorities include improving transportation, addressing climate change and fully funding education.

Hunt, 73, said he will bring strong voice for education to the Senate, if elected. He said his experience as a public school teacher and administrator gives him an edge in the fight to fully fund education in Washington. He also supports an income tax — coupled with reducing property and sales taxes — as one way to reform the state’s tax structure and “bring it into the 21st century.”

He said other states like Idaho have a more balanced tax structure that doesn’t rely solely on sales and property taxes. He is committed to searching for new revenue streams and supporting a capital gains tax while also taking a closer look at tax exemptions that aren’t working.

“The tide is slowly changing,” Hunt said of Washington’s attitudes about the tax landscape.

Hunt is proud of his “established progressive liberal record” and said it fits the 22nd District. He also is the only candidate in the race with experience as an elected official.

“There’s an advantage to not being a newcomer with no experience,” he said.

Hunt also is the top fundraiser in the race. He has raised $33,454 and has spent $7,383 so far, according to the state Public Disclosure Commission website. Top donors include the Nisqually Indian Tribe, SEIU 1199NW, Washington Education Association, Washington Federation of State Employees and the Iron Workers District Council.

▪ Steve Owens, 50, is a software engineer for Disney with experience as a Republican precinct committee officer.

In 2014, Owens ran as a Republican for the 22nd District state representative position 1 against incumbent Democrat Chris Reykdal. In this election, he is not running under any party affiliation and describes himself as “anti-party” instead of independent.

Owens believes that divisive partisan politics stand in the way of solving problems and finding common ground on issues such as the state budget, education funding and climate change. For example, despite a conservative background, he disagrees with Republican opposition to redistribution of education funding.

“We need to spread money across the state, and that would be anathema to Republican ideology,” he said, noting he is willing to work with all parties. “You don’t need to be a climate change alarmist to make the argument for alternative energy and abandoning fossil fuels.”

Owens also is advocating for maximum government transparency and more outlets for public feedback. The latter can allow lawmakers to be more proactive in addressing problems while giving the public more power through knowledge, he said.

“The more informed we are as a public, the better off we are,” he said.

Owens has raised $701 and has spent $670 so far, according to the PDC website. That money came from a self-donation, he said.

▪ Spencer Baldwin, 30, is a first-time candidate who works as an attorney and senior paralegal for Evergreen Defenders.

The Olympia resident wants to focus on improving economic mobility and education funding as well as upgrading local infrastructure to the 21st century.

Some specific ideas include pushing for greener transportation incentives by supporting measures such as a congestion tax and carbon emissions tax. That money can in turn help maintain and build more green transit options such as bike trails and pedestrian walkways, he said.

Aside from fully funding education and educators in Washington, Baldwin also said he wants to help working-class and middle-class residents make a better living in today’s economy. That can be accomplished by reforming the state’s regressive tax structure by passing an income tax, for example, along with providing more access to a living wage and paid sick leave.

“I’m in touch with the generation who is most deeply affected by the economic changes that have happened in the past 10 to 20 years,” said Baldwin, who is running as a Democrat. “The discontent in this country is a symptom of nonresponsiveness of politicians solving these problems.”

Baldwin said he will not accept donations from political action committees or lobbyists to avoid what he calls a “corrupting influence on our campaign system.” In fact, he has raised just $25 in donations so far, according to the PDC website.

▪ Erik Lee works as a budget analyst for the University of Washington’s School of Pharmacy and is running as a Democrat. Lee, who has a degree in political science, ran against Karen Fraser for this position in 2008.

Lee, 52, said he entered the race after being inspired by presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and his message about supporting the poor and the middle class. Lee is an Olympia resident who has been active with local “Berniecrats” events and causes. His candidacy has been endorsed by the Washington State Progressive Caucus and SEIU Local 925.

Aside from reducing poverty, Lee advocates for fully funding K-12 education and beyond in Washington. He supports increasing taxes for schools in a way that ensures working families are not overburdened. He also supports a progressive state income tax in which high-income earners pay a more equitable percentage.

According to a statement provided to The Olympian, Lee said “citizens and their institutions should be constantly improving the lives and life chances of all.”

Lee has raised and spent no money so far, according to the PDC website. He said he is self-funding the campaign and will keep expenditures under $5,000.