By Ballotpedia’s numbers Washington State has the tightest legislative balance of power in the nation and the outcome of this year’s election could have a dramatic impact on the policies that make it through the 2017 legislature, policies that affect your life.
Washington State has razor-thin margins in both houses.
Right now the 98 member State House of Representatives is controlled by Democrats. Across the rotunda, the 49 member Senate is controlled by Republicans.
The Washington House of Representatives is split with a narrow Democratic majority of 50 blue seats to 48 Republican held seats. Two seats changing hands would shift the balance of power.
The lead looks even slimmer in the Senate where Republicans hold 25 seats and Democrats hold 24 seats. That’s a one seat gap on paper, but practically speaking the Senate democrats would need two more seats to take control because of the Majority Coalition Caucus. That’s a group that includes one Democratic Senator who consistently caucuses and votes with Republicans.
We’ve identified several key races in the Senate and the House which we are watching closely. These are contests which were extremely tight during the primary election in August.
That includes Legislative District 30 where the race for State Rep. Position #2 was one of the closest of all. Democratic candidate Kristin Reeves came out with 50.16% of the vote.
Republican candidate Teri Hickel was less than half of one percent behind her with 49.84%.
To put this in perspective, out of 20,756 ballots only 68 votes separate them.
We caught up with both candidates to hear their top priorities for the district.
Kristine Reeves – (D), Legislative District 30 – State Representative Pos. 2 said, “I’m a working mom with two small kids. I have a three and a half year old and a one and a half year old and ultimately as a working mom and a working family I’m concerned about a lot of the same things they are. How are we going to fully fund education, but not at the expense of everything else right? How are we going to make sure transportation opportunities abound for those who need to get to and from work every day in the region? How do we make sure that the economy is thriving in such a way that working families aren’t working two or three jobs just to make ends meet. And then as somebody who’s worked on military and family veterans issues for the last 10 years, making sure that those who served are being serviced by the State of Washington and by our community and making sure that the resources and the support that they need.”
Reeves continued, “As somebody who relied on a social safety net myself, being in and out of foster care growing up and relying on food stamps, I know that in order for us to have a strong economy, we can’t just look at these issues as single item issues. We have to understand how they interconnect. And ultimately fully funding education, but doing it at the expense of everything else is ultimately only going to hurt the economy more. So I want to make sure that there’s somebody at the legislature who understands that these things are all interrelated.”
Teri Hickel – (R), Candidate Legislative District 30 State Rep. Position 2 said, “Well clearly the McCleary the school education funding. That’s the biggest issue in our district and has been an issue for a really long time. You know I was a school district volunteer for about 20 years. I started when my daughters started school. They’re 26 and 24 now and about 10 years ago our superintendent sued the state to fully fund teacher salaries because right now we have to supplement them just to stay competitive. And we lost. And so now the fact that they’re talking about school education funding right now, I thought – I’ve got to get in now because it will be another 30 years before we talk about it again.”
Hickel continued, “Transportation is big for us. We’re a commuter city so it depends if I go on a Saturday or Wednesday afternoon. About two thirds of our population commute someplace for work and so making sure that we get there and back is important. The transportation package that was just passed identified project congestion relief projects and so making sure that our projects are at the top of that list because we have congestion right here, right outside our door on the I-5 corridor that’s really important to the region. So that’s a big one for folks when I talk to them. Taxes is another big one. You know they want to know where their money’s going and so really being transparent on how we spend our money is important too.”
If the primary is any indication two very close races in the Washington State Senate are in the 5th District and the 17th. The 5th includes Issaquah, Snoqualmie and other parts of Eastern King County.
The 17th covers parts of Vancouver, Battle Ground, & southwest Clark County.
The August primary was split so evenly that a margin of less than 1% separates the Democratic and Republican candidates in the 17th. Out of more than 23,000 votes counted only 50 separate Republican candidate Lynda Wilson from Democratic candidate Tim Probst. Wilson has been a state representative for that’s district since 2014. Probst served as a state representative from 2009 to 2013. That Senate race in District 17 has gained the attention of national political organizations. According to the Public Disclosure Commission: Lynda Wilson has raised about $292,000 and spent roughly $173,000 campaigning thus far. PDC records show Tim Probst has raised more than $259,000 and spent about $196,000 on the Senate campaign.
In the 5th district Democratic incumbent Senator Mark Mullet faces Republican challenger Chad Magendanz, Who has been serving as a state representative for the 5th district since 2012. In the primary Mullet received 50.69% of the vote with Magendanz Hot on his heels with 49.31%. Public Disclosure Commission Records show that Mark Mullet has raised roughly $327,000 and spent about $235,000 campaigning.
Chad Magendanz has raised about $288,000 and spent around $158,000 on the campaign, according to the PDC.
As controversial police involved shootings were made a point of discussion nationwide, special task force is studying the use of deadly force in Washington. The joint legislative task force on the use of deadly force in community policing was set up by the legislature. Lawmakers and said the goal of the group is to improve state law in a way that provides clear guidance to law-enforcement, maintains Public Safety, and fosters accountability in public trust. The task force has 27 members including law-enforcement officers, policymakers, and representatives of various civil rights and community advocacy groups. The numbers are taking a close look at the current law and could recommend changes.
Cynthia Softli of the Black Law Enforcement Association of Washington said, “I am trained to stop the threat. Which means if I am telling someone, let me see your hands, let me see your hands, and they make a sharp move I’m going to assume that I’m being threatened, that’s an imminent threat to me. And I am not going to use a less lethal option probably, I mean if I’m in that situation it’s different. So I guess, I’m kind of, I’m kind of confused and I’m also torn.”
Tom McBride, Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, Joint Legislative Task Force on Use of Deadly Force in Community said, “In 1986 the legislature didn’t accidentally come to this law. They decided we’re drawing the line, unless an officer crosses the line into intentional bad acts we’re not going to respond with individual criminal liability. And what I said when I showed you that on the slide is there’s a good argument for keeping that or making that argument. And I think that’s what you’re kind of getting to is you’re saying unless I cross that line into being a wrongdoer, why would you hang me out to dry with individual criminal charges. What I would say is uncomfortable about that is, when you get a situation where the officer is just so egregiously deviates from training, from time and from everything else- this line right here says that’s not in the criminal justice system and that’s what you guys are going to have to debate.”
“When I’m there and I’m in that situation, I don’t want to hesitate. That’s all I’m saying and that’s a tough one,” said Softli.
Gerald Hankerson of the NAACP said, “A lot of young black and Latino men are being killed around this country and particularly here in this state. So as we investigate and consider these laws and consider these subjective standards, it’s one thing for one white man to look in another white man’s face to determine whether he has malice or not, but if you ask that black man that same question- I promise you it’s probably going to be an objective standard not a subjective standard.”
The task force is expected to submit a report and any recommendations to the governor and the appropriate committees of the legislature. A preliminary report is due by December first of this year. A final report must be submitted by December 1, 2017.