Three first-time candidates for state office have lined up to run against state Rep. Carolyn Eslick, R-Sultan.
Ballots mail out today for the Aug. 2 primary election. Voters in the 39th Legislative District will get to decide which two candidates move on to the general election in November.
The 39th District covers eastern Skagit and Snohomish Counties, including Sedro-Woolley.
Jessica Wadhams, a Democrat, said she’s lived in Lake Stevens since 2014 and has seen how population growth has changed her community. People who live in established communities like hers have borne the brunt of that growth and are frustrated with changing neighborhoods and being priced out of their homes, she said.
She said the Legislature needs representatives to ensure growth is “greener and cleaner” and that new developments benefit both existing residents and new arrivals.
Wadhams intends to focus on funding for homeless services that help people get into safe, affordable housing.
“It benefits all of us to get that issue under control and help those people get where they need to be,” she said.
She said she has a track record of working with people with whom she disagrees. As co-founder of the advocacy group Lake Stevens Black, Indigenous and people of color & Allies, she organized an effort to get that city’s council to form a diversity, equity and inclusion commission.
While the council ended up voting it down, she said she had real substantive conversations with its members. She believes conversations with people in power have more of an impact than organizing a march or demonstration.
“That was a kind of out-of-the-box idea,” she said. “A lot of times you don’t see those groups engaging with the opposition.”
Eslick, a two-term incumbent, said many of her legislative goals are stymied because Republicans remain in the minority.
Specifically, she said she was frustrated that while Democrats negotiated the $17 billion transportation infrastructure bill last session, Republicans weren’t invited to the table.
“I am on the (transportation) committee, been on it for five years,” she said. “This is the first year we were not invited to any of the budget meetings.”
If she and other Republicans want to make laws to address the rising cost of living or public safety, they need to take the majority, she said.
“We’ve got people who are fed up with the way things are going these last few years,” she said.
Despite her place in the minority, Eslick said she has been able to pass legislation that she believes will make a difference in the lives of children with mental illnesses and their families.
The bill instructed the state Healthcare Authority to make mental health resources for youths more accessible. She is proud of her bill and hopes she can stay in office to oversee its implementation.
Kathryn Lewandowsky, an independent, is running primarily to shed a light on the need for universal healthcare.
Insurance companies are the biggest beneficiaries of the current medical system, at the expense of patient care, she said.
“There’s just no room for a third party … that just is in place to keep you from the healthcare that you need,” she said.
She’s worked in nursing for 35 years and saw how difficult the pandemic has been on those in health care. Nurses are quitting, and those who stay are buried in bureaucracy. Simplifying health insurance will help the workers and reduce costs, she said.
Lewandowsky is running as an independent because she feels many voters aren’t well represented by the two leading parties.
“The two-party monopoly we have in our government system has not been good for our country,” she said. “It has totally taken us away from what I learned growing up our country is supposed to be.”
She volunteers with the organization Whole Washington and supports its Initiative 1471, which would create both a single-payer health care framework for the state and a transitional plan to get there, she said. She also served as a union negotiator, giving her experience in mediating between opposing sides, she said.
Republican candidate Tyller Boomgaarden was motivated to run to cut out unnecessary and expensive regulations from state government and to talk about root causes rather than bandage fixes, he said.
He is critical of legislation passed in 2021 that put restrictions on law enforcement to address police misconduct. People feel less safe knowing officers can’t engage in a vehicle pursuit or engage with suspects in certain circumstances, he said.
“Washington wants to step in and be as risk-averse as possible, and by being as risk-averse as we are, we’re creating something where the medicine is worse than the disease,” he said.
One of the issues with public safety is that it’s too difficult to hire new officers, he said. If elected, he would work to end a requirement that departments use an unreliable polygraph test in the hiring process and forbid departments from asking applicants to pay a fee.
“I think it’s morally bankrupt, and we need to change it ASAP,” he said.
Boomgaarden, 29, said that unlike most politicians, he is young enough to be affected by the impacts of legislation. Without a diversity of opinion in the decision-making process — including on age — the Legislature does a disserve to taxpayers.
This race is one of two primaries for the 39th district this year. Four candidates are also running for the district’s other seat in the state House of Representatives.