Democrat Claus Joens is challenging first-term state Sen. Keith Wagoner, R-Sedro-Woolley, for his Senate seat representing Legislative District 39.

The district includes eastern Skagit and Snohomish counties and northeastern King County.

Since Wagoner was appointed to the seat in January, he said he’s had success in bringing money back to the district.

He said he negotiated to bring $1.5 million to the Sedro-Woolley library project and about $1.6 million for behavioral health services.

“I think I kept my promise to collaborate with everyone, not to be too partisan,” he said. “It’s a model that worked here.”

Before serving in the Legislature, Wagoner served as both a city councilman and mayor of Sedro-Woolley.

Joens, a career and technical education instructor at Concrete High School, said his students challenged him to run for office in order to be an advocate for a younger generation.

The national debt, he said, has ballooned to the point that Americans would need to work three years to pay it off, he said.

“We basically sold our children into three years of slavery,” he said.

Wagoner said the biggest issue left unsolved in the district relates to water rights.

He was appointed co-chair of the state’s Joint Task Force on Water Use, and if re-elected he said he hopes to use this position to find solutions for the households that have been told they can’t use wells on their property.

He said he hopes to steer work toward performing studies and collecting data so the Legislature can make an informed decision on how wells affect the Skagit River.

“I don’t want to ruin a river, but I don’t want to see people’s land be useless,” he said. “What’s most important to me is we actually use science in our decision making.”

He said the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community played a part in the county’s exclusion from last year’s water use legislation, known as the “Hirst Fix.” As frustrating as that can be for property owners, he said the tribe has a legitimate concern for the health of the Skagit River.

“They’re right to be concerned about the salmon runs,” he said.

Joens said the bulk of Washington’s problems are budgetary, and if elected, he wants to rework the state’s tax code to eliminate loopholes and fully fund government.

At full funding, Joens said government can address such things as mental health and substance abuse services, and environmental preservation projects.

“Until the money is there, you can’t fix (these issues),” he said.

Joens said he worked about 20 years in corporate finance for Ford, so he has experience working on wide-reaching projects with big budgets.

Eventually, Joens said he wants to find a way to advocate for a progressive income tax to reduce reliance on sales tax that disproportionately affects lower-income households.

“I’m not saying every red cent that a business makes needs to be taxed, but business needs to pay its share,” he said.

Wagoner said he has built strong relationships during his nine months in the Senate and can leverage these relationships to bring more back to his district.

“(Joens) hasn’t been in the Senate,” he said. “It’s a steep learning curve. No one gets something done on their own.”

Because Wagoner was appointed to replace resigning state Sen. Kirk Pearson, the winner of this election will serve the remaining two years of his term.

— Reporter Brandon Stone:, 360-416-2112, Twitter: @Brandon_SVH{p style=”margin-bottom: 0in;”}

Keith Wagoner Questionnaire

Question Answer
Name Keith Wagoner
Age 57
Residence Sedro-Woolley
Occupation State Senator 39th Legislative District/Retired Naval Officer (helicopter pilot)
Education United States Naval Academy (BS Physical Oceanography); University of San Diego (MS Global Leadership)
Elected offices held Washington State Senator (current), Mayor City of Sedro-Woolley, Sedro-Woolley City Council
Elected offices sought Washington State Senator (current), Mayor City of Sedro-Woolley, Sedro-Woolley City Council
Community involvement Sedro-Woolley Rotary (Paul Harris Fellow), Sedro-Woolley Eagles, American Legion George Baldridge Post 43, Former Board Member Sedro-Woolley Youth Football and Cheer, Founding Member of Denny Engberg Memorial Field, Volunteer announcer for high school wrestling events, Former Chair of Skagit Transit Board of Directors
Campaign website
Why are you running for office? When I was appointed unanimously by the seventeen County Council members and County Commissioners of Skagit, Snohomish and King Counties, I was asked if I was committed to this responsibility and would I run to retain it. I answered yes, and I keep my promises. In the last legislative session, I learned the job quickly and was an effective force for good in the 39th LD, bringing home your hard-earned tax dollars for projects that are important to our communities. We got a lot done in 60 days but much remains to be done. I think I am the right person, with the right record of accomplishments and the right relationships in Olympia that would do our community the most good.
What is the single biggest issue facing the candidate who is elected to this position? There are a couple of very daunting challenges. At the top of my list would be negotiating a return of water rights for landowners in the Skagit Basin. Second is solving the horrific traffic problems in Snohomish County associated with SR 522 and SR 2.
How will you address this issue? I was recently appointed as Co-Chair to the Joint Legislative Task Force on Water Usage which is tasked with developing solutions to our water rights and well drilling issue. I believe that puts me in an ideal position to work with all the stakeholders to come up with acceptable solutions that respect all parties’ interests. Regarding transportation, I am committed to working within my caucus and across the aisle to solve these issues. I have worked in good faith to develop a mutually respectful relationship with local government officials and leadership in the adjoining legislative districts. Success is dependent on working collaboratively with all affected parties, something for which I am well known.
Why should voters choose you? I have a long record of accomplishments that hinge on my ability to work as a team. Teamwork that resulted in a new jail in Skagit County after 12 years of failed attempts; teamwork that resulted in local control of the SWIFT Center at the former Northern State Hospital after over 40 years of failed ideas, and teamwork in Olympia that brought back millions of dollars of your tax dollars for local projects like the Helping Hands Food Bank, Skagit County Veterans’ Park, Skagit County YMCA, Central Skagit Library District, emergency funds for the collapsed roadway in Lyman, and money for behavioral health improvements in our local communities, to name only a few.
What sets you apart from your opponent? Experience, attitude, and accomplishments. Even though I am the freshest face in Olympia, I am the only candidate that has ever been in the State Senate. That gives me a huge advantage in effectively representing our people. I did well in Olympia for you and I am personally endorsed by every Senate Republican, every mayor in Skagit County, Representative Dan Kristiansen, Representative Carolyn Eslick and former Representative John Koster. My unique life experience from growing up in the Skagit Valley, to my 23-year naval career, to my service in the local community and local government provides me the insight to effectively represent our rural and small city interests. I hear other candidates talk about going to Olympia to “fight.” I can tell you that I am not in Olympia to “fight” anybody because, while it may sound good in a speech, it is an ineffective strategy. I am there to work collaboratively to develop common sense solutions that are good for our citizens, our state and our great country.

Claus Joens Questionnaire

Question Answer
Name Claus Joens
Age 55
Residence Marblemount
Occupation CTE Business Education Teacher
Education MBA Gonzaga University; BA EWU
Elected offices held PCO 114 Cascade
Elected offices sought None
Community involvement Concrete Economic Development Council, Concrete Lions Club, Captain with the Civil Air Patrol, St Martin & St Francis Episcopal Church
Campaign website
Why are you running for office? I will work to represent all the people of the 39th District; Republicans, Democrats, Independents, and especially those too young to vote.
What is the single biggest issue facing the candidate who is elected to this position? Finding the money to fund the work that needs to be done then the votes to pass it without increasing taxes on the poor or working families. In the last session they voted to increase property taxes instead of closing corporate tax loopholes
How will you address this issue? The state budget is about ½ education and ½ everything else. Olympia gave away about $10 billion in corporate tax loopholes the voters did not approve of. McCleary forced Olympia to raise funds to pay back loophole funds taken from education. They elected to raise property taxes instead of admit they gave away more money than they had to give. The taxpayers have already paid their share. Now it is time to close tax loopholes so corporations pay their share too. I hope to close 50% of the loopholes to fully fund all of government, not just education.
Why should voters choose you? The 39th District has suffered from one party rule for more than 15 years. Four of the past five years Olympia had a Republican legislative majority with all three 39th District positions filled by Republicans. Yet somehow residents of the 39th lost out on women’s rights, water rights, property taxes, mental health, drug addiction, and salmon habitat. I teach in Concrete where football is a way of life. In football, when a team can’t move the ball in four consecutive downs, the other team gets the ball. This is what needs to happen in the 39th district.
What sets you apart from your opponent? I am not a career politician. I have enjoyed the past 7 years of public service as a high school teacher. I have 20 years of corporate finance experience with Ford Motor Credit Company. I spent 7 years at World Headquarters in Dearborn Michigan managing projects that developed new solutions to complex problems. The voters are every bit as smart as the candidates. I intend to put more control of government into local hands with local votes, not Olympia’s. I have more years of public service and more years of financial experience than my opponent. Where the biggest problem in Olympia is the budget, this is important. Where my opponent has been chasing money and cutting deals with major players to fund his campaign, I am running a grass roots campaign funded by the voters and dues-paying union men and women who live and work here. I am working to earn your vote instead of buying it. The only people I am responsible for representing is you, not special interest groups. Senators pass laws and enforce them. If Olympia is taking advantage of you, you might need someone capable of teaching college by day, and winning a bar fight at night. I am that person.
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