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.