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Candidate forum for 44th Legislative District

SNOHOMISH — The League of Women Voters of Snohomish County held a forum on July 13 for candidates of the Washington State Legislative District 44 position two. The candidates are Democrats April Berg and Anne Anderson and Republican Mark James. The August Top-2 primary will mean one of these three won’t advance to November’s election.
Ballots are due Aug. 4.
The forum began with each candidate stating what made them qualified and experienced for the elected position.
“I am a qualified and experienced candidate because I am currently a city of Marysville council member (and) I’m the Snohomish County planning Commissioner,” James said. James added he is a military veteran and has three sons in law enforcement.
“I am a current school board director,” Berg said. “I’m a planning commissioner for the city of Mill Creek. I’m also a trustee for Seattle Children’s Theatre and I sit on the Snohomish County Juvenile Justice, cultural competency board. All of those things make me incredibly qualified to lead and serve you as a member of the House of Representatives.” Berg also stated that she is also a former aerospace worker and understands the importance of the aerospace industry to our county’s economy.
Anderson said: “I am in a really fortunate position right now of having experience that is almost tailor-made for this day and time in politics. I’ve been serving and advocating for the 44th for many years. As a human services executive, I ran a local food bank for years and have a deep understanding of social services, their necessity and their economic impact.” Anderson added her advisory position at Seattle University School of Criminal Justice also allows her to have a thorough understanding of our criminal justice system, as well as its strengths and weaknesses.
During a time where civil unrest is rampant candidates were asked: “Many times we’ve witnessed some reactions of some police officers which resulted in the deaths of Black people in which has been then met with significant civil unrest. What measures do you support that address the issues of injustice and inequality behind this tragically repetitive occurrence?”
James admitted to being “taken back” by this question and said he felt the question was unfair and irresponsible. He explained his sons were police officers and expressed his worry that the overreaction of the press will cost even more lives. 
“Police officers get killed in the line of duty nearly every day and that is a tragedy. Some have suggested the solution is to defund, cut funding, reallocate funding, but that will accomplish nothing good,” James said. “80% of the police funding goes into salaries. If we cut funding, we will lose many officers. If we lose officers, response times will go up, citizens will be underserved and unsafe. The primary responsibility of government is the safety of its people, all of its people.”
Berg felt the question was suited for the “moment we are in.” 
“I support measures that will decrease the disparities that affect people of color in housing, education, employment and health care. Those are real and they’re huge. And that’s part of the reason why we’re in this moment,” Berg said. “As a Black woman, I think I would bring a unique and needed perspective to the state-house because I am committed to creating real change that addresses systemic racism and ensures better outcomes.”
Anderson said the passage of Initiative 940 and House Bill 1064 are “great steps in the right direction to offer additional oversight, restrictions and training for law enforcement.”
“Clearly, we still have a long way to go but our area actually is a hotspot for innovation,” Anderson said. “I am fortunate to work with Seattle University School of Criminal Justice, and there are people who have been working on this for decades. There are 18,000 different police departments in our nation and, you know, looking towards some of these innovations, I think will be helpful for many of them, we here also do still have a long way to go, and I think we can elevate some of the voices.”
Candidates elected to this position are faced with the response to COVID-19 and were subsequently asked how an elected official should respond in a pandemic.
“In the legislature, we need to implement policy and a budget that will address the health and economic implications of the pandemic, Anderson said. “Not only do we need to pull through this now, but we do need to set ourselves up, look to the future and ensure that we’re preventing similar occurrences going forward.” 
The response to the pandemic also means dealing with the proceeding economic fallout.
“Ensuring family wage jobs is an important facet of this because it allows us to create more revenue without increasing tax rates,” Anderson said. “When lower and middle-income families have more access to capital, they purchase more. That sales tax is our main revenue source.”
Despite the pandemic, many issues still need to be tackled in the 44th district, for instance, transportation projects and how to fund them.
“I would include both regional and statewide needs assessments with results-driven solutions monitored by ongoing re-evaluations,” James said. “Priorities for these projects should be established with safety and maintenance first, then new growth. For example, safety issues, like bridges that are going to collapse. We need to fix those that’s a top priority, and also safety through the continual ongoing maintenance of our existing infrastructure. Regarding growth, we should be addressing traffic congestion and reduction first.”
James also mentioned the replacement of existing culverts that hinder fish migrations.
At the end of the forum, candidates were given the opportunity to explain their first priorities if elected into this position as well as a closing summary. 
Berg said her priorities if she was elected would be to “tackle our regressive tax structure” and K-12 education.
James stated his opposition to Senate Bill 5395, which is the comprehensive sex education bill, and said: “This bill effectively erodes parental rights(…) This will be one of the biggest initiatives on the ballot this year.”
Anderson explained her top priority is the economy and making smart investments to “ensure that we use this as a catalyst for positive change.”
The League of Women Voters of Snohomish County forum was aired on KSER radio. Full audio and video recordings of the forum can be found at



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