Digging in to candidates for Washington’s 31st District

Ballots have been mailed out, and are due back in the mail on Aug. 2.

The Primary election is well underway. Ballots went out to mailboxes last week, and election day — Aug. 2. — is less than two weeks away.

Last week, the Courier-Herald reviewed candidates for Washington’s 8th Congressional District. This week, we take a look at the folks running for local state Legislative District 31, which includes Enumclaw, Buckley, Auburn, Sumner, Bonney Lake, Wilkeson and Carbonado.

As a reminder, Representative Eric Robertson is running unopposed since his challenger dropped out, so we have omitted his race.


Phil Fortunato (Prefers Republican Party)

About: Fortunato has made a name for himself as an unapologetic conservative on the blue side of the Cascade Range. He’s proposed legislation to limit gubernatorial emergency orders, codify a right to decline COVID-19 vaccination, and require students “to study political systems and the negative effects of communism.”

He’s also sponsored and successfully passed bills enhancing litter control efforts on state highways, clarifying the legislature’s special session rules and promoting rural economic development. His political experience includes a stint as state representative in the 47th District and in the 31st District. He was appointed to the state senate in 2017, and has won two elections since then to stay in office.

This time around, Fortunato said his priorities include supporting law enforcement officers, reigning in and refocusing spending on homelessness (such as by requiring drug treatment along with mental health support), building more starter homes via reduced regulatory and building fees, and funding transportation using sales tax money from motor vehicle sales. He’d also like to incentivize state employees to find ways to cut waste and ineffective government programs.

Fortunato acknowledges Chris Vance may one of the tougher opponents he’s faced. By his own calculations, Fortunato needs around 58 percent of the primary vote to feel really comfortable about his chances: “If I’m 58-plus, nobody’s gonna give (Vance) any money,” Fortunato said. “If I’m at 52, that’s within striking distance. That would not be good.”

Clifford Knopik (States No Party Preference)

About: Concerns over state COVID-19 data prompted Dr. Knopik’s run. He says he submitted a dozen public record requests to the state Department of Health in the early stages of the pandemic to better understand Governor Jay Inslee’s state of emergency declaration, made in February 2020. Knopik says the data has been faulty since March 2020 and doesn’t support the Governor’s actions.

Knopik said he feels “politically homeless” and decided to run himself rather than wait for a Democrat or Republican to act on his findings. He’s worked for more than two decades as a software developer, and earned his doctorate in Computer Science from the Colorado Technical University. He also holds master’s degrees in information systems and Homeland Security, as well as a Bachelor’s in Social Science.

Knopik said he’d work to end the state of emergency declaration and reform state law to prevent future governors from enacting indefinite states of emergency. He’d also work to end vaccine mandates and advocate for government workers who were fired for refusing vaccination to get their jobs back or receive compensation for lost wages.

While COVID-19 and the state’s response to it is Knopik’s main wheelhouse, he’s also staked positions out on other issues. Knopik says school-age kids should be able to attend whatever school, in whichever district is best for them. He called for fixing roads and bridges but said people who don’t use a public transportation project and don’t want it shouldn’t be taxed for it.

Chris Vance (States No Party Preference)

About: A former Republican legislator in the state House and King County Council, as well as the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in 2016, Vance has decades of history working in conservative politics. But Vance hit eject on the Republican Party in 2017, repulsed by former President Donald Trump and the GOP’s swing to the right.

He didn’t find a home in the Democratic party either. Vance is still a self-proclaimed fan of small government and tax reform and believes many of the police reform bills passed during the 2021 legislative session made the state less safe. That drove Vance to run as an independent for this race, focused on three “kitchen table issues”: Education, crime and transportation.

He’d like to see a funding system that gives districts in Enumclaw and Bonney Lake the same resources as those in Bellevue and Mercer Island. In essence, this would be done by lowering local levies while raising the statewide levy. He says he’d go to bat for hiring, funding and supporting more police, jail staff, prosecutors and judges to allow the criminal justice system to investigate more crimes and avoid burnout.

Vance also said he wants to experiment with an infrastructure “bank” like those used by other states that could use investment funds to boost tax revenue for transportation projects.


Brandon Beynon (Prefers Republican Party)

About: Fed up with what he sees as a lack of communication from the incumbent and passive complicity from Republicans over state governance, Beynon is running against fellow Republican Drew Stokesbary to represent the 31st district. Beynon said he’d answer constituent calls and emails better than Stokesbary, and make it a point to keep people up-to-date with what’s happening in Olympia.

A family member’s frustrating experience with the state Employment Security Division sparked Beynon’s desire to make the agency more responsive too. He said he’d like to have ESD be required to speak with someone having issues with their claim within 30 days, if requested.

Beynon studied History at West Virginia University and is currently the co-owner of a Retail Realty and Construction Services, a family businesses. He is currently a Republican precinct committee officer, which is one of the most local-level elected offices one can hold.

Holly Stanton (Prefers Democrat Party)

About: A family law attorney with experience leading boy scouts and girl scouts, Stanton said she’ll be an advocate for fiscal accountability, environmental protection and individual rights.

She’s a supporter of taking action on climate change and of single-payer healthcare, according to her answers to the 31st District Democrats. Stanton rejects the “defund the police” movement and said communities are hurt when prosecutors decline to go after repeat criminal offenders. At the same time, she lauded programs like drug and mental health courts.

Stanton earned her law degree from Albany Law School and her Bachelor’s degree at the University of Washington. Her law office, based in Tacoma, focuses on family law.

Drew Stokesbary (Prefers Republican Party)

About: Stokesbary points to single-party rule in Olympia (Democrats control both the House and Senate as well as the governor, attorney general and secretary of state offices) as a case study in flawed governance.

The legislature’s long-term care payroll tax fund and many of the high-profile 2021 police reform bills were each examples of the majority party passing bad laws because they didn’t have to listen to the other side, Stokesbary said. In his time in office, Stokesbary touts his efforts to allow schools to reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic and to block supervised injection sites. He was the prime sponsor of bills that ensured funding for King and Pierce County flood control districts and allowing tribal law enforcement agencies to use the state’s prescription drug monitoring database.

Stokesbary holds a law degree from the Notre Dame Law School and a Bachelor’s in Economics from Duke University. He is a partner and business law attorney at Chalmers and Adams, representing small businesses and has volunteered providing pro bono legal counsel to churches, nonprofits and other organizations.