Voters in Washington’s 31st Legislative District, covering Auburn, Enumclaw, Buckley and Greenwater, will choose this election between Democrat Holly Stanton and incumbent Republican Drew Stokesbary for Representative Pos. 1.
Stanton, an attorney and small business owner, is a Democrat who has campaigned on strengthening abortion protections, more equal funding for public schools and better healthcare insurance options for middle-class workers. But Stanton also diverges from Democrats at times. Police accountability and oversight is a must, she says, but the legislature’s Democrat-led array of police reform in 2020 didn’t hit the right balance.
It’s time for a shake-up in the district, Stanton says: “Are things better today than they were before? It seems to me that they aren’t. … I think there are things to do that could make it better, and that’s why I’m running.”
Stokesbary, also an attorney who was first elected in 2014, has won re-election thrice since then and served on the house Republican leadership team. In his last two terms, he’s carved his niche leading the caucus on the House Appropriations Committee, which handles budget talks. Among the accomplishments he takes pride in is pushing both Republicans and Democrats to finally fund the nearly 15-year-old working families tax credit.
“When you’re in the political minority, you can insist that it’s all or nothing, your way or the highway” Stokesbary said. “I think I have demonstrated an ability to get things done by not letting perfect be the enemy of the good.”
A raft of police reform efforts from the 2020 and 2021 legislative sessions changed how police officers do their jobs.
“Right now what you have is a lot of police officers who say their hands are tied,” Stanton said. “You can’t expect officers to want to keep being officers if they are afraid of being sued for everything. … There’s two sides to it, though. We’ve had too many incidents like (the murder of) George Floyd.”
Stokesbary agreed: “The idea that men and women of color will have different interactions with police for utterly routine matters like a broken taillight than somebody who looks like I will have … that (they) would need to fear that interaction is unconscionable, and of course we need to be finding solutions,” he said.
But the “well-intentioned” reform efforts “missed the mark by a long shot and made Washington a lot less safe,” Stokesbary said.
His suggestion: Return the standard for police chases back to its prior state, which only required “reasonable suspicion” for officers to engage in a chase.
As to drug possession, Stokesbary endorses treatment options and ways for people to resolve charges without jail time, but said there still needs to be “some kind of backstop” in the form of criminal repercussions if someone refuses to try to get better.
Stanton, similarly, shared concerns about a lack of criminal consequences and said people need better access to resources like drug court.
There’s room for improvement on pursuit laws, Stanton said, but she also pointed out the reason those reforms came in the first place: Pursuits are inherently risky, and even police leaders agree they should be used in moderation.
Washington State voters decided in 1970 to legalize abortion within four lunar months of conception. Gov. Inslee and state Democrat lawmakers announced this month they intend to propose a constitutional amendment protecting abortion and contraception access.
Stanton supports the current standard, and further enshrining that right in the state constitution “is absolutely the right thing to do,” she said.
“It’s important to take every step possible to make sure it is at the highest level of protection here in our state,” Stanton said.
Stokesbary says he’s pro-life and would resist efforts to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution. His focus, he said, has been on delivering tax relief and support for families.
“I’ve worked on a lot of policies that I consider to be pro life that don’t have to do with abortion directly,” Stokesbary said.
Stanton says Washington’s tax system needs to be overhauled to take pressure off the middle class. But she’s not advocating for a new income tax, which would likely require a constitutional amendment in Washington state, or a new capitol gains tax, which could be challenged as unconstitutional. (The Legislature passed an excise tax on capital assets in the 2021 session [ESB 5096]. It was ruled unconstitutional by a lower court, but its fate will likely soon be decided in the state Supreme Court.) Stanton is specifically skeptical of the idea of an income tax, and said an across-the-board state income tax would place an extra burden on everyone.
Instead, Stanton is interested in taking a microscope to large corporations, especially those which claim to make few if any profits to avoid paying taxes. She’s said she’s “open to at least looking” at a tax structure more focused on those entities.
Efforts by Republicans to cut taxes on the rich while slashing Medicare and social security “hurt the poorest of our society,” Stanton said.
Stokesbary rejects new capitol gains or income taxes, and says his efforts like the working families tax credit can deliver more effective and targeted relief to working class people.
There’s two ways to make the tax code less regressive, Stokesbary said: You either raise taxes on the rich or cut taxes on the poor. If the legislature is going to take that kind of action, they should focus on the latter approach, he said.
“I want to look at ways we can have a more robust change to taxes without an income tax, but look at other ways we can continue to reduce both sales tax and B&O tax,” he said.