49th Legislative District: Stonier leads over Topper in Tuesday’s first voting returns

By Dameon Pesanti, Columbian staff writer

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Monica Stonier staked a 3,600-vote lead over Alishia Topper in the race for an open House seat in the 49th Legislative District, according to Tuesday’s first returns. Stonier amassed 20,368 votes compared with Topper’s 16,742.

Stonier said she was “thrilled at the number of supporters and volunteers” who turned out to support her campaign, and that she is “ready to get to work” on K-12 education issues, as well as fulfilling the commitments she made to addressing mental health issues in the community.

Both women ran on pro-education platforms and were philosophically aligned with the left-of-center district. Individually, the two candidates raised similar amounts of cash for their campaigns — more than $100,000 each. However, Stonier’s campaign was heavily supported by the Washington Education Association, the state’s teacher union, which spent more than $430,000. Topper said she was happy for Stonier’s victory, but was troubled by the amount of money outside influences poured into the contest.

“Independent expenditures definitely made an impact, how much of one is speculation at this point,” she said. “I’m committed to getting big money out of politics.”

Despite her apparent loss, Topper said she was pleased that Proposition 1, the local affordable housing initiative, passed.

Stonier represented the 17th Legislative District in the House for one term, then in 2014 lost a close race to Republican Lynda Wilson. She moved to the 49th District about a year later. She’s a former middle school teacher who currently works at Pacific Middle School as an instructional coach.

Topper is the director of strategic partnerships with Vancouver Public Schools who has spent nearly two years on the Vancouver city council. She was endorsed by fellow 49th District Democrats Rep. Sharon Wylie, Vancouver, and Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver.

Both Wylie and Cleveland cruised to re-election on Tuesday.

Cleveland said Tuesday that campaign season lasts too long and she was “anxious to get back to work,” starting Monday for the Legislative assembly days at the Capitol.

“I’m going to continue to focus on infrastructure needs,” she said. She said replacing the Interstate 5 Bridge is a top priority of hers, as is addressing opiate abuse and the rising out-of-pocket medical costs for patients.