Unlike in recent elections, voters in the 49th Legislative District are presented with a range of choices this year. In the contest for representative, Position 1, The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends incumbent Sharon Wylie and newcomer Kelli Fiskum in the primary election.
This is only a recommendation. The Columbian encourages voters to become familiar with the candidates and the issues before casting an informed vote. Ballots are scheduled to be mailed Friday and must be dropped off at a secure ballot box or sent by mail prior to the Aug. 4 primary. The top two vote-getters in the three-person race will advance to the November general election.
Wylie, a Democrat, has been in office since 2011 and in recent years has faced little or no challenge in being reelected. In 2018, she faced no challengers; in 2016, no Republicans ran in the heavily Democratic district. With budget constraints caused by the coronavirus pandemic and with social unrest dividing communities, Wylie says her experience in office is particularly important: “We are coming to a point where we are going to need to deal with some really complex issues. In all of my years as an adult being interested in politics, I don’t think we’ve ever had a moment that we have right now.”
Wylie has been a responsive representative who was, among other accomplishments, instrumental in developing Bridgeview Resource Center. The center provides a central location for more than 25 local organizations to help connect citizens with education, health and wellness and employment services.
She long has advocated for replacing the Interstate 5 Bridge and last year was the lead sponsor of a successful bill to restart the project. “Replacing this bridge really is of statewide significance, as the economic well-being of both states largely depends on people and goods crossing the river, so ensuring this connection is safe and reliable is a priority,” she said at the time.
Fiskum, a first-time candidate, is running as an independent but says she likely would caucus with Republicans. “I’m more of a conservative independent,” she said in a phone interview. “Fundamentally, I don’t answer to either party.”
On her website, Fiskum writes: “Over the last few years, we’ve become disillusioned with how the Legislature is passing laws, resulting in the regular erosion of parental and citizen freedoms. … I will actively pursue, with utmost conviction, the restoration and preservation of your constitutional citizen and parental rights.” She also commends citizens who have signed petitions in an effort to overturn the Legislature’s passage of comprehensive sex-ed requirements for public schools.
Fiskum offers a conservative alternative to Wylie in the 49th Legislative District, which is preferable to having a candidate run unopposed. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle should be required to answer probing questions and defend their actions to voters.
Meanwhile, Republican Justin Forsman also is on the ballot. Forsman has run for office five times in the past six years, garnering little support for campaigns that typically focus on conspiracy theories. At a candidate forum last week, he said: “We’re being lied to about COVID-19, our freedoms are being taken away from us. Our government is rampant, it’s authoritarian. We need to clean house.”
Fortunately for voters, two viable candidates are on the ballot for Position 1 from the 49th District. The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends Sharon Wylie and Kelli Fiskum.