Voters in the 49th Legislative District can choose between a Democrat, a Republican and an independent in the race for state representative, Position 2. The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends Democrat Monica Stonier and Republican Park Llafet from a field that also includes Independent Troy Potter.
As always, this is merely a recommendation designed to foster discussion. The Columbian encourages voters to study the candidates and 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.
Stonier is the incumbent and is the House Majority Floor Leader in Olympia while also serving as chair of the Financial Education Public Private Partnership and the Working Families Caucus. She has been an effective representative, as demonstrated by her leadership in working with Republicans to develop and shepherd a bill requiring measles vaccinations for public school students.
With a background as an educator, Stonier’s legislative work often focuses on public schools. She has led the way on a “Breakfast After the Bell” bill that ensures students have access to food; has helped adjust high school graduation requirements; and has championed legislation requiring comprehensive sexual education in public schools.
During a remote interview between the Editorial Board and all three candidates, Stonier acknowledged that the coronavirus pandemic will require some difficult decisions to be made. “The work I’ve done in the past is going to need adjustments,” she said, adding that she believes Gov. Jay Inslee should call a special session.
Llafet also has focused on education with his work in the community, having served on the Evergreen School District Foundation and as a PTA president. With the chaos caused by COVID-19, he believes a special session already should have been called and says that services and personnel will need to be cut because of budget shortfalls. He doesn’t offer specifics for where cuts should be made, but said, “You have to go back to your legislator and let them wrestle with it.”
With many businesses still shut down and questions about whether schools will open in the fall, Llafet said, “I believe we can reopen the state safely and get people back to work and back to school.”
Potter stresses his status as an independent candidate and said his allegiance would depend on the issue. “I would have to listen to either side and make my choice,” he said. “I would say, ‘Let’s not do it this way; let’s do it because it’s correct.'”
In campaign materials and during the interview, Potter also notes the need for increased gun control. He says he has a concealed carry permit and that fear of legislation taking away guns is unfounded: “We need stricter control on anyone that wants to purchase weapons, including rifles,” he writes.
All three candidates have something to offer voters. Stonier’s work in the Legislature warrants consideration for returning her to Olympia. Beyond that, Llafet earns an edge over Potter because of his long record of community service and because he has a better grasp on how the Legislature works. While it is tempting to claim independence as a lawmaker, the truth is that coalitions and consensus building are necessary in Olympia.
The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends Monica Stonier and Park Llafet in the 49th District.