In a relatively amicable discussion with The Columbian’s Editorial Board, the candidates seeking to represent the 18th Legislative District in the state House of Representatives found common ground on a few issues.
Both Rep. Larry Hoff and challenger Donna Sinclair agree that climate change is real and caused by human activity, and that elected officials and police shouldn’t pick and choose which laws to enforce.
But on other issues top-of-mind for many of their constituents, the Republican Hoff and Democrat Sinclair diverge.
Sinclair, who currently serves on the Washougal School Board and works as a professor of history at Washington State University Vancouver, supports legislation that would require comprehensive sex education statewide.
“This particular bill actually strengthens parental notification and local control,” Sinclair said, adding that the curriculum encompasses age-appropriate lessons on emotional health, bullying and consent. “Teaching children how to be safe is so important.”
Hoff, who’s seeking his second term in the Legislature, said that he “essentially rejects the entire sex ed concept,” and that the bill in question goes too far in removing parents from the conversation.
“It’s a really hot issue in the state, and I’m going to vote against it,” Hoff said.
The candidates also highlighted their differences in their plans to help Washington recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting budget deficit.
Hoff is ardently against bringing in new revenue to help make up the $4.5 billion state deficit, and he has promoted reducing revenue through a proposed holiday on sales taxes and suspension of the state’s Business and Occupation tax.
“The citizens of Washington cannot afford more taxes,” Hoff said. “‘Revenue solutions’ is the big term in Olympia, whenever we need to raise our budget. … I don’t think we’ve ever truly taken a look at the expense side of our balance sheet.”
He’d rather make cuts to expenditures, and told the editorial board that anything outside of K-12 education was fair game for cuts.
Sinclair said that Hoff’s approach was irresponsible, and that making promises around taxes was premature as Washington’s financial situation continues to evolve.
“We also need to be open to thinking about creating an equitable tax system,” Sinclair said. “We really need to protect those that are most vulnerable.”
“The idea of just suspending the B&O tax is literally just not providing funding,” she added.
At several points, Sinclair pressed Hoff on his voting record. In response to his assessment of the Black Lives Matter movement — “There are some troubling issues with the organization,” Hoff said, “However, their underlying cause is just” — Sinclair pointed out that Hoff ultimately voted against the formation of a state Office of Equity last year.
“I think that it’s really important we actually implement an equity lens in our policymaking,” Sinclair said.
She also pushed back against Hoff for opposing a bill that would ban 3D-printed firearms, as well as an earlier bill requiring background checks for private firearms transfers (commonly known as the “gun show loophole”).
“The idea that you can’t have any regulation at all — even (U.S. Supreme Court) Justice (Antonin) Scalia said we could have some limits,” Sinclair said. She added that she grew up hunting and broadly supports the Second Amendment.
“She’s got my record in front of her,” Hoff said, smiling. He asserted that the firearm transfer bill “does nothing to save lives.”
On Initiative 1639, the candidates were mostly in sync. Both agreed that the initiative — which strengthened some gun storage and waiting period laws, and increased the age to purchase semi-automatic weapons from 18 to 21 — was too broad. They also agreed that Loren Culp, the Republican police chief and gubernatorial candidate who grew to national prominence for his refusal to enforce I-1639, does not have the right to ignore the law.
“I don’t like many of the elements of 1639. I think it infringes on some of our individual rights,” Hoff said. “However, it passed, and it became the law of the state of Washington, so I would suggest that we need to comply with it.”
Hoff added that he still plans to vote for Culp, as well as for President Donald Trump.
Both Hoff and Sinclair will appear on the Nov. 3 ballot in the 18th District, Position 2, which encompasses east Vancouver, Camas, Battle Ground, Ridgefield and the rural unincorporated areas in north Clark County. Ballots should appear in the mailboxes of registered Clark County voters no later than Oct. 21.