Southwest Clark County’s 49th District is well-known as a Democratic stronghold. Both positions in the state House as well as the Senate seat are held by Democrats. But Republican Jeremy Baker isn’t letting that diminish his hopes to defeat incumbent state Rep. Monica Stonier, D-Vancouver, who is seeking a fourth term. He says it’s time for a change.
“This state, this country is really important to me. I was looking around and it looked to me like it wasn’t going in the right direction the last couple of years,” Baker said.
A lifelong Washington resident, Baker said he wants to help families who are struggling with inflation, rising housing prices and higher gas prices. He also wants the Legislature to do more to bring down crime rates.
Baker recently ramped up his criticism of Stonier for supporting House Bill 5164, which removed second-degree robbery from the state’s list of most-serious offenses. That bill, which the Legislature made retroactive in 2021, could allow Roy Russell — who was convicted in the 2005 murder of Vancouver teen Chelsea Harrison — to be released from prison someday.
“These things are happening all the time. People are stealing cars and catalytic converters and victimizing residents because we have this idea that we don’t prosecute drug offenses anymore,” Baker said. “There’s no repercussions.
Baker said the Legislature needs to support law enforcement by repealing or modifying Democratic police reform bills passed in the 2021 and 2022 sessions and increasing funding for equipment and hiring of new officers.
“This should have been addressed this last session but instead they focused on other things. I think that was a big miss on the state Legislature’s part,” Baker said. “It’s had dramatic repercussions.”
Stonier defended HB 5164 and said it was never intended to apply to someone already serving a life sentence, like Russell.
“My opponent has made a good effort to mischaracterize my intent and my position. This is a good example of that,” Stonier said.
She said lawmakers consulted with legal experts to determine what impacts the bill would have but no one foresaw what would happen with Russell’s case.
Stonier said she is hopeful a judge will resentence Russell in the manner he deserves. Russell is due to be resentenced after the election after a court ruled a robbery conviction in another state didn’t count as a “strike” that would mandate a life sentence in Washington.
Stonier, who is the House majority floor leader, said she wants to continue working on issues that first brought her to the Legislature, such as education and child care.
One of Stonier’s top priorities is developing a portable benefits program that would allow gig workers and independent contractors to access health care, unemployment and workers’ compensation benefits. She also wants to expand medical insurance coverage for fertility services and continue to support the Washington Future Fund Trust to reduce generational poverty.
As an employee of the Evergreen Public Schools, education remains a top priority. She supports increased funding for special education and transporting students, and changing the threshold for passing school bonds to a simple majority. (School levies already need only a simple majority.)
A working mom, Stonier said the Legislature needs to do more to support working parents.
“We know people are struggling because they don’t have access to child care,” she said.
Baker’s top priorities include affordable housing, holding lawmakers accountable and lowering business and occupation taxes. While he doesn’t support the gas tax holiday proposed by Republicans last session, Baker said he’s concerned about additional gas taxes that have already been approved under the state’s Climate Commitment Act that goes into effect in 2023.
“I think we really need to reverse that policy and the low carbon fuel standard that’s scheduled to add some more taxes. I’m not in favor of reducing the taxes right now… but I am against raising the taxes,” he said.
Stonier said the state is still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, so any tax cuts or changes would need to be weighed against their possible impact.
“We have to see how our economy recovers and if signs are signaling a recession. We have to be careful heading into that,” she said.
In terms of fundraising, Stonier has been the clear winner. Stonier has raised $141,000 in cash and in-kind contributions. Major donor categories include 42.92 percent from political action committees, 8.99 percent from unions, 37.43 percent from businesses and 7.94 percent from individuals.
Baker has received almost $64,000 in cash and in-kind donations. Major sources of contributions include individual donors, 52 percent, businesses and political action committees, 25 percent, and Republican Party contributions, 12 percent.