With the election just weeks away, the two candidates for District 40 State Senator made their rounds in a series of forums held by the League of Women Voters. A spattering of locals gathered on Wednesday, Oct. 16, at the San Juan Grange to hear the prospects talk experience, climate and schools.
“I know how to run a business in good times and bad,” Republican candidate and Friday Harbor resident Daniel Miller began. “I want to work to make sure that the 40th district remains a great place to live, work and play.”
Miller explained he has experience in public service ranging from raising money for cancer research with Relay for LIfe to assisting with community theater. He studied public policy and journalism at Evergreen State College and later the University of Washington, he said, and has worked with public policy in both Washington and California.
Running against Miller is Democrat Liz Lovelett. She was chosen to fill the seat that was left vacant by Kevin Ranker’s resignation in January. Prior to her selection, she served for five years on the Anacortes city council where she focused her work on energy, oil transportation and affordable housing.
While working as Senator, she pushed six bills to Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk, served on the transportation committee in the ferry caucus and was recently promoted to vice-chair of energy, environment and technology.
“I think the harmonizing of those positions is going to put me in a very key place to be able to work on electrifying our ferry system.”
The first audience question came from an attendee interested in hearing more detail about Miller’s professional experience. Miller said he has worked with candidates on public policy in Washington and California. He added that his goal is to give everyone in Washington state a tax rebate.
“But believe it or not, there’s a lot of money hidden in government investments,” Miller said, adding that there is $650 million worth of real estate investments Washington owns in Hong Kong. “Let’s take some of that money and bring it back home. I want to give everybody a tax rebate this year.”
The $650 million investment is from the Washington State Investment Board to ensure that 20 percent of state employees’ retirement funds are from private equity funds. The board manages retirement plans for state employees — firefighters, judges, law enforcement officers, public employees, school employees and teachers.
The second question was directed at Lovelett. In her introduction, she mentioned she had recently traveled to Norway and learned about how the country handles its more than 200 ferries.
“So [they manage] a substantially higher amount of ferries than we do,” Lovelett said.
Lovelett explained that the country mandated all ferries in the fleet be zero or low-emission by 2025 and that the fleet had just invested in 70 new vessels. She said she returned to Washington with the knowledge that the state must invest in onshore power electrification to support “plug-and-play” ferries.
“The technology is ripe. I think for a long time there was a little reluctance to get into that because they weren’t sure if the technology was tried and true and tested,” Lovelett said. “And now it’s very evident that it works and the technology is there. I’m just excited to get to work.”
Miller agreed that electric ferries sound interesting and that he is open to the idea, but he did not elaborate.
The next question was whether the candidates were in favor of expanding upon the restriction limitations that were recently placed on vaccines.
“Vaccines are very complicated and I’ve been approached by people concerned about vaccines,” Miller said. “I think we need to research vaccines a little more. … We need to preserve the religious exemptions, study the vaccines a little more and need to realize there are dangerous chemicals in vaccines.”
Though he said he believes people need vaccinations, Miller noted the vaccine ingredient thimerosal as being a “dangerous thing.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, thimerosal is a mercury-based preservative that was used in the United States for decades in medicines and vaccines. The CDC said thimerosal was removed from childhood vaccines in the United States in 2001. The influenza vaccine has doses both with or without thimerosal as an option.
“There are a lot of people who are coming to me with very deep concerns about body autonomy,” Lovelett said. “The government coming in to tell them they have to do a forced medical procedure is very personal to them.”
Lovelett said she is in favor of the religious exemption having been removed though there were thousands of people who were against it. She added that there were very few people who showed up in support of the exemption elimination.
“Yes, we need to have our kids vaccinated,” Lovelett said. “I absolutely believe in the science.”
The next question was whether there were conflicts between the various locations of District 40 and how the candidate would balance the needs of everyone. Lovelett said in her time as Senator, she’s noted capital projects can be a divisive topic, but overall she hasn’t found major conflicts in the requests from different parts of the district.
“Balancing the needs of the three very distinct areas in the district and making sure they’re taken care of can be very challenging,” Lovelett said.
Miller said he doesn’t imagine there is much conflict within the district and that, should something arise, he would have hearings and talk to the public to resolve them.
The candidates were then asked what they believe should be done about illicit drug use in our communities.
“What can we do about it? Just keep doing what we’re doing,” Miller said, adding that law enforcement is doing a good job at controlling the problem. He noted that there are still some problems with illicit drug use but not as much as there was before marijuana was legalized.
Lovelett explained that middle and high school-aged students are being targeted with drugs packaged to look like candy. She said we need to address how we deal with prevention education in school with students. Also, she noted, diversion programs have proven to be incredibly helpful, adding that we need to be sure not to incarcerate people for behavioral health issues.
“We don’t do a very good job of making sure everybody has access to health care,” Lovelett said. “I think behavior and mental health need to be fully-funded through the auspices of providing care and health care for people.”
Earlier this year, Legislature was forced to take action on the McCleary decision which required the state to fully fund public education. However, it has been noted by some that rural schools didn’t benefit from the changes and Seattle schools were favored. The candidates were asked their opinions on that.
Lovelett said she has three bills pre-primed to address that issue, which include raising the amount supplied to schools from $2,500 per student to $3,000 and making a special case for counties surrounded by water. She also noted the San Juans have a higher percentage of kids with special needs and that safety net funding needs to be streamlined.
While Miller believes education is important, he said he believes school districts have investments they’re not managing properly. He continued that he doesn’t believe schools can’t afford pencils and paper.
“We need to look holistically at education but I will fight for dollars but I know there’s also dollars there that they’re not talking about,” Miller said.
San Juan Island School District board member TJ Heller contested Miller’s allegations that the schools have extra money, asking where that money may be located. Miller responded by saying when he was in school he had to purchase his own classroom supplies and that he came ready to learn.
“The schools have investments, there’s a lot of money there,” Miller said, adding that there have been “shenanigans” with the school board over the years and chastising the board’s decision to eliminate a community Thanksgiving dinner it used to host.
“There’s a lot of money, there’s mismanagement whether it’s the school board, the county, the state. When I get to Olympia I’m going to look at some of this mismanagement,” Miller said. “I really don’t care if I make people mad or not.”
The next question to the candidates was what they believe is an existential threat facing Washington and District 40.
“Climate change,” Lovelett responded without hesitation. “Right now we are at a historic precipice of really determining new direction for how we want to deal with energy and the economics around that energy. I believe in some immediate investments in divesting from fossil fuel; figuring out what our carbon future is going to look like; figuring out what our energy needs are and the best way to generate that in the most ethical way possible; creating room in our economy to grow some of these new jobs; and figuring out what the new alternative feedstocks are going to be that are going to help us decarbonize our transportation fuels.”
Lovelett added that it is challenging because the technology is out there but the cost is still high and she wants to find affordable solutions so that the burden isn’t on the shoulders of those who cannot bear the weight.
“You can’t narrow it down to just one thing,” Miller said. “If I get to Olympia, I’m going to work on numerous issues and having hearings. … The problem that’s going on with Democracy is the biggest threat.”
The final question was directed at Lovelett, a man in the audience asked, “Do you consider yourself a feminist?” He then asked her to define feminism and for assurance that men would receive equal treatment as women.
“I think that feminism is the fundamental belief that women should be enfranchised into every part of our society. That we should be free from the fear of being raped and brutalized. That we should get paid equally for equal work. That we should be able to have autonomy over our bodies to make health care decisions. I think that we see inequities everywhere,” Lovelett said. “Equality for me does not mean inequality for you.”
Miller agreed with Lovelett, “I guess I am a feminist too because I support equal treatment of women and men. … Women should be treated like men.”
In closing, Lovelett said she loves what she does and has spent years educating herself on the ins and outs of government.
“My goal in all that I do is to try to do the most good for the most people and for our planet,” Lovelett said, emphasizing her passion for solving the climate crisis, making sure children are properly educated and providing health care. “These are the things that are fundamental to my person.”
Miller reiterated his fight is for freedom, liberty and religious liberty. He said once again that Washington state has more money than it is letting on and that he believes that needs to be addressed.
“I want to represent the 40th district in Olympia,” Miller said. “I can be counted on to look at the budget and try to make sure tax dollars are spent carefully, spent wisely. I can be counted on to go to Olympia and have hearings on important issues.”
All of the positions on the ballot for San Juan Island are running unopposed, they are as follows: Town of Friday Harbor Council Member 1, Stephen Hushebeck; Friday Harbor Council Member 2, Noel Monin; Friday Harbor Council Member 5, Barbara Starr; Friday Harbor Treasurer, Kelle Wilson; San Juan Island School District No. 149 Director 3, T.J. Heller; SJISD Director 4, John Kurtz; SJISD Director 5, Brian Moore; SJC Fire Protection District No. 3 Commissioner 1, Frank T. Cardinale; SJC Fire Dist. Commissioner 2, Bob Jarman; Port of Friday Harbor Commissioner 1, Graham “Gib” Black; San Juan Island Park & Recreation District Commissioner 1, Bill Cumming; SJI Park & Rec District Commissioner 4, Adam M. Eltinge; SJI Park & Rec District Commissioner 5, Allison M. Moalli; SJC Cemetery District No. 1 Commissioner 1, Jeri Lynn Aherinus; SJC Cemetery Dist. Commissioner 2, Kim Sunstrum; SJC Public Hospital District No. 1 Commissioner 1, Gail Lischine-Seitz; SJCPHD No. 1 Commissioner 3, Everett Clary; SJCPHD No. 1 Commissioner 4, Kyle Loring; SJCPHD No. 1 Commissioner 5, Trish Lehman; Cape San Juan Water District No. 1 Commissioner 1, J. Clark Munroe.