(EDITOR’S NOTE: With a week and a half till ballots are mailed for the August 17th primary, we’ve been taking a closer look at the candidates in two contested local races. Today, we conclude a weeklong series of stories about WSB conversations with the four contenders for 34th District State House, Position 2. Previously: Our report on Joe Fitzgibbon ran here); our report on Mike Heavey was here; and our Geoffrey “Mac” McElroy interview here.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Marcee Stone also has something that Democratic legislative candidates in the 34th District (map) don’t usually have: Same-party challengers.
According to King County’s online election records, this is the first time in a decade that any 34th District legislative race has had more than one Democrat (in 2000, 2 Democrats challenged Dow Constantine in his winning State Senate campaign). But then again, it’s been pointed out, this is the first open seat in almost two decades. And until the “Top Two” primary system was implemented two years ago, there was no chance for two members of the same party to make it to general election.
Stone, a 57-year-old West Seattle resident, says it “means a lot” to voters when they hear she’s “the official Democratic candidate” – and when they hear about her “deep roots in the community.”
(5/12/2010 photo by Dina Johnson, from the 34th DDs’ endorsement meeting)
“I was brought up here, I brought up my daughter here – that element of life experience has really developed some trust right away,” she explains – trust that she has to build with voters who don’t already know her as local Democratic activists do. “I’ve had two careers in my lifetime – I’ve raised a family, owned a home, sold a home, paid my taxes, educated myself and my daughter – I think I have the values and the judgment to take
forward into the legislative session … I’m here to benefit the community the best of my ability. The fact I’m not taking PAC or corporate money allows them to have more trust in me – I’m not there to service any other type of agenda.”
The finance point is something on which she is living the philosophy that she espoused during the past few years as board president of Washington Public Campaigns, an organization that advocates public financing of election campaigns. She gave up that role in order to make the run for office, but emceed WPC’s recent awards banquet, held in West Seattle. And the topic naturally comes up several times during our hourlong conversation at a Junction coffee shop:
“Not to try to paint myself as a one-issue candidate, but one of the things that’s important to me and others is the real impartiality of our state Supreme Court. I’d like to see public financing of the state Supreme Court [campaigns] happen — [this past session] we got close to having it happen on the floor of the Senate … (but it) didn’t happen. I hope to work (on this, if elected to the Legislature) with (Snohomish County Rep.) Marko Liias. We have to protect our state Supreme Court(‘s integrity).”
Stone feels that her background working on this issue would give her a jump-start past the typical legislative rookie. “Though I would be a first-time legislator, it’s not my first time around the block – I have a good ability to really stand on my own feet and represent the people of the district, and not be bent to the wind of the interests down in Olympia itself, and I think that has to be the bottom line for me, what’s best for the district, not just is this the correct environmental or labor or educational thing to do – it really boils down to, what’s my connection to the people living here.”
She says she senses a “disconnect” right now between those people and their representatives, and she hopes instead to “foster a connection and collaboration with the people in the district, let them know what legislation is coming down the pike, (find out) what they might be interested in, so they can let me and the leadership know, and then they would need to let their friends (and others) know that this legislation is coming up, and that they need to make phone calls and send e-mails (to let legislators know they want something passed).”
Stone hopes to translate that interest into an improved two-way communication system, though she’s not certain yet what form it might take – she just knows that there’s more information potentially available on more of a real-time basis than is easily accessible to constituents right now. That also could help legislators call attention to issues that aren’t getting the attention that they seem to merit. For example: “I’m not hearing anybody talk about the Family Medical Leave Act that was passed in 2007, passed with a shorter amount of time, a smaller amount of money, limited in terms of scope … now there’s $50 million coming from the Obama Administration to the states to implement this, so this is an opportunity for us to let people know – I can say, ‘are you interested?'”
She envisions an easier way to reach out to organizations and others outside the district, too, to build coalitions – even short-term ones centered on certain issues or builds – to get something done. “That’s the way I was able to do it in 2008 on the ‘local-option bill’ with Washington Public Campaigns; we had folks in every district.”
Another issue she views as important: Tax reform. She supports Initiative 1098, but: “I’m disappointed in the scope of that – also disappointed we can’t find leadership in the House to address the hard question of tax reform … When I started running, I was amazed at the number of people who told me the progressive income tax is important.”
What does she say to those who say, there must be something else to cut, before you start talking about new taxes? “I think they’ve cut to the bone, I don’t think they can cut any more. They managed to balance the budget this session by doing a whole variety of things – everybody has had to take some of the brunt of the situations,” including furlough days for some state employees. “I just don’t know where we can get (more) budget cuts.”
Meantime, “we need more money for education … I don’t know how many more little taxes we can take that will let us fund education (even) to the bare minimum that we are at now.” But back to the subject of why she is disappointed in Initiative 1098 – for one, she wishes legislators had implemented an income tax, “rather than waiting for an initiative … that would have been a very brave and courageous thing to do.” Also, she’s disappointed “that there is no offset for the sales tax – people who make less than $50,000 are spending a large percentage (of their income) on sales tax. But I know I spend less now than I did before, so (the state is) not going to be getting the sales-tax (revenue) they need.”
In addition to tax reform, Stone also is interested in finding a way to make paid sick leave available to more workers. “There’s got to be at least a bare minimum. If you’re a young mom and your kid gets sick, you’re going to wind up losing your job.” She also is concerned about helping jobless people, and about health care: “Anything we can do to make the social safety net safer.”
What can government do to help create jobs? Effective training, for one – she mentions the programs at South Seattle Community College, and Referendum 52, which, if approved by voters in November, will retrofit school buildings for energy efficiency. “That’s a wonderful example of (creating) jobs while helping the environment.” She hopes that economic improvement will also lead to “more green industry along the Duwamish,” and points to alternative-energy projects in other parts of the state.
Environmental advocacy is one of the other focuses she’s hoping for if elected: “I want to get involved in the Blue/Green Alliance, to help hold that coalition together” though Rep. Sharon Nelson is leaving the House seat for which Stone is running, moving (running unopposed) to the State Senate. (Coalition-building/maintaining is a specialty, she says, because of her community-activist background; she does not see herself as much of a “compromiser,” though.) Stone also thinks “a carbon tax … makes more sense than ‘cap and trade'” and she thinks the so-called “polluters’ tax” should come up to two percent … we need to get polluters, producers of fossil fuel to be paying for their fair share of cleanup costs … The people who are making all this money on oil, we need to get them to pay for part of (that). It’s mindboggling to me that we have one lobbyist in Olympia for BP alone.”
She expects transportation issues to be another focus: “Transit in this community is very, very important. We’re going to be lucky when the Spokane Street Viaduct is done … but when they decide to start building the tunnel … I think people are still worried about the (Alaskan Way) Viaduct, (not realizing that) it will remain up while they dig the tunnel, so when that’s done, they tear (the old viaduct) down. People are kind of confused about this … I do get some questions, mostly about access to downtown.” Also regarding transportation/transit, she supports “legislation to allow local jurisdictions to have their own motor-vehicle excise tax. People will pay for what they want to use.” And she would like to see pedestrian-safety laws toughened.
From the possibilities if she’s elected, we backtrack to why she’s running. She says she got involved with party politics right about the time she became involved in a fight over neighborhood cell-phone towers. “People … would say, you really should run for office – that kind of got my interest piqued a little bit. Post-cell phone towers, I looked for an issue I really wanted to delve into … tax reform, maybe working with NARAL, insurance reform – but when I saw a presentation on public campaign financing, I really thought, ‘that is something that we really need – it’s at the heart of everything.’ I would think, there’s no way I could (run for office), where would I get the money – I think that stops a lot of good people.”
Believing she should “try to make government more accountable and transparent,” she continued that work, and then, came the domino effect (Dow Constantine being elected County Executive, State Sen. Joe McDermott running for Constantine’s old County Council seat, Rep. Nelson seeking McDermott’s Senate seat) that led to the open position. “When the opportunity presented itself, I’d done some homework … I think I can do a great job.”
What does she see as an underplayed issue in the campaign? “One of the issues that got dropped last year due to special interests busing in supporters, the ‘crisis pregnancy centers’ – That was disappointing, to say the least, that our leaders didn’t have the gumption, really, to stand up and do the right thing … a young woman in dire circumstances with nowhere to turn, doesn’t have your typical clinic available to her, goes to one of these centers instead, is given an over-the-counter test and then shown lots of videos regarding why someone shouldn’t have an abortion. I think that’s wrong. Then they won’t give them any (other) information. I think we need to make sure this passes (next) time … to let people know what they are all about. They promise the moon, and then when it gets down to brass tacks, the girl is usually left to fend for herself.”
During our conversation, she had harsh words for the Legislature’s failings more than once, so we ask what she views as one of the past session’s accomplishments. The campaign-financing issue comes up again: “They limited the campaign contributions that candidates in municipalities can take – if you were under a certain population (size), not Tacoma or Seattle, you could take unlimited amount of corporate contributions.” She cites a Federal Way campaign in which she says a developer “spent $234,000 on a particular candidate.”
Asked toward conversation’s end what she wanted to talk more about, Stone mentioned education reform — she thinks teachers are getting something of a bum rap. “There’s been an awful lot of blame going toward teachers. A lot of people are trying to blame them for the way things are. But if we fix the funding system, we should be able to get what we need. … Teachers need to be at the table when they discuss whether or not, or how, to reform the teacher-evaluation process.”
She mentions some of her alma maters when discussing her ties to various communities in the 34th District – Holy Family School in White Center, Kennedy High School in Burien.
Most memorable moments of the campaign so far? “The nomination and (34th District Democrats’) sole endorsement were absolutely gold, and I was really proud of that, because it was something I have worked very hard for … it meant a lot to me that people heard my message.”
ENDORSEMENTS: Here’s her current online list
FUNDRAISING: $28,743 in contributions as of this morning (7/19/2010), compared to $31,616 for Joe Fitzgibbon, $29,650 for Mike Heavey, $5,112 for Geoffrey “Mac” McElroy, per the state Public Disclosure Commission website. (To see who has given Stone money, go here.)
WHITE CENTER – SEATTLE OR BURIEN? “I’m fine either way … What I hope is that they just don’t hopeto get overlooked. I want them to get annexed, but don’t really have an ax to grind as far as which one. I think that both cities (Seattle and Burien) should be free to go in and lobby, it essentially is up to the citizens of White Center. Right now, it’s just sad to see that it’s being postponed yet again. … It might be one of those opportunities where the Legislature steps in with the GMA (Growth Management Act) and figures out how to get some funding so that they are more appealing.”
Registered to vote? If not – today’s the deadline (unless you’ve never registered in this state before)! Details here.