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CDN Voter Guide

CDN endorsement summary, candidate responses to Citizens Agenda questions

By CDN Staff

A quick guide to our voter guide

Just by reading this guide, you’re participating in our inaugural “Citizens Agenda” project. First: Thank you. Second: Here’s a refresher on what that means.

Cascadia Daily News began the 2022 election season determined to put campaign issues in the hands of readers in the run-up to the critical midterm election on Nov. 8. In Washington state, of course, “Election Day” is more like “election weeks” because of an all-mail voting system. That means you’ll get your first chance to vote this week, when ballots are mailed to voters, with a Nov. 8 due date.

Our approach over the summer has been to “crowdsource” your concerns through a forward-looking process known as Citizens Agenda, which seeks to avoid “horse-race” style campaign coverage with more thoughtful journalism reflecting actual issues of concern to voters, not the dreaded political talking points. It’s a simple premise, centering on a prompt we submitted to readers almost three months ago: “What do you want candidates to be talking about as they compete for votes?”

Readers responded in droves. We published a list of 60 submitted questions on Aug. 17. Readers voted and selected five, which we published Aug. 31.

This gave us a framework to supplement our election coverage with a series of thematic stories where we examined candidates’ positions on issues chosen by our readers. Some of those stories appear in our Voter Guide (pick up a print copy with our Oct. 19 edition); others are published on our website. As of the Oct. 19 Voter Guide publication date, they’ll all be freely available to all readers both in print and online — a demonstration of our commitment to an informed citizenry, critical to the survival of U.S. representative democracy. (To see all of them, click the “Elections” tab at the top of cascadiadaily.com.)

CDN also put those top five questions to candidates and asked for direct responses. (Candidates were informed that neglecting to respond would result in a blank space on the questionnaire.) Those answers are contained in this Voter Guide, as submitted, edited lightly for grammar and spelling. Candidates for Whatcom County District Court Judge answered questions tailored for that race by CDN’s editorial board.

It’s important to note that questions passed up to us through the Citizens Agenda process served only as our starting point for election coverage. Our reporters have explored a range of other election issues in our pages, and will continue to do so until Nov. 8, when ballots are due.

Thanks for participating in our process and reading our inaugural Voter Guide, which also contains a summary of candidate endorsements made through a separate process by CDN’s editorial board. Watch cascadiadaily.com, our print paper and our social media and email feeds for continuing election coverage in the days ahead.

—Ron Judd, executive editor: ronjudd@cascadiadaily.com.


CDN endorses

In editorials published on Oct. 5 and Oct. 12, the Cascadia Daily News Editorial Board recommended candidates for six public offices appearing on the Nov. 8 general election ballot.

Here is a summary of those choices:

U.S. Congress, Second District: Rick Larsen, an 11-term incumbent, rankles some on the political left in Bellingham, but he is the clear choice in this election, based on both his record and critical flaws evident in his GOP opponent, Dan Matthews.

42nd District state Senate: Sharon Shewmake, a WWU economist, has proven to be an uncommonly wise, capable leader in two terms in the state Legislature. She’s an easy choice over political newbie Simon Sefzik, who at 22 is slick, but demonstrates little political vision.

42nd District House Position 1: Alicia Rule of Blaine gets CDN’s nod for demonstrating expertise and passion on a broad range of issues identified as important to voters in her district. CDN was impressed by the passion, enthusiasm and focus of her opponent, Tawsha Dykstra Thompson, who shows promise as a future political leader.

42nd District House Position 2: Joe Timmons, CDN’s choice, shows a clear grasp of local issues, informed by his boots-on-the-ground local experience at Western Washington University and as a regional representative of the governor’s office. His opponent, Dan Johnson, seems outside the stream of responsible politics in the district.

40th District House Position 2: Bellingham environmental leader Alex Ramel has earned a second term, in CDN’s opinion, over an apparently checked-out challenger, labor leader Trevor Smith.

District Court Judge, Whatcom County: Private attorney Jonathan Rands’ innovative plan for a “community court” to connect low-level offenders to social services and training in lieu of punishment is a well-timed idea that merits a trial in Whatcom County. CDN views him as the clear choice over a capable opponent, Gordon Jenkins.


Candidate responses to Citizens Agenda questions

2nd U.S. Congressional District 

U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen pointing as he smiles and chats.
Second Congressional District U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen answers questions during a candidate interview on Sept. 8. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)

Rick Larsen (D)

  • Age: 57
  • Residence: Everett
  • Occupation: U.S. Congressman
  • Experience: 11 terms

What are your plans for addressing the homeless problem? 

The federal government has a role assisting nonprofit and government agencies help people experiencing homelessness. The American Rescue Plan included funds for rental assistance and emergency housing vouchers. But our investments need a better focus than just emergency help.  

The Low Income Tax Credit (LITC) helps nonprofits like Housing Hope and the Opportunity Council develop income-based housing. I support an increase in the LITC. The HUD-VASH program assists veterans experiencing chronic homelessness, and combines federal dollars with the on-the-ground, knowledge of nonprofits who can best meet the needs of local veterans. And, nonprofits like Northwest Youth Services use federal funding to get kids off the street into safe housing. 

What is your position on abortion — is it a legal right all women should have? If so, what will you do to ensure they do? 

I am the only pro-choice candidate in this race. I have a 100% pro-choice voting record and earned the Planned Parenthood Action Fund endorsement. I want to overturn the Dobbs decision and the fight to do so started on the day of the Supreme Court’s horrible decision to overturn Roe. We should start by codifying Roe and passing the Women’s Health Protection Act. 

Was the U.S. election of 2020 legitimate? 

Yes, the 2020 election was legitimate, free and fair. Joseph R. Biden is the President of the United States of America. I call on everyone to condemn election deniers. Their actions undermine our democracy and the Constitution. 

What do you consider to be common-sense gun regulation? 

I supported, and Congress passed, the Safer Communities Act, the first major legislation on gun safety since 1994. The bill enhances background checks for 18- to 21-year-old gun buyers; closes the so-called boyfriend loophole; creates financial incentives for states to adopt red-flag laws; and funds school safety and youth mental health programs. These reforms will save lives, but they do not go far enough.  

Other pragmatic steps Congress can take and that are supported by strong majorities of Americans include establishing universal background checks; banning large-capacity magazines and bump stocks; requiring safe storage; closing the “Charleston Loophole;” and raising the legal age for buying semiautomatic rifles to 21. 

Do you support single-payer health care for all Washington and U.S. residents? If so, how soon? If not, then what? 

Health care is a right. I support universal health care and believe the best way to achieve this is by building upon the Affordable Care Act, which has brought health care coverage to more than 30 million Americans since 2010.   

We can make this landmark legislation even more robust by adding a public option allowing the federal government to compete with the private market to drive down costs.  

I voted to lower care costs for seniors and working families by enabling Medicare to negotiate the price of prescription drugs; capping out-of-pocket drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries; and extending the ACA tax credits that enabled 11,000 more people in the Second District and 95,000 people statewide to enroll in affordable health plans. 

Dan Matthews smiles as he chats with his hands together on top of a Cascadia Daily newspaper.
Dan Matthews, the Republican contender for the Second Congressional District seat, was interviewed by the Cascadia Daily News editorial board on Sept. 23. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)

Dan Matthews (R)

  • Age: 72
  • Residence: Mukilteo
  • Occupation: Retired USAF Lt. Col.
  • Experience: Shoreline school board, other civic roles

What are your plans for addressing the homeless problem? 

We need to humanely and wisely address these social and human issues, through enforcement, intervention, redirection and reinforcement of acceptable behavior. Too many progressive cities seem to have gone beyond tolerating homelessness, drug dealing and crime to enabling them. Say “No” to dysfunctional and destructive behavior. The underlying problem isn’t a lack of housing or money for social programs. The real problem is an ideology that designates some people as victims entitled to destructive behaviors. The result is an undermining of the values that make cities and civilization itself possible. We must return to communities that are compassionate, caring, peaceful centers of society. We have forgotten our humanity. 

What is your position on abortion — is it a legal right all women should have? If so, what will you do to ensure they do? 

I oppose the sacrifice of innocent life for the sake of personal expediency, instead advocate surrounding a woman with love, empathy, support, kindness and grace in her time of greatest need. We must reclaim our humanity and heart: coming alongside every young lady in her darkest hour — offering the solution of life over death: Removing all economic burdens; providing compassion, comfort and support at every stage of pregnancy and delivery; breaking down all barriers to facilitate the adoption option to this very personal crisis ­— including covering all delivery, adoption, legal expenses — for all involved. A “win-win” scenario is fostered in this alternative: where everyone wins, no one loses, especially the new life, allowed to live. 

Was the U.S. election of 2020 legitimate? 

To some: Yes — to others: No! 

When the Dorseys and Zuckerbergs — tech bosses — freely admit suppressing news relevant to one candidate so as to enable their election — I am VERY concerned! 

WHAT IF, in the next (2024) presidential election cycle: 

•    The press openly suppressed information that would clearly bear on the fitness for office of the GOP candidate? 

•    Big tech suppressed information and canceled the accounts of the Democrat candidate to limit their exposure and access to the prevailing media? 

•    Government agencies actively intervened during the election season in the campaign of the Democrat candidate to enhance the likelihood of the GOP candidate prevailing? Questions about fairness and legitimacy SHOULD cross every objective mind.

What do you consider to be common-sense gun regulation? 

General: Fully enforce existing laws, enhanced penalties for use of firearms in any crime! Support law enforcement in the conduct of their duties — fully fund police! “Qualified Immunity” protection for law enforcement personnel; tougher penalties for crimes against police. Inform prosecutors that crimes must be fully prosecuted, laws strictly enforced. Potential liability for prosecutors if they fail to prosecute. For schools: School Resource Officers (SROs) — provide law enforcement coverage in every public school, Allow for the training and authorization of qualified staff to be armed (conceal-and-carry) — if requested extensive electronic monitoring (audio and visual) in every classroom and throughout all schools — inside and outside. 

Do you support single-payer health care for all Washington and U.S. residents? If so, how soon? If not, then what? 

Government is never the most efficient, or preferable answer. Imposing a single-payer, socialized health care system is not the answer to reducing costs and/or improving health care. Think of the VA: Government-run health care for vets! Why would we impose such a dysfunctional system on society? Greater choice, competition, affordability in the private market has given us the best health care system in the world. The free market offers the best solution to provide the greatest access to health care: controlling costs. People making their own health care decisions; using their own health care dollars, gives Americans the chance to utilize their right to access health care; tax-funded safety-net health programs provided for those who can’t afford it.

Legislative District 40, House Position 2 

Trevor Smith (D)

  • Age: 45
  • Residence: Bellingham
  • Occupation: Political director, Laborers Local 292
  • Experience: Former chair, 40th District Democrats

What are your plans for addressing the homeless problem? 

No answer submitted.

What is your position on abortion — is it a legal right all women should have? If so, what will you do to ensure they do? 

No answer submitted.

Was the U.S. election of 2020 legitimate? 

No answer submitted.

What do you consider to be common-sense gun regulation? 

No answer submitted.

Do you support single-payer health care for all Washington and U.S. residents? If so, how soon? If not, then what? 

No answer submitted.

Rep. Alex Ramel talks with his leg crossed and his hands together.
State Rep. Alex Ramel met with the CDN editorial board on Sept. 15. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)

Alex Ramel (D)

  • Age: 45
  • Residence: Bellingham
  • Occupation: Environmental consultant
  • Experience: Incumbent; three years as state representative

What are your plans for addressing the homeless problem? 

The growth in homelessness in our community is being driven by insufficient housing. When rents go up because of low vacancy rates, homelessness goes up. We need to address this by building more homes. An important part of the solution is supportive housing, for example, for people who have behavioral health challenges; and I’ve been a champion for growing the Housing Trust Fund that provides grants to build these homes. We also need to grow the number of smaller units built by private developers. More “missing middle” housing — like row houses, duplexes and townhomes — will help keep rents from rising. That’s why I helped expand the multifamily housing tax exemption program. 

My campaign has been endorsed by the Low Income Housing Alliance. 

What is your position on abortion — is it a legal right all women should have? If so, what will you do to ensure they do? 

I’m absolutely pro-choice. Anyone who experiences pregnancy should have the right to receive an abortion and any other reproductive health care they and the doctor determine that they need. And we should ensure that everyone who needs those services has access to them. For me, that means we need to ensure that there are sufficient health care providers in rural parts of Washington. It also means that we need to legally protect the privacy of those who have to travel to Washington for reproductive health care because their home state is restricting their freedom. 

My campaign has been endorsed by Planned Parenthood Votes and Pro-Choice Washington. 

Was the U.S. election of 2020 legitimate? 

The 2020 election was clearly legitimate. Court case after court case ruled against the Trump campaign’s efforts to prove otherwise. MAGA Republicans who continue to try to undermine our democracy are both dangerous and wrong. Donald Trump lost. These conspiracy theorists are really saying that they plan to try to undermine the next election, too. We should take those threats very seriously. 

Washington’s elections are free and fair. Mail-in voting is especially secure, and our auditors, their teams and the volunteer poll watchers do a great job of ensuring that every vote is counted. 

What do you consider to be common-sense gun regulation? 

Gun violence is out of control in our country. Over the past few years, Washington has done a good job of tackling the problem with a data-driven, risk-assessment approach. We’ve closed the background check loophole. We’ve raised the minimum age to buy assault rifles and required safe storage to keep guns out of the hands of children. We limited open-carry in public meetings where it was being used to intimidate. We banned untraceable ghost guns. And we’ve banned the sale of the high-capacity magazines that allow mass shooters to be exponentially more deadly. I support these measures, as well as a ban on assault weapons in Washington, which I hope we will pass next year.

My reelection is endorsed by the WA Alliance for Gun Responsibility. 

Do you support single-payer health care for all Washington and U.S. residents? If so, how soon? If not, then what? 

America pays more for health care than other nations, and we consistently get worse health outcomes. I support a single-payer system because it will mean Washingtonians will get better care and it will bring down the costs. 

We have been innovating with a public option in the state exchange and laying other important pieces of the foundation. Those successes may help inspire other states to follow. But without federal leadership, or at least collaboration, it will be hard for Washington to move to a single-payer system unilaterally. As much as I want it soon, I don’t know what timeline is realistic. In the meantime, I’m committed to doing everything we can to expand access to care for the uninsured and underinsured in the current system. 

Legislative District 42, House Position 1 

Alicia Rule smiling with her hands together.
Alicia Rule. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)

Alicia Rule (D)

  • Age: 46
  • Residence: Blaine
  • Occupation: Mental health professional
  • Experience: Blaine City Council; one-term incumbent state representative

What are your plans for addressing the homeless problem? 

Homelessness is more than a problem of housing; it’s a mental health problem, a domestic violence problem and an addiction problem. I am proud to have helped expand mental health services, particularly in schools, but more needs to be done on all of these fronts. Having people living on the streets, struggling with addiction and untreated or undiagnosed mental health issues, is not compassionate. 

What is your position on abortion — is it a legal right all women should have? If so, what will you do to ensure they do? 

I support a woman’s freedom to choose. I am the only candidate endorsed by Planned Parenthood and Pro-Choice Washington. 

Was the U.S. election of 2020 legitimate? 

Yes. 

What do you consider to be common-sense gun regulation? 

I voted earlier this year to support two new common-sense laws aimed at reducing mass shootings by reducing the sizes of magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition and cracking down on the proliferation of so-called “ghost guns,” guns that don’t have serial numbers and therefore can’t be traced by law enforcement. 

 Do you support single-player health care for all Washington and U.S. residents? If so, how soon? If not, then what?

I support the goal of health care coverage for Washingtonians. This legislative session I worked with both Republicans and Democrats to pass legislation to make important progress to lower health care costs — banning surprise medical billing, reducing the cost of insulin and prescription drugs for seniors. I also have worked to expand mental health coverage, particularly in schools. 

State representative candidate Tawsha Dykstra Thompson answers questions as she gestures towards the interviewer.
State representative candidate Tawsha Dykstra Thompson answers questions during a CDN editorial board interview on Sept. 9. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)

Tawsha Dykstra Thompson (R)

  • Age: 47
  • Residence: Lynden
  • Occupation: Former Bellingham police officer
  • Experience: Law enforcement lobbyist/advocate

What are your plans for addressing the homeless problem? 

Homelessness is a complex issue often stemming from drug addiction, mental health issues and most often a combination of both. Any plan will require a multifaceted approach. We need to increase the ability of our mental health system to address the issues. It’s not enough to just give them a room and a bed. We can look at the problems at 22 North in Bellingham and see that housing with little supervision and lack of treatment isn’t enough. 

What is your position on abortion — is it a legal right all women should have? If so, what will you do to ensure they do? 

Abortion was legalized in this state through citizens initiative. Any changes made to the abortion rights in this state should also be done through the citizens initiative. I would focus my efforts on promoting more choices such as strengthening our adoption system and supporting a better foster care system. This is twofold in that it would benefit our Child Protective Services that often lacks people willing to participate in the foster system. 

Was the U.S. election of 2020 legitimate? 

As I doorbell in many neighborhoods, people from both sides of the aisle have expressed concerns about election integrity. As a state representative, I will be focused on elections in our state. We owe it to our voters to have the most secure system that will give them confidence their votes matter. I will draw from my investigative background to review any concerns about ballot integrity while collaborating across the aisle to ensure full and fair access to all residents of Washington. 

What do you consider to be common-sense gun regulation? 

We have strict gun laws already which need to be enforced. We need to empower and support prosecutors to act against those who violate gun laws. Additional restrictions will not deter criminals if current laws are not enforced.  

Another unintended consequence of decriminalizing drugs is that people in possession of drugs, such as fentanyl, are no longer being charged with felonies that once convicted would make them ineligible to possess a firearm. Throughout my career, many firearm-related crimes also had an element of drug use/possession. 

Do you support single-payer health care for all Washington and U.S. residents? If so, how soon? If not, then what? 

The problems of long-term-care insurance in this state are a flashing warning signal against single-payer healthcare. It quickly became underfunded and will require higher taxes on citizens already struggling with double-digit inflation and soaring property taxes. Also, Canada’s health care system is understaffed and the providers are underpaid. A single-payer system isn’t the answer for us. We should look for ways to improve our existing system. 

Legislative District 42, House Position 2

Dan Johnson with a serious expression while dressed in a red and blue flannel.
Dan Johnson, a Republican running for a 42nd District House seat, has come under fire for social media posts. Johnson met with the Cascadia Daily News editorial team Sept. 26 for a candidate interview, in which he apologized for the posts. (Audra Anderson/Cascadia Daily News)

Dan Johnson (R)

  • Age: 48
  • Residence: Laurel, Whatcom County
  • Occupation: Former towing company owner/operator
  • Experience: Towing industry trade group legislative co-chair

What are your plans for addressing the homeless problem? 

The debacle of the 22 North apartments in Bellingham is an example of failed policy at the state level. By decriminalizing possession of opiates in 2021, liberal legislators took away the means to get drug abusers into treatment. Even when 22 North started evicting people for drug use, they just moved onto the sidewalks and affected people still in the apartments who sincerely wanted to change. 

What is your position on abortion — is it a legal right all women should have? If so, what will you do to ensure they do? 

The Republican Party won’t fight to block abortion in this state because Washington voters decided this issue years ago with a citizen initiative. Nothing is going to change, because Republicans in Washington state don’t try to overturn voter initiatives; they didn’t on legal cannabis and they didn’t on gay marriage. Democrats are using abortion to avoid talking about their failures on public safety and homelessness. 

Was the U.S. election of 2020 legitimate? 

I will be looking at our state election system as a state legislator to see if any parts are broken and then how to fix them. It’s our civic duty to vote and we need to ensure those votes are counted. 

What do you consider to be common-sense gun regulation? 

The real issue isn’t gun laws. After people are arrested, our system breaks down. We need better enforcement of current laws, which will require more personnel. We need judges to do their part in sentencing. We need legislators who will oppose the effort to reduce penalties for drive-by shootings. We need effective rehabilitation programs that will help people change their lives and deter future crimes. 

Do you support single-payer health care for all Washington and U.S. residents? If so, how soon? If not, then what? 

I look to the north and see a single-payer system in Canada that has major problems. Understaffed hospitals and clinics mean that people have to wait too long for treatment and relief. The providers are underpaid, reducing any incentive to work in health care. I will look at improving our current system rather than switching to one that we can see isn’t working. 

Rep. Joe Timmons talks as he gestures with his hands with a metal water bottle placed in front of him.
Joe Timmons met with the CDN editorial board for a candidate interview on Sept. 22.. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)

Joe Timmons (D)

  • Age: 37
  • Residence: Bellingham
  • Occupation: Governor’s office outreach officer
  • Experience: Former WWU legislative analyst

What are your plans for addressing the homeless problem? 

I am committed to addressing the root causes of homelessness, including strengthening our behavioral health system and ensuring our education system leads to jobs and career opportunities for all. We have a housing affordability and supply crisis that also directly contributes to people experiencing homelessness. I will work to increase the housing supply, especially in urban areas and around transit. I am also committed to building more pathways for first-time homeownership and creating more living-wage jobs so people can afford to live in Whatcom County. I support a multi-pronged approach to addressing homelessness to get people safely sheltered as quickly as possible while building long-term solutions like permanent supportive housing. 

What is your position on abortion — is it a legal right all women should have? If so, what will you do to ensure they do? 

I will always support the right for women to choose, and I believe that decisions about abortion are between a woman and her doctor. Washington state has a strong history of protecting and guaranteeing the right to choose, and as the only pro-choice candidate in my race, I will work hard to protect it. I am honored to have the endorsement of Pro-Choice Washington, and I am committed to ensuring that all Washingtonians have access to abortion health care. 

Was the U.S. election of 2020 legitimate? 

Yes, and I believe that it is our responsibility as candidates to fully protect our democracy and ensure elections remain fair and free. 

What do you consider to be common-sense gun regulation? 

I support the work the Legislature has done in recent sessions on this issue, including banning high-capacity magazines and ghost guns. If I were serving in the Legislature, I would have voted to support these common-sense measures to reduce gun violence and save lives. 

Do you support single-payer health care for all Washington and U.S. residents? If so, how soon? If not, then what? 

My goal is to make sure that Washingtonians have access to quality health care that they can afford, particularly lowering the costs of prescription drugs. It’s absurd that by simply going across the border seniors can get lower prices on American-made drugs. I support efforts the Legislature has made in recent sessions to increase access to health care and lower costs. If elected, I look forward to building upon these efforts so that Whatcom County residents receive the quality care they deserve. 

Legislative District 42, Senate 

State Senate candidate Sharon Shewmake has a serious expression as she leans backward on the chair with her hands together.
State Senate candidate Sharon Shewmake meets with the Cascadia Daily News editorial board for an interview on Oct. 7. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)

Sharon Shewmake (D)

  • Age: 42
  • Residence: Bellingham
  • Occupation: WWU economist
  • Experience: Two-term state representative

What are your plans for addressing the homeless problem? 

People experience homelessness for many reasons including financial crises, losing a rental, domestic violence, ending a relationship, or a combination of addiction and trauma. 

Data scientists connect homelessness with high rent and low vacancy rates. We need to build more homes in cities where infrastructure already exists. 

Complicated behavioral health cases need wrap-around support services. Projects like The Way Station fill in missing pieces but there is more work to do securing funding for long-term mental health beds and secure detox facilities. 

I recently met a man who spent years drunk under a bridge in Skagit. His abusive parents told him he was worthless and it took therapy and support to realize they were wrong. 

What is your position on abortion — is it a legal right all women should have? If so, what will you do to ensure they do? 

Yes, access to abortion and reproductive health services is a legal right all women should have. I do not think politicians should get between a woman and her doctor in making decisions about her own body. 

Every year Republicans introduce bills in Olympia to restrict abortion access, often without exceptions for rape, incest or the life of the mother. My opponent voted against secure abortion access in the last session and the Republican party seeks to ban abortion and force women and girls to give birth, regardless of the circumstances or risk, in every state in the nation. 

Was the U.S. election of 2020 legitimate? 

Yes. 

What do you consider to be common-sense gun regulation? 

I did riflery as a kid and my family hunts. Data shows concealed pistol license (CPL) holders commit crimes at low rates. These activities are not the problem. 

The problem is losing 30,000 Americans every year to gun violence, a rate higher than any other wealthy country. Between 2009–18, the United States had 288 school shootings. The country with the second highest number was Mexico with 8. 

Common-sense gun legislation removes firearms from situations that are likely to lead to violence and is backed up by research to show that it saves lives. I voted for the ban on sales of high-capacity magazines because researchers found it reduces the number of people who die in a school shooting event. 

Do you support single-payer health care for all Washington and U.S. residents? If so, how soon? If not, then what? 

The United States spends more per capita on health care than any other developed country and gets worse results. A great way to see this is through maternity costs. According to The Economist, America is the most expensive country in the world to give birth and has the highest maternal mortality rate amongst rich countries. We can do better. 

Single-payer health care is best done at the federal level, but states can play a role. We passed a public option in Washington state that can be a stepping stone to single-payer but we are still working on getting the details right. I will continue to build on that approach to minimize disruption in our health care system and provide value to patients. 

Sen. Simon Sefzik speaks through a microphone with a dark blue backdrop behind him.
Sen. Simon Sefzik speaks at a public safety forum he held at Meridian High School on Sept. 29. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)

Simon Sefzik (R)

  • Age: 22
  • Residence: Ferndale
  • Occupation: State senator
  • Experience: One year, state Senate (appointed) 

What are your plans for addressing the homeless problem? 

On a recent ride-along with the Bellingham Police Department, I saw the firsthand impact of homelessness on our community and environment. It was devastating to see the consequences of the inhumane policies that have encouraged folks in their addictions rather than empowering them to create a better life. I also saw the harm that homelessness is having on our natural habitat and watched deer rummaging through the garbage and drug paraphernalia. 

We need to A) reverse the legislation that has effectively legalized hard drugs after the Blake decision and taken away the criminal justice system’s ability to get folks help, B) build a comprehensive jail facility in Whatcom County with the resources to address mental health and drug abuse. 

What is your position on abortion — is it a legal right all women should have? If so, what will you do to ensure they do? 

I believe in the sanctity of all human life. The people of Washington voted to protect access to abortion 52 years ago. The people have also said this election should be about affordability, public safety and government accountability. As Whatcom County faces skyrocketing crime and crippling inflation, Rep. Sharon Shewmake has been silent on these issues, instead focusing on issues already settled in law. 

Was the U.S. election of 2020 legitimate? 

Yes, Joe Biden is the President. 

What do you consider to be common-sense gun regulation? 

Common-sense gun regulation protects constitutional rights and protects the public by making sure that those who shouldn’t have guns, like criminals and the mentally ill, don’t endanger the public. Radical positions like banning semi-automatic firearms, as Sharon Shewmake has previously advocated for, is out-of-touch with the 42nd district. 

We need to take steps to keep the public safe from violence. At a time when violent crime is skyrocketing, we need to increase resources and support for law enforcement. I’m proud to be the only candidate in this race endorsed by law enforcement, including Sheriff Bill Elfo, the Washington Council of Police & Sheriffs, and Washington Fraternal Order of Police. 

Do you support single-payer health care for all Washington and U.S. residents? If so, how soon? If not, then what? 

No. Single-payer health care is one of the most expensive health care options for residents in Washington state. It would require a massive tax hike; in return Washingtonians would get lower-quality health care. 

As a member of the Senate Committee on Health and Long-term Care, I know there are many steps that can be taken to reduce the cost of health care and increase accessibility for all Washingtonians. For example, I sponsored a bill, supported unanimously in the Senate, to increase access for screenings and health checkups for youth through Medicaid. We need to pass common-sense solutions like these, rather than sweeping legislation that costs every taxpayer and exacerbates our already critically low health care workforce shortage. 

District Court Judge, Position 2

Gordon Jenkins gesturing towards the interviewer as he talks with a CDN tote back on the table in front of him.
Gordon Jenkins is running for Whatcom County District Court judge. He met with the Cascadia Daily News editorial board for an interview to discuss his platform on Sept. 16. (Audra Anderson/Cascadia Daily News)

Gordon M. Jenkins

  • Age: 38
  • Residence: Bellingham
  • Occupation: Whatcom County senior deputy prosecutor
  • Experience: Prosecutorial defense trial lawyer

Why do you want to be a judge? 

I believe that, at its best, the district court can have a restorative impact on people’s lives. But in order to have the investment and belief of our community the court needs intelligent, empathetic and trustworthy judges. I have the background and temperament to make me exactly this kind of judge. I bring the strongest balance of experience to this position, having worked as both prosecutor and a defense attorney, on a wide variety of cases, and in therapeutic settings like the Whatcom County Drug Court. I have a strong appreciation for the rights and duties owed to defendants, the value treatment and rehabilitation as part of the justice system, and the importance of community safety. As judge I will be able to utilize my varied experience to provide a fair, equitable and restorative courtroom for all involved.  

What is a single trait you possess that would make you a good judge? 

Empathy. In both my personal and professional life I have a consistent internal drive to look at and understand as many perspectives on a particular issue as I can. I think it’s important to understand that there are likely many viewpoints on given issue, and that they may be as or more valid than my own. I am comfortable challenging my own assumptions, incorporating new information, and adjusting my position if presented with a perspective I hadn’t previously considered. This trait will allow me to excel as a truly neutral decision-maker. It means that I will approach all issues open to the arguments of both parties while trying to remain conscious of my own potential biases. It will also assist me in connecting with those who appear in my courtroom, making sure they are heard, and clearly explaining why I have made a particular decision.   

What do you think is the biggest problem facing Bellingham today, and what could you do as a district court judge to positively impact that problem? 

As district court judge the largest problem I’ll be able to impact is something that I think many in our community have noted: the ongoing cycle of lower-level offenses in our community, frequently connected with underlying issues of addiction, undertreated mental illness, and homelessness. As district court judge, there are several ways that I will be able to impact this issue. I intend to create additional therapeutic and community based court options as additional means of addressing the underlying issues that so frequently drive cycles of criminal behavior. Improving our therapeutic options improves the chances the court will be able to help defendants get back on track. I also intend to make sure that cases are handled in a more timely fashion. When cases are delayed excessively, it can prevent the court from addressing these issues in a meaningful way. 

If you had to describe yourself with one word, would it be closer to “hardnosed” or “compassionate”? 

I believe that the best way of delivering justice is through a lens of compassion. One of the reasons I got into criminal law is that I care deeply about what happens to other people. In my work, both as a prosecutor and a defense attorney, I have always remained cognizant of the external forces and differing lived experiences that may have contributed to someone’s presence in court, as well the real-world consequences that even minor legal issues can have on a person’s life. As judge, I will approach the courtroom in the same way. This does not mean failing to set boundaries or hold people accountable; it means recognizing that the court cannot operate in a vacuum. It must consider what is appropriate considering these human elements. To do otherwise would be an injustice.

Is this District Court position a stepping stone for you to become a Superior Court Judge or to seek appointment to another judgeship? 

I’m running for District Court Judge because I want to serve you as District Court Judge, not as a means to any other end. I believe the District Court, because of its greater focus on therapeutic solutions, has a very specific role to play in our local justice system. My experience has given me an appreciation of the District Court and its ability to impact people’s lives. I am running for this position because I have seen the District Court’s potential from both sides of the courtroom. From the bench, I will work to make District Court a positive force in our Whatcom County community. 

Jonathan Rands talks with his arms crossed on the table.
Jonathan Rands will be Whatcom County’s new district court judge following a tight race against Gordon Jenkins. Rands earned 36,030 votes (62.25%), according to preliminary election results. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)

Jonathan Rands

  • Age: 48
  • Residence: Bellingham
  • Occupation: Private law practice
  • Experience: Extensive trial experience; judge pro tem

Why do you want to be a judge? 

For the past 20 years, I have represented a great variety of people in Whatcom County District Court and similar courts in our neighboring counties. I have also served as a judge pro tem (a substitute judge for judges who take vacation, sick time, or are otherwise absent form work) for the past four years. In my two decades of work in this court, I have acquired a great deal of experience in all the subject matters that come before this court. I believe I have also gained respect from judges and lawyers for my courtroom skills, but more importantly, I have gained a deep understanding of the everyday life challenges that many of our neighbors, friends, and even family, face in their daily lives. District Court is not just a criminal court; it also provides access to justice for everyday people in a variety of civil matters. While I have helped thousands of people through some of the most difficult times in their lives, I have come to believe that the knowledge and experience I have gained over these 20 years could be used on a broader scale if I were to serve our county as a judge in this court I know so well. Experience, integrity, and a commitment to the rule of law — the genesis of all rights for every person — are important qualities for a judge at this level, and I believe I am uniquely suited to be the kind of judge our citizens deserve. 

What is a single trait you possess that would make you a good judge? 

Judicial demeanor. A calm judicial demeanor allows participants in the legal process to feel that their position is being heard and considered, and that a reasoned decision will result. But a calm manner, without emotion, can be harder to accomplish than it may seem. Often litigants expect a judge to show compassion and sympathy for their situation, and sometimes attorneys, even very good attorneys, engage in highly charged arguments in court. But annoyance and anger are luxuries judges can never afford to show. Judges often have to look past the conduct of the participants in order to rule correctly and in doing so achieve the ultimate goal — justice. Many of the more than 40 judges who have endorsed me in this election have told me that my calm demeanor, both on and off the bench, and especially when “no one is looking,” is one of the qualities that would make me a good judge. See Testimonials on my campaign website: randsforjudge.org/testimonials

What do you think is the biggest problem facing Bellingham today, and what could you do as a district court judge to positively impact that problem?  

Many people are understandably disturbed by what appears to be an increase in low-level nonviolent crime in Bellingham and other communities — often involving repeat offenders who struggle with the overlapping challenges of homelessness, untreated mental health issues, addiction, and education and employment deficiencies. One of the major parts of my campaign platform is my intent to develop a Community Court in Whatcom County. This is a special court where adults repeatedly charged with nonviolent crimes would be referred to and connected with community resources appropriate to their needs immediately upon their first court appearance. The intent is not to develop a centralized housing situation, which sometimes can be fraught with problems, but to develop a system which will create established relationships with service providers quickly to ensure that the “revolving door” stops spinning, and these folks can exit the criminal justice system permanently. The Resource Center I intend to develop for these purposes would include existing organizations that provide help with housing, addiction, mental health, education, apprenticeships, etc., and it would be available to the community at large — not just those involved with the courts.    

If you had to describe yourself with one word, would it be closer to “hardnosed” or “compassionate?” 

This would be a clear “Hobson’s choice” for a judge, and the question assumes that it is not possible for both approaches to justice to coexist. I believe it is possible. My approach to the cases that have come before me as a judge pro tem over the past four years has been to carefully balance a need for accountability with constructive compassion to empower the individual before me to take control of their life and move it in a more positive and healthy direction. But I also believe that it is the role of a judge to be precisely clear with those who appear before him or her about what consequences will follow if there is a lack of compliance with the law and the conditions set out by the court. 

Is this District Court position a stepping stone for you to become a Superior Court Judge, or to seek appointment to another judgeship?  

Absolutely not. My 20 years of experience has not only prepared me to serve our county as a District Court judge, it has given me an important understanding of the role that the District Court can play in improving the lives of ordinary citizens who appear there. Most who are navigating the criminal justice system for the first time in their lives have simply made some poor decisions — or perhaps a series of clearly bad decisions — or been subjected to unspeakable trauma, and the role of the District Court judge is to guide them toward a better life path. The judicial role in the Superior Court often does not allow for this kind of positive relationship with those who appear there, and judges are more constrained in the decisions they can make. My 20 years of experience in the District Court where I have been dedicated to serving people from all walks of life — not the government or a corporation — make me the candidate with the deepest understanding of the people who come before this court. I hope to be elected to a long career on the Whatcom County District Court bench. A position on the Superior Court has never been on my radar.

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