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Three candidates for District 39 Senate will be on August primary ballot

Two Democrats are challenging Republican incumbent Sen. Keith Wagoner

By Annie Todd Criminal Justice/Enterprise Reporter

This election reporting is provided free to all readers as a public service by your locally owned Cascadia Daily News. Thanks for supporting truly local news by donating to CDN or subscribing here.

Voters across portions of Skagit County and Snohomish County will have three options for District 39 Senate when they cast their ballots in the Aug. 6 primary election. Two candidates will move on to the November general election.

Likely to advance will be incumbent Sen. Keith Wagoner, R-Sedro-Woolley, who has served in the Washington state Senate since his appointment in 2018. Since then, the man raised in the woods near Alger has climbed the Republican ranks to become No. 4 in the Senate. In the last two elections for his seat, Wagoner has walloped his competition.

His challengers include two Democrat newcomers — Tim McDonald, a former Arlington School Board member, and John Snow, an Arlington Navy veteran who hopes sharing a name with a “Game of Thrones” hero helps with name recognition. 

All three list the state’s affordability crisis as an issue, but have different thoughts on solutions. Wagoner wants to continue to push for law enforcement support since he has a front-row seat, serving on the law and justice committee, while McDonald wants to tackle public lands access and Snow wants to address items that “minimize misery.”

A bald man with glasses in a suit and tie.
Sen. Keith Wagoner is running for re-election in District 39. (Photo courtesy of Keith Wagoner)

For Wagoner, 63, he pointed to the state’s Climate Commitment Act, which has likely driven gas prices up, as reason why families are having to make difficult choices at the gas pump and checkout counter.

“I paid $4.99 for a dozen eggs the other day,” he said. “That is not a good place for people who aren’t doing well in the economy right now to have to make a decision: Do I fill the tank with gasoline or do I feed my kids properly?”

Snow, 32, who grew up in Alabama and finished his Navy career in Everett before being medically retired, believes restructuring taxes could help families being squeezed by the cost of living and work toward reducing what his campaign has described as “misery.” 

“If we can restructure taxes, that will help get more people a little more money in their pocket, help people pay the rent, all that stuff,” he said.

A man with a beard and glasses in a suit and tie.
John Snow is running for District 39 Senate. (Photo courtesy of John Snow)

Snow views District 39 — a typically Republican district even with redistricting in 2020 that brought Lake Stevens into the picture — as a lavender hue with a mix of Republicans and Democrats. He believes he has a chance to appeal to moderate Republicans.

“As long as we can have a conversation … most people want the same thing,” he said. “I want people to know I genuinely care about them.”

As for McDonald, 79, a tree farmer outside of Arlington, his main campaign focus is access to public lands and the environment. 

“In Seattle, Lake Washington is not an accessible lake,” he said. “That’s not helping the quality of life. If you’re going to live in an urban area, parks and waterfront should be a given and they should be walking accessible.”

If sent to Olympia, he also wants to see civility between Democrats and Republicans and better communication. 

A man in a suit and tie in front of a wood background.
Tim McDonald is running for District 39 Senate. (Photo courtesy of Tim McDonald)

McDonald perhaps has the toughest uphill climb for votes. Wagoner can use name recognition and his legislative track record. Snow has an online campaign presence, is hand-writing campaign mailers and is out visiting portions of the district, including a campaign kick-off in Lake Stevens with a Spanish-language translator. 

But McDonald isn’t worried about not having a sophisticated website. He’s already driven the perimeter of the 39th District, which includes metro areas like Lake Stevens and rural areas like Concrete. 

“You win elections three ways: doorbelling, doorbelling and doorbelling,” he said.  

Wagoner has nabbed the endorsement of the Skagit County Republican Party. Snow has endorsements from the 39th Legislative District Democrats, the Snohomish County Democrats, the Skagit County Democrats and the Aerospace Machinists Union. McDonald has not received any endorsements.

Annie Todd is CDN’s criminal justice/enterprise reporter; reach her at; 360-922-3090 ext. 130.

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