Everyone says roughly 60 languages are spoken in southeast Seattle's 37th Legislative District. But only two voices will prevail after the primary election on August 5.
Six candidates want to replace retiring state Sen. Adam Kline, who has represented the heavily Democratic area for 17 years. The liberal, blue-collarish 37th curls around southwestern Lake Washington from the Seattle University area and Madison Street all the way down to Renton, and it's one of the most multi-cultural parts of Washington.
Rowland Martin is the token Republican in the race, hoping to break a Democratic stranglehold on the district. Activists Pramila Jayapal and Sheley Secrest, teachers John Stafford and Louis Watanabe and retired state employee Claude Burfect are running as Democrats. In the state's top-two primary system, the two candidates with the most votes, regardless of party, will advance to the general election in November.
Whoever wins in November will likely face a deadlock between Democrats and Republicans on how to deal with a 2012 Washington Supreme Court decision — the McCleary ruling — to improve the student-teacher ratios in grades K-3 and make some additional school upgrades. The GOP is against increasing taxes and closing tax breaks to tackle those requirements, while the Democrats want more revenue for schools. The 2015 legislative session also faces a long-running deadlock over proposals for a $10 billion to $12 billion transportation package, which is almost guaranteed to include a gas tax increase of 10 to 12 cents a gallon. The current state gas tax is 37.5 cents a gallon.
Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to give legislators a proposal to deal with global warming and ocean acidification in 2015. The most likely measure will put limits on carbon emissions in the state, and possibly install a cap-and-trade system. Under a cap-and-trade system, Washington would have an overall annual limit on its carbon dioxide emissions. Limits would be set for specific geographic areas. Firms would obtain rights for specific amounts of emissions in those areas and could trade their rights.
If races could be handicapped by donations, Jayapal is a strong first with Watanabe a distant second. But Watanabe has more than double of the remaining four candidate combined. Almost all of the 37th District donations are from private individuals, with Jayapal collecting a handful of union donors. Reports filed through early last week show Jayapal has collected $145,445 to Watanabe's $45,082. Stafford is in third with $13,032, while Secrest is fourth with $8,167. As of July 8, Martin and Burfect have not reported any donations.
Here is a rundown of the six candidates
Pramila Jayapal: Jayapal, 48, has spent at least 20 years trying to get elected officials to do things, and decided that she now wants to be one of those elected officials. The India native moved alone to the United States at the age of 16 to go to school. She earned an English literature degree with a minor in economics at Georgetown University, and worked on leveraged buyouts on Wall Street. She then earned an MBA at Northwestern University.
"It was terrific experience. I'm very comfortable with financial spreadsheets and numbers. I also learned what I didn't want to do. ... I didn't want to go home at night thinking I wasn't making a difference," Jayapal said.
She got into tackling social justice issues through economic development. In 1992, Jayapal moved to Seattle and, after the the 2001 terrorist attacks, she founded the immigrant advocacy organization now known as OneAmerica. She was OneAmerica's CEO for almost 11 years. She currently works for the Center for Community Change, which aims to help low-income improve their communities and create more supportive public policies.
On the McCleary education decision, she supports fully funding the Supreme Court's requirements without cutting into other programs, meaning new revenue would have to be found. She wants to eventually revive a proposal for a state income tax, acknowledging such a move would take years to have a chance. She wants to eliminate some of the smaller taxes and replace them with an income tax to ensure a more stable revenue source. And she wants to examine how much poor people and the very wealthy pay in taxes, and use that information to modify Washington's system. She advocates an incremental approach to this.
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