Two businessmen argue the state legislature isn’t the place for career politicians and that it’s time for new faces in the race against state Rep. Shelley Kloba, D-Kirkland.
Kloba, who is running for a third term as District 1 position 2 representative, touts her experience in elected positions both at the state and local level as a reason she should be re-elected.
“I really think that the vision of Washington that I’ve had, and continued to have, where strong families and strong kids and strong communities thrive continues to be something we need to work on,” Kloba said.
Candidate Jeb Brewer said he’d been happy with his career as a senior project manager for a commercial construction management company before, but the economic impact on small businesses and high unemployment after the COVID-19 outbreak led him to seek a job in Olympia.
“I just kind of got fed up,” said the Snohomish resident.
Brewer also owns a home inspection business and said his background has enhanced his understanding of small and large corporations, which he believes would serve him well as a state representative.
Gary Morgan’s name will also appear on August’s primary ballot, and he also expressed frustration with the actions and inaction of current legislators. His main topics of concern are high taxes, car-tab fees and the state response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The incumbent hasn’t met a tax that she didn’t like,” Morgan said. “She’ll vote for any new tax.”
The three candidates said they supported increased training for police officers in response to widespread protests against police brutality in wake of the murder of George Floyd.
Kloba said she's "pleased we currently have a guardian rather than a warrior mentality" taught at the state's police academy, but there's still a need for "further refinement." This could include more ongoing training on de-escalation, minimizing the use of force and increasing accountability, she said.
Brewer said he doesn’t think officers have all the resources or support that they need.
“Our police officers, in general, are amazing people that are willing to put their lives on the line in an area that’s becoming less and less respected,” he said. “And that’s a problem.” He supported adapting and adjusting training and empowering officers to speak out against their peers who do wrong.
Gary Morgan said he’s a “strong supporter of our police force” in the region and said most people approve of them as well, but added, "additional training is a very good thing."
If re-elected, Kloba hopes to focus on childcare, healthcare, and the needs of children, all of which are issues the pandemic has drawn into focus.
She said the high number of people out of work and thus finding themselves without healthcare during a public health crisis is something that will need to be addressed.
Brewer is also concerned about unemployment. If elected, he’d like to focus on helping both new small businesses become established and existing businesses thrive. One way to do that, he said, would be to create a rebate program that benefits businesses that hire people off of unemployment and start new businesses in “low economic areas.”
“If we can at least help people have better lives, that helps everybody,” Brewer said.
For Morgan, the state’s response to the coronavirus outbreak highlighted something else that he sees as a major issue: the power of the executive branch.
He said too much action, especially in regards to the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, came from Gov. Jay Inslee’s interpretation of available data.
“He alone has been deciding what needs to be done,” Morgan said. “My thought is that we can give him 14 days emergency powers, after that, call legislative branches in.”
Morgan, a Briar resident, owns an accounting and consulting business. He acts as the chief financial officer for some of his clients and negotiates leases and loans.
He has also worked with Catholic Housing Services doing accounting for low-income housing. He said he knows these projects are needed, but there needs to be changes made to the cost structure to make them more affordable, including streamlining the permitting process and lowering fees.
A major focus for Brewer is homelessness, which he sees as a “symptom” of the lack of services for mental health and drug dependency. He said more preventative services need to be readily available.
“We’re kind of looking the other way as a government,” Brewer said. “These people are in pain. That’s not good for anybody.”
Last session, Kloba served as vice-chair for the House Innovation, Technology and Economic Development Committee, and data privacy continues to be a priority of hers. She has supported bills that establish the rights of consumers to their data and hopes to better regulate the data industry.
“We live in an economy now, where oftentimes instead of purchasing an app, it’s free, but what we’re really doing is using our data to pay for things,” Kloba said.
She’s also hoping to focus on expanding broadband access across the state to ensure people are connected to reliable internet. This would, in turn, create more educational, businesses and health-related opportunities with telemedicine, she said.
Last session, she co-sponsored a bill to establish a state broadband office “to encourage, foster, develop, and improve affordable, quality broadband,” according to the bill digest. The Senate companion bill passed and was signed by the governor in May 2019.
Brewer doesn't think the current legislature runs its programs efficiently enough and believes his business background will provide him the relevant insight to better streamline processes.
“I think the spending isn’t controlled,” Brewer said. “We’re spending people’s money, and billions of it, and there’s not that mindset of ‘we can do this better,’” he later added.
Brewer said he hopes to bring people together to address these issues.
Morgan said his experience in negotiating allows him to “see both sides.”
“Right now, we basically have one group dictating to the other group,” he said.
He and Brewer agree that the state legislature was meant for people who have had other careers outside of politics to come in and contribute. If elected, Morgan said he would serve two terms, at most.
“We’ve got to get the career politicians out of the legislative branch,” he said.
Kloba said her experience in a variety of elected positions, both in government and through nonprofits, makes her well-equipped for the position. She has served on the Kirkland Park Board, Washington State PTA as legislative director and Kirkland City Council. She was first elected as a state representative in 2016.
The primary will be held Aug. 4. District 1 includes areas just north and west of Woodinville.