By Jeff Johnson
Legislative District 26, which is made up of parts of Pierce and Kitsap Counties, will have attracted a lot of attention and a lot of money this election season. By mid-October over $ 1.6 million had already been spent on this state senate race making it the most expensive in state history.
The newly appointed Democratic Senate incumbent Nathan Schlicher was being challenged by long time politician and Republican House member Jan Angel. This legislative race was as much about the differences between these two individuals as it was about the character of our state senate.
Concerning the differences between the candidates’ this letter from a union leader to rank and file union members in the district says it well:
If you live in the 26th Legislative District, I would like to urge you to consider voting for Senator Nathan Schlicher.
Nathan is tired of partisan gridlock in Olympia and, as our Senator, he refused to accept pay during the “Special Legislative Sessions” this spring because he believed legislators should be penalized for not getting a budget passed on time. Nathan doesn’t believe in politics as usual.
He is a no nonsense kind of guy who gets things done in Olympia. As an emergency room doctor he fought to protect health care coverage for thousands of low income children, seniors and veterans, and he passed health care legislation that saved the state $30 million a year in wasteful spending.
Nathan supports middle class families. That’s why he fought to close tax loopholes that benefit Wall Street banks and big corporations rather than further cut vital services we rely on. He believes that we should be investing in job creation in Washington State.
As a father, Nathan knows that education is the key to our kids’ future. So he supports getting schools the funds they need to reduce class size, ensure that students are reading, writing and doing math at grade level, and that students are prepared for work, apprenticeships, and college.
Nathan’s opponent, Jan Angel, has changed. She is not looking out after middle class families when she opposes raising the minimum wage, opposes collective bargaining, supports reducing pension benefits, and supports eliminating health care benefits for part-time public employees.
We think the choice is clear. Nathan has a track record of supporting middle class families and Jan prefers big corporate interests.
Nathan was appointed to finish out Derek Kilmer’s term after Derek was elected to Congress. As a consequence Nathan had to run in 2013 and if he wins he must run again in 2014. He is an attorney and a working emergency room doctor. In his first legislative session he compiled a 100% voting record on behalf of working families.
His opponent, Jan Angel, is the Washington state co-chair of ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) which is a national Republican organization that provides model legislation to states on right-to-work, privatization, defunding public pensions, voter ID laws, etc. Jan has a lifetime 22% voting record for working families.
The character of our state Senate is also at stake in this election. When Senators Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon joined with Republican senators to create the Majority Coalition Caucus (MCC) they drove politics significantly to the right in the state senate. Rather than “governing from the middle” as was claimed when the MCC was formed, MCC legislation was put forward attacking the injured worker safety net, paid safe and sick leave, family leave insurance, pensions, collective bargaining, etc.
In the 2012 elections we lost a critical senate race in the 17th LD by 74 votes, which allowed Don Benton, the other state co-chair of ALEC, to maintain his seat and created the possibility for the MCC forming. We said then that we could never let this happen again. So we have walked and we have phone banked for Nathan and we did it some more and some more and…..
If Nathan Schlicher wins in the 26th LD, it will not change the numbers in the state senate. The MCC will still will have 25 votes to 24. But the election is the first litmus test for the MCC. Do voters see the MCC as governing from the middle or do they see them as another group of corporate Republicans who have created deep divisions in our legislature and are waging an attack on the poor and working class?
On November 5th the voters will let us know. In the meantime the labor movement will be walking and phone banking for Nathan right up to the very last day for mailing in ballots.
Jeff Johnson is President of the WA State Labor Council, AFL/CIO, the largest labor organization in the state and a PSARA member.