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King County’s 5th Legislative District in Dems crosshairs

(MyNorthwest photo)

Democrats see Washington’s 5th Legislative District as ripe for the picking. Democratic Mark Mullett holds the Senate seat with another two years to go, and though both House seats are Republican-held, Hillary Clinton took the district by nearly 20 points in 2016.

The district covers King County’s Eastside communities, such as Issaquah, Snoqualmie, North Bend, and Renton. Democrats are going after both Republican-held House seats aggressively, including Republican Paul Graves’ seat.

Paul Graves vs Lisa Callan

Graves was elected in 2016 and is the top ranking Republican on the House judiciary committee.

His priorities include lowering taxes and keeping government spending in check. Graves tells KTTH’s Jason Rantz he’ll also fight for transportation solutions, but does not think tolling state highways is the right way to go.

“I mean if it’s just an excuse to raise money based on roads that taxpayers have already paid for through the gas tax, I think it’s a bad idea and that’s what the strategy is right now,” Graves said. “There’s not a proposal to try to give drivers relief at the gas pump. Right now, it’s just more of an excuse to try to increase government budgets and I think that’s the wrong way to go.”

Graves wants to see the Legislature readjust priorities and invest in our roads, which he says are getting only about 30 percent of transportation dollars now.

Graves’ Democratic challenger Lisa Callan, a former Boeing engineer and current Issaquah School Board director, is focused on education funding and finding alternatives to high property taxes – including a possible capital gains tax.

“I think you have to look at everything, I really do,” Callan said. “I think what I would like to look at first is making sure that every tax break and tax incentive that’s on the table is really doing what the state had intended it do and it really is serving the public interest and the greater good for our state. I think we will find that some are, and I think we will find that some aren’t.”

To address the homeless crisis, Graves wants more support for programs that help people on the brink of homelessness stay in their homes, and for those who are homeless because of drug use or serious mental illness, he wants to look to models working in other places, such as New York.

“Which combines a really easy entrance point with really high standards for work and for no drug use and things like that,” Graves said. “We should just be doing things that other groups across the country have shown can help address homelessness. At the end of the day we have to actually enforce the law. That’s one of the parts that I think my friends on the left miss so often is when you provide opportunities for people and give people chances, you have to then enforce the law.”

Callan also wants more homeless prevention programs, and would like to focus on more money for enhanced shelters with services for those already on the streets.

“Putting an emphasis on that kind of funding and making sure our Housing Trust Fund is funded, making sure that we’re talking about affordability, communities and cities taking advantage of land use code changes that can really establish a breadth of housing opportunities across all affordable ranges,” Callan said.

Callan says she believes in sensible solutions to gun violence, including many of the provisions in I-1639.

Graves wants to invest more in mental health to address gun violence, including mental health counselors in schools.

Callan’s other priorities in Olympia include working to find transportation and congestion solutions, creating a less-regressive tax system and affordability for the middle class. She was light on specific plans, but vowed to work across the aisle to find those solutions.

Graves says he will push for property tax relief, more education funding for special needs students, and to continue to stand up for open government as he did when he was one of just a handful of lawmakers to vote against the rushed bill exempting lawmakers from the public records act earlier this year.

Democrats are also focusing in on the second House seat in this district, where Democrat Bill Ramos is up against former Republican state Rep. Chad Magendanz for the seat left open by Republican Jay Rodne, one of several Republican lawmakers opting not to run for re-election.

The Democrats in both of these races came out of the primary strong, each leading their Republican opponents by about 8 points.

RELATED: House seat in Snohomish County’s 44th big target for Washington Dems

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