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

Washington State Representative Mark Harmsworth. (Matt Pitman)

Two-term Republican Representative Mark Harmsworth was surprised when initial primary results came in and had him about 10 points down to his Democratic challenger, Jared Mead.

Harmsworth closed the gap to down around 7 points when all the votes were in, and has been fighting back to hold his seat.

Jared Mead has been on the Mill Creek City Council for about a year, and would be the youngest member in the Legislature should he win at 27 years old.

And though he admits he did a bit better in the primary than he expected, he felt he could win since the start and is confident heading into the election that he can flip the seat — which could turn the entire district blue if the other two Democrats in the district hold their seats.

Transportation and tolling

A top priority in the 44th district, which includes Lake Stevens, Snohomish, Mill Creek, and parts of Marysville, is transportation, with the focus on the possibility of tolls on the Highway 2 trestle, which Harmsworth has made fighting against his central campaign message.

But Mead insists the looming threat of tolling the trestle is a scare tactic Harmsworth is using by cherry picking from a 2018 WSDOT study.

“Intentionally, it turns out, because now he’s got stickers all over his signs that say #NoTrestleToll and he’s got ads in the newspaper and he’s got a big following on Facebook and he gets to campaign #NoTrestleToll — a lie he made up,” Mead contends. “None of the people that are making these decisions are talking about tolls on the trestle – he’s talking about tolls on the trestle. The only person I hear talking about is the constituents he scared, and him.”

But Harmsworth says tolling the trestle is absolutely a real threat.

“State Senator Steve Hobbs has already admitted that he’s looking at potentially up to two lanes in each direction for tolling. So for my opponent to say that it’s all made up … it’s pretty disingenuous,” Harmsworth countered. “I mean there’s physical evidence this is going to happen.”

Harmsworth paints his challenger a toll supporter, but Mead says that is misleading.

“I would never be in favor of tolling even any of the current lanes we have,” Mead asserted.

“Now, in the future when they add lanes that was what was in the study, was potentially tolling any new lanes added to the trestle, that’s not necessarily something I’m in favor of, but it’s also not something I would hashtag and absolutely say no to and blow it up before we’ve even sat at the table with the leaders from the region to discuss what our options are. That’s the big difference between Mark and I,” Mead added.

Harmsworth says in addition to fighting against any tolling for the trestle replacement, he will also continue his fight against the I-405 tolls if he’s re-elected.

Harmsworth will continue his push to reduce the big increase in car tabs that came with ST3, largely because of an outdated vehicle valuation system Sound Transit uses to calculate them. Harmsworth would also back a do-over on ST3.

“I want to see Sound Transit come back and explain what they’re doing to the Legislature,” Harmsworth said. “I believe that if you put Sound Transit 3 on the ballot today, it would not pass.”

Mead agrees that it’s unlikely ST3 would pass now and believes Sound Transit duped voters. He supports looking in to some type of car tab relief, but also wants to see the project make it to his district. So he’s not sure how to get that car tab relief yet.

Both candidates want to see the Sound Transit Board elected rather than appointed.

As for easing congestion, Harwsorth says autonomous vehicle carpools are going to be the better option than trains in the long run.

Education

On education, Mead wants to help fund capital projects to address overcrowded schools by lowering the threshold to pass school construction bonds to a simple majority, of 50-55 percent.

He is also open to some tweaks to the levy cap that came with the McCleary education fix to help districts worried about the impact on their budgets.

Harmsworth is a hard “no” on messing with McCleary in any way.

Both candidates want to get more education money for special needs kids.

Harmsworth says he has a record of working across the aisle and backing constituents over party, like being one of a very few to vote against a bill exempting lawmakers from the public records act, and the bi-partisan bill he co-sponsored to protect biometric data.

But Mead paints his opponent as being out of touch with his constituents and taking a radical-party line, for voting against bills like a conversion therapy ban and Voting Rights Act.

Mead says he is an independent thinker who will do what’s best for his district over his party.

Harmsworth isn’t buying it.

“He’s a fine man but he doesn’t have the experience he needs to really understand the constituents in this district … he’s done what he’s done… he’s just not ready,” Harmsworth said.

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