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Published on Monday, May 23, 2016

Questions about cities posed to all legislative candidates

As AWC did two years ago during elections for the State Legislature, we’re asking each of the 301 candidates who have filed to run for the Legislature to answer five key questions about keeping cities strong. The filing deadline for 98 House and 24 Senate seats closed at 5 pm on May 20, and on May 23, we are emailing each candidate a brief survey that we hope they respond to. We are also sending a mailed copy, and we’ve asked for responses back by June 10. As responses come in, we’ll post them on our website.

We’ve asked about their views on (1) state-shared revenues; (2) basic infrastructure funding; (3) homelessness, affordable housing and mental health services; (4) public records; and (5) local control. Our goals for this survey are to help educate candidates on our key issues and to provide city officials with questions to pose to candidates in advance of the August primary and November general election.

When we did a similar survey two years ago, we had a 45 percent return rate and received responses from 25 percent of those who won their elections. One lesson learned is that incumbents are less likely to respond to the survey in writing but will often respond when asked the questions directly by one or more city officials. If you don’t see your candidates’ responses online, go ask them and have a conversation about what is important to each of you.

Take a look at the survey here and we’ll keep you posted on responses during our mid-week CityVoice newsletter. You can also check our website as we post responses by legislative district.

An early glimpse at the races

There is a battle shaping up for control of both the House and Senate. Currently, there are 50 Democrats and 48 Republicans in the House, and 25 Republicans and 24 Democrats in the Senate, although one Democrat caucuses and votes with the Republicans. Conventional wisdom in an unconventional election year assumes the House will stay in the hands of the Democrats and the Senate in the hands of the Republicans.

There are several so-called battleground legislative districts where either party in either chamber could pick up or lose seats. Of the 98 House seats, 14 are open because incumbents aren’t running. A few of these have “flip” potential as do a small handful of races with incumbents. In the Senate, six of the 24 seats in contention don’t have incumbents. Most, if not all, are expected to be filled by House members running to fill an empty seat. A handful of Senate races with incumbents are also competitive.

What is at stake for cities?

This election cycle also includes numerous statewide offices. As for what happens in Olympia, Key among them is the Governor’s race. Again, conventional wisdom in an unconventional year assumes Governor Inslee will be elected for a second term.

Whoever ends up filling the Capitol in January 2017 will have their hands full. It’ll be at least a 105-day session during which they’ll debate hundreds of bills and must adopt a two-year operating and capital budget. Dominating the session will be how to fully fund K-12 education and where to find the money to do that. With estimates of needing $3 billion or so more than they have now in order to accomplish full funding, we’ll likely find cities defending critical fiscal resources and asking for financial support for key investments at a time when legislators and the Governor will be looking under every rock for funds to meet their priorities.

So once again, it’s important that city officials and community members who value what cities do to engage in a constructive dialogue with every serious legislative candidate seeking to represent your interests. The best time to do that begins now.