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Monday, September 28, 2020

Candidates answer tough questions at Western’s State Representative Candidate Forum

Pinky Vargas – D, speaks about the need for gun reform at the candidate forum. Vargas is running for a spot on the State Senate, representing the 42nd District. // Photo by Jaden Moon

By Cody Clark

A local candidate forum on Thursday, Oct. 25 gave students the opportunity to ask candidates questions before the upcoming local election. All candidates for the 40th and 42nd legislative districts were invited to attend. Western is located in district 40.

 

Candidates addressed questions of affordable housing, tax reform for education costs and more.

 

Candidate information and responses to chosen questions are listed below.

 

Q: Here in Bellingham we have seen a growing homeless population. Proposition 5 is a low income housing levy. In addition to the homeless population, we also have a lot of students experiencing homelessness. Speak to your position on Proposition 5 and speak more broadly to address rising rent prices and low vacancy rates that are impacting students and contributing to the homelessness crisis.

 

Pinky Vargas (D)

State Senator District 42

This second-term City Council member is a Democrat who is running on a platform of renewable energy, health care reform, public education and women’s issues in Whatcom County.

Vargas: “I absolutely support this. Since I moved to Whatcom County, it has become less affordable for most people. Working on City Council I’ve seen it happen. Eleanor Place that houses low-income seniors, the Kulshan Community Land Trust and temporary housing for people living on the street. That housing fund goes a long way in helping people.”

 

Sharon Shewmake (D)

State Representative District 42 Position 2

An economics professor at Western, Shewmake is running on a platform of affordable housing, environmental reform and early childhood education.

Shewmake: “For every 10 new households in the region, we’ve only built seven new homes. In Whatcom County, we haven’t been building enough homes. I hope that you support the housing trust fund, I hope that you will vote for the Bellingham Home Fund, and I would like to fight for more affordable housing here and in all of Washington.”

 

Debra Lekanoff (D)

State Representative District 40 Position 1

Lekanoff has two decades of experience as a public servant and is advocating for environmental issues, affordable housing and healthcare.

Lekanoff: “I support the housing proposition. I worked in government service for 20 years and we built single-family apartments for young people who were coming home and getting ready to work. We need better management and better ideas to address local needs and that is what I will bring to Olympia.”

 

Justin Boneau (D)

State Representative District 42 Position 2

Boneau is a Navy veteran running on a platform of affordable healthcare and affordable housing.

Boneau “I am in support of the Bellingham Home Fund. I think we should also lift the ban on rent controls at the state level and let municipalities decide rent control rules as they see fit.”

 

Michael Petrish (R)

State Representative 40th District Position 1

Petrish is an Anacortes oil refinery worker and advocates for lower taxes, protecting private property and private sector unions.

Petrish: “We need to find the funding for people who can’t help themselves. It is not the government’s responsibility to provide housing. Through public and private partnerships, we can create the opportunities to make it easier on low-income people. Above all else, it’s about growing the economy to provide jobs to provide the income that allows people to afford a home.”

 

Q: This is regarding the State Need Grant that helps the state’s lowest income undergraduate students find jobs or retrain for new careers. Last year, 3,680 Western students qualified for the State Need Grant. Of those students, 1,389 did not receive their award due to lack of funding on the state level. Do you support fully funding the state need grant and making it an entitlement program?

 

Michael Petrish (R)

State Representative 40th District Position 1

Petrish: “I’d like to do some research before I answer ‘yea’ or ‘nay.’ But there are opportunities in the construction industry for anyone male or female. Saying you have to go college to be successful is wrong. Whatever you want to do is out there, but you have to work hard and be disciplined. In the trades we do that every day.”

 

Debra Lekanoff (D)

State Representative District 40 Position 1

Lekanoff: “To those 1,000 students I’d like to say, ‘I’m sorry.’ Let’s make the entitlement program work. We’re accountable to our students. I’m still paying my student loans today, and my education is something I get to own and say is mine. I’m the first person in my family to go to college. I’m committed to supporting the State Needs program. I’m committed to all of you to help you get an education.”

 

Pinky Vargas (D)

State Senator District 42

Vargas: “I think everyone should go to college or trade school if they want to. Education should be affordable for everybody. We have a better quality of life if we make technical and trade schools more affordable, and it saves us a lot of money on the far end. If you want to, everyone should have an opportunity to go to school.”

 

Sharon Shewmake (D)

State Representative District 42 Position 2

Shewmake: “We should fully support the State Need Grant. I support making it an entitlement program. I see students working three jobs to support themselves. It shouldn’t be whether or not your parents give you money that determines your GPA. Preschool is the most effective way to fight poverty. I’d like to follow the Tennessee Promise program, that provides the first two years of technical college or trade school free. It takes students and makes them believe they are college material.”

 

Justin Boneau (D)

State Representative District 42 Position 2

Boneau: “I am fully in support of State Needs Grant. I went to school on the Montgomery GI Bill. I got $35,000 to finance my education, and that did not pay for all of it. I have not made a dent in my debt because I’m a public employee. I got a trade as well, I was trained to be a mechanic. I don’t think you need to be sent to two wars to be competitive in this new economy.”

 

Q: What will you do to work with people on the other end of political spectrum?

 

Pinky Vargas (D)

State Senator District 42

Vargas: “City Council is not [Democrat] and [Republican]. I’ve worked with people for many years regardless of what their platform is. If we all take a breath and realize what we have in common we can move forward. I want to work on economic development and work with farmers on environmental issues.”

 

Debra Lekanoff (D)

State Representative District 40 Position 1

Lekanoff: “My wingspan is wide. It comes from education, housing, medicare, infrastructure. To do that, we need to have everybody at the table. In the past 12 years, we’ve passed exciting initiatives like renaming the Salish Sea, such as the Atlantic salmon, such as addressing water quality standards. It’s about asking ‘How are we going to do this well, and how are we going to do this together?’”

 

Michael Petrish (R)

State Representative 40th District Position 1

Petrish: “I worked with a lot of [non-government organizations] and government agencies. President Clinton sent troops to Yugoslavia and we had to make that agreement work on the ground.”

 

Justin Boneau (D)

State Representative District 42 Position 2

Boneau: “I understand the need for bipartisanship, however I know where my convictions are. I will not sell out working class folks because I am working class. I intend to take a firm position that will materially benefit working class people and I will try not to budge from that. I understand the need for bipartisanship, but I also understand the need to take a firm position.”

 

Sharon Shewmake (D)

State Representative District 42 Position 2

Shewmake: “Partisanship drives me crazy. I think we should decide what our values are and be kind to one another. Love is what should guide all of our decisions. I wanna look at evidence of how to achieve our goals and then I want to come up with the policy so we’re not doing it backwards the way that we see.”

 

Another forum with candidates for County Prosecutor, Whatcom County Council, and Public Utility District will be held next Thursday, Nov. 1 at 5 p.m. in Academic West Room 210.

 

The last day to turn in ballots for the Whatcom County election is November 6.

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