The Suburban Times
Leavitt bill to help struggling families passes state House

On Feb. 25, the state House passed a bill from Rep. Mari Leavitt (D-University Place) to provide food and cash assistance to low-income families and update the standards of need for cash assistance programs, which were last updated three decades ago.

The bill, HB 1151, passed in an 82-16 vote with strong bipartisan support.

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UW Daily
Prison education bill seeks to provide second — and first — chances to Washington’s incarcerated

Washington could soon be introducing new education for incarcerated populations.

House Bill 1044, sponsored by Rep. Mari Leavitt (D-University Place), is the latest in a series of measures seeking to expand education access for imprisoned Washingtonians. “Ninety-five percent of incarcerated folks are released, and it’s critical that they have a skill in order to get back,” Leavitt said. “The data shows that educational programs are one of the proven ways to reduce recidivism rates.”

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The Suburban Times
Representative Mari Leavitt Announces 2021 Legislative Priorities

State Representative Mari Leavitt (D-University Place) announced her legislative priorities on Tuesday after returning to Olympia to approve new rules to allow for a remote session. Her legislative agenda is largely focused on economic recovery, supporting businesses, and providing relief for people most impacted by COVID-19.

“Before COVID-19, I heard from constituents who struggled every day with rising costs and a lack of opportunity to get ahead. Now, with ten months of restrictions and shutdowns, people are feeling the disproportionate impact more than ever. I am committed to dedicating my time this session to removing barriers, boosting support services, and aiding small businesses as we all navigate this pandemic together,” said Leavitt.

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The News Tribune
We endorse: In West Pierce County, T’wina Nobles for Senate, three others for House

Washington political handicappers are being tested in suburban West Pierce County, home to one of 2020’s tightest legislative races. Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-Tacoma, has met his match in T’wina Nobles, a Fircrest Democrat, to retain the 28th District Senate seat he’s held since 2013 and Republicans have locked down for decades. 

Nobles edged O’Ban by 235 votes out of 43,983 cast in the August primary. More than a million dollars have poured into the contest, with Nobles so far outraising O’Ban by nearly $50,000. (Four years ago, O’Ban outraised a different Democratic challenger by more than $160,000.) 

“I have been elected three times because I think voters see that I fit the district well,” O’Ban told us in a joint interview with Nobles.

Yet the 28th is a swing district that lately has swung away from the right. Nobles is a powerful voice for that transformation, speaking up for working families in the era of coronavirus and other hardships. 

We endorse Nobles for a four-year term representing West Tacoma, Lakewood, University Place, Fircrest, DuPont, Steilacoom and local island communities. 

Nobles, 38, is a 15-year resident of the district who came to the area as a JBLM military spouse. Now in her second term on the University Place School Board, she has a clear-eyed view of public education challenges. 

Likewise, her three years as president and CEO of the Tacoma Urban League make her well grounded on business and social service issues, particularly for people of color. 

“I focus on anticipating the needs of our community, especially now during COVID 19,” Nobles said, noting how she’s led Urban League efforts to distribute personal protective equipment, mortgage assistance and student laptops. 

Count her among a new generation of hands-on Black leaders mentored by Tacoma’s Harold Moss, who died Sept. 21. Her abilities have been noted nationally with a rare endorsement from Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

O’Ban, 59, is a capable incumbent whom we’ve endorsed in the past. The constitutional lawyer and Senate GOP caucus insider is a longtime apostle of cheaper car tabs and Sound Transit reform

On mental health and addiction issues, O’Ban has few peers in Olympia. His day job as senior counsel for behavioral health for Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier, which he’s had since 2017, has sharpened that expertise. But we’re concerned those dual roles may entangle his political interests with his professional duties. 

O’Ban is a leader on integrated mental and physical healthcare; we hope he continues that important work in his county job or the nonprofit realm. 

But in our view, Nobles should replace him in the Washington Senate. 

For House Position 1 in the 28th District, Rep. Mari Leavitt, D-University Place, has earned a second term. Leavitt, the 52-year-old owner of a family orthodontics practice, knocked out the Republican incumbent two years ago, and while we didn’t endorse her then, she’s grown into the job nicely. 

Among her achievements are pay raises for National Guard members fighting wildfires and commercial driver licenses waivers for veterans transitioning out of the military. 

Republican challenger Kevin Ballard sits on the DuPont City Council and has admirable service as a former cop and Army helicopter pilot. But he doesn’t present a compelling argument to oust an incumbent who’s doing steady bipartisan work for her district. 

If reelected, Leavitt will supplant her retiring seatmate, Christine Kilduff, as senior House member from the 28th. We think she’s up to the task. 

Voters would do well to entrust Kilduff’s Position 2 seat to fellow Democrat Dan Bronoske. His Republican opponent is former UP City Council member Chris Nye

As we said before the August primary, Bronoske, 40, would give Lakewood a seat in the statehouse for the first time in years. The West Pierce Fire & Rescue engine company captain has an impressive grasp of public policy issues and a master’s degree in public administration.

Across the Narrows Bridge in the 26th Legislative District, the time has come for a clean sweep of incumbents; a pair of Gig Harbor Democrats stand ready with new ideas and energy. 

We’re sticking with our primary election picks of Carrie Hesch over Rep. Jesse Young for Position 1, and Joy Stanford over Rep. Michelle Caldier for Position 2. Both incumbents are completing their third terms. 

Hesch, 48, is a Washington corrections professional with keen insights on how to reform the prison system and prevent marginalized women from becoming repeat offenders. Young tries to sound bipartisan but too often plays to the fringes, such as his unswerving support for right-wing caucus outcast Matt Shea of Spokane. 

Stanford, 56, is a longtime substitute teacher for Peninsula School District. After losing to Caldier in 2018, she’s raised her game and speaks with authority on issues such as institutionalized racism and reopening post-COVID-19 society. Stanford knows first-hand the economic pain caused by the pandemic; she was laid off this summer from her job as outreach specialist for a home-sharing nonprofit. 

Caldier works hard for her constituents, and this was a close call for us. But at a historic moment when the value of Black lives needs reinforcement, Stanford gives the Peninsula a passionate advocate for equitable access and equal justice for all. 


The News Tribune Editorial Board interviewed candidates and did other research before making our picks for the 2020 election. Endorsements are intended to promote civic discourse and encourage voters to dig deeper. Board members who sat in on legislative endorsement sessions include: Stephanie Pedersen, TNT president and publisher; Matt Misterek, editorial page editor; Karen Irwin, editorial writer; Matt Driscoll, local news columnist; and Pamela Transue, community representative and former president of Tacoma Community College.

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The Spokesman-Review
‘There have been new challenges’: Women running for office aim to balance new demands during COVID-19

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced everyone to stay at home in March, former state Rep. Kristine Reeves knew her campaign would change in ways many other candidates’ wouldn’t.

Reeves, who has two young children, now had to balance campaigning for a seat in Congress and figuring out how to home school her children.

“How do you have a kitchen-table classroom, run for Congress full-time and also work through these big feelings of uncertainty with little people?” Reeves, who served as the Spokane County Democratic Party chair during the 2008 primary, remembers thinking.

The pandemic forced all candidates to rethink their campaigns. From changes in fundraising to switching events to Zoom, campaigning in 2020 looks a lot different than past years.

Many female candidates, who already face barriers in campaigning, were hit especially hard. Many with young children had to find time to home school in the midst of a campaign. They also had to find new ways to raise money that didn’t include knocking on doors, a strategy that often helps women in particular.

Women face numerous barriers to get into politics, even without a pandemic, said Cynthia Stavrianos, associate professor of political science and chair of the women’s and gender studies department at Gonzaga University.

Women need a lot more encouragement to run for office, Stavrianos said. She cited research from Jennifer Lawless and Richard Fox, political scientists who have researched and written numerous books about women in politics. Often, women need to be recruited. Men also tend to believe they are more qualified to run than women, leading many women to decide not to run at all, Stavrianos said.

Research from the Center for American Women and Politics shows women often weigh their responsibilities as a care giver heavily when deciding if they should run for office, although perhaps not as much in recent years.

Both men and women faced problems campaigning as the pandemic went into the late spring and summer. But for many women, household responsibilities tend to fall more on them.

“I have an amazing partner, but the burden tends to fall on women,” Reeves said, adding the household burden can be a challenge in politics.

Reeves, who ran for the seat in Congress that represents parts of Pierce and Thurston counties, including Olympia, finished third in the August primary. She said she doesn’t think the pandemic affected how she finished but said the biases toward working moms might have had more of an effect than normal.

For example, Reeves said if her children show up in the background of Zoom calls, she is seen as someone who can’t control her children. If a man’s children show up in Zoom calls, however, he is often seen as a “such a good dad.”

State Rep. Mari Leavitt, D-University Place, said that, while she has an amazing partner, he also works. During the day, she said she has to balance Zoom calls and making sure her children stay focused on school.

It’s a challenge in normal years, she said, but especially during a pandemic when there’s no child care or school for her children during the day.

“Having that team around you is super critical to do well and to maintain sanity,” Leavitt said.

Campaigning is different than any other job, state Rep. Jacquelin Maycumber, R-Republic, said. Everyone with children struggles.

Maycumber said she wants to make it easier for working moms to run for office, sponsoring a bill last session that clarifies how campaign funds can be used for child care expenses.

“I really want to see young people, people with children, have the opportunities to run,” Maycumber said.

Many people in the Legislature are semi-retired and have children in college, state Rep. Sharon Shewmake, D-Whatcom, said. Those people might not have to think as much about balancing work and children.

As a working mom with three school-age children, U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers said life has been different because of COVID-19.

“There have been new challenges that have come from working and teaching my children, all in the same space, and often at the same time,” McMorris Rodgers wrote in an email.

State Rep. My-Linh Thai, who has two college-aged children, said one of the biggest things she has had to deal with is the mental well-being of her family. Her children are struggling with the uncertainty of the school year, and her husband is a physician and has cared for patients with the virus.

Thai said she depends heavily on her campaign staff, who are all women.

“We are incredibly supportive of each other,” she said.

Thai recently announced the state’s votes for president during the Democratic National Convention’s virtual roll call. Thai, a first time legislator, explained how she came to the country as a refugee as 15.

Another challenge women face when running for office is fundraising. While women don’t necessarily raise less money than men, research shows they do face difficulties reaching that equal amount, according to the Center for American Women and Politics. The barrier is even higher for women of color.

Women often receive donations in smaller amounts, so they need higher numbers of small individual contributions to reach the same amount of money as men, according to the center. Large donor networks also help, but they often benefit Democratic women more than Republican women.

Women also rely more on women donors for support. Because women tend to receive more small-dollar fundraising, Stavrianos said raising money might not be as difficult during a pandemic, when large donations might not be as common.

Reeves said she struggled to ask people for donations, especially during an economic recession, but she said she found that her empathy for people’s situations helped. Reeves said she proved that a woman of color with a background in foster care can raise money.

“You can still raise a lot of money when you do it with empathy,” she said.

Women tend to be much more relationship-oriented, Leavitt said, adding she missed campaigning and canvassing in person.

“Having those one-on-ones really help you to learn what issues people care about,” she said.

Despite difficulties in campaigning, Reeves said she hopes the pandemic encourages more women and working moms to run for office. Working moms tend to fight more for accessible and affordable child care, paid family leave and equal pay – issues that Reeves said tend to become politicized.

Before the 2020 election, the Washington Legislature was made up of about 40% women. Women held five of Washington’s 10 congressional seats and both of its Senate seats. Three women currently hold the statewide offices of auditor, commissioner of public lands and secretary of state.

The number of women and people of color has a significant effect on the type of issues discussed in the legislature, Thai said.

“I would venture out and say our state would have been in worse conditions than where we are right now if it wasn’t for a slate of women who serve in the state Legislature,” she said.

Shewmake said it’s hard to know what’s on the other side of the pandemic, but she hopes child care will be discussed more in the Legislature.

Because of the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement, Shewmake said lawmakers will likely be thinking a lot more about equity.

“At the end of the day, if we are really fighting for a future for all of us and an economy that puts people first, we need to elect more working moms and women of color,” Reeves said.

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The News Tribune
Time’s up for students’ pandemic meal money, but most in WA haven’t enrolled

Less than half of eligible students in Washington state have applied for the emergency food funding intended to bolster hunger programs during school closures, and advocates worry that many of the state’s most vulnerable will go hungry. The deadline for the Pandemic EBT program, passed as part of the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act in March, is Sept. 11. Families have until 5 p.m. to submit applications to the state. More than 560,000 Washington K-12 students are eligible because they already qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. The funding equates to $5.70 per school day, or $399 for missed meals from March to June.

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The Suburban Times
Rep. Leavitt Appointed to Serve on NCSL Task Force on Military and Veterans Affairs

University Place – State Representative Mari Leavitt, D-University Place, will join the National Conference of State Legislators’s Task Force on Military and Veterans Affairs. The task force brings together a bipartisan coalition of state legislators from across the country to work on issues affecting military families, communities, and veterans.

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The Suburban Times
UP for Arts donates “Forever Friends” to Curran Apple Orchard!

A stunning horse sculpture is now greeting visitors at the Curran Apple Orchard Park in University Place while providing them with a glimpse of local history. UP for Arts, a nonprofit volunteer arts group, commissioned Artist John Jewell to create the sculpture entitled “Forever Friends,” to celebrate the Curran Apple Orchard’s 25th anniversary as a community park.

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The Suburban Times
Kilduff and Leavitt team up to push for rail safety

A little over two years after a tragic Amtrak accident across I-5 that took three lives in DuPont, State Representatives Mari Leavitt and Christine Kilduff are partnering with US Representative Denny Heck to push for rail safety improvements on Amtrak trains at the state and federal level. US Representative Heck introduced HR 6066, the Passenger Train Safety Act at the federal level on Tuesday, March 3.

The Passenger Train Safety Act ensures that every new passenger train route is equipped with a Positive Train Control (PCT) system which would have prevented the tragic accident in DuPont. It would also require the Federal Railroad Administration and Amtrak to review its safety standards and protocols and to make upgrades where necessary.

Representatives Leavitt and Kilduff have introduced state level legislation to complement the Passenger Train Safety Act and make sure that every level of government is taking all the steps necessary to make rail travel safe.

“Ensuring that all new passenger routes have Positive Train Control guarantees that we will never face a tragedy like the one we faced two years ago,” said Rep. Leavitt. “That is why Rep. Kilduff and I have written to the chair of the United States House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and asked him to schedule HR 6066 for a hearing. Strengthening rail safety should be a priority at all levels of government.”

Rep. Leavitt introduced House Bill 2287 which mandates that the Joint Transportation Committee study the National Transportation Safety Board’s recommendations about the 2017 accident in DuPont, other states’ rail safety best practices, and Washington’s rail safety practices. The Joint Transportation Committee will then issue recommendations for improving rail safety as well as coordination between state agencies, local governments, and the federal government.

“Just as the federal government must act to ensure an accident like this never happens again, we owe it to the people of Washington to take a hard look in the mirror and ensure that we are doing everything in our power to have a safe rail system,” said Rep. Leavitt.

Rep. Kilduff introduced House Bill 2439 which would support the sharing of information between the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission, which partners with the Federal Railroad Administration to conduct rail safety inspections, and other state agencies and local governments. It further enables state agencies and local governments to work hand in hand with the state and federal governments to keep passengers safe.

“Removing barriers to sharing critical rail safety inspection reports and information across government will protect the traveling public and reduce the risk of future derailments,” said Kilduff.

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The Suburban Times
Leavitt Passes Cost of Living Increase for Retirees

At the very end of a long four days of floor debate, Rep. Mari Leavitt, D-University Place, passed her bill to fund cost of living adjustments for retired employees in the PERS 1/TRS 1 system. House Bill 1390 provides a one-time 3 percent increase to the retirement benefits of former teachers, corrections officers, social workers, and other state retirees.

“It is time Washington state treats its retirees fairly and equitably,” said Leavitt. “These retirees have seen an increase in their monthly costs, from prescription drug costs to the cost of living in our region. Many of those former state workers live in Pierce County and have seen their purchasing power decline significantly. These people played by the rules and worked hard, and this bill is needed to help them pay for their medication and other costs.”

The bill passed the House unanimously and is sent to the Senate for its consideration.

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