A Mount Vernon resident running for state representative of district 10 said education, public safety and transportation are his top priorities.
Scott McMullen, a firefighter and former Mount Vernon City Council member, is running as a Democrat against incumbent Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton.
“Education is huge for me,” McMullen said. “I believe that education is fundamental to the success of our communities.”
He said more investments need to be made in the quality of kindergarten through college education in the state. The Legislature recently passed an education spending bill in response to the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision, which found the Legislature was not fulfilling its obligation to fully fund education.
Smith was a member of the McCleary task force for two years and said she was in favor of the “historic” funding it provided. She said she will continue to meet with educators in the district to take input on the legislation.
“Over half our budget is going toward education,” she said. “It’s hugely significant … perhaps he’s not aware of the bipartisan work that was undertaken and completed to then move what is without a doubt the largest investment in education made in more than three decades.”
McMullen spent 26 years in the Air Force and a particular focus of his is creating opportunities for apprenticeship programs for veterans returning to the civilian workforce. He also identified school safety and public safety in general as topics he’d want to look into if he’s elected. He said he wanted to work with “all stakeholders” involved in the issue to provide solutions.
He said more support for first responders, especially in regards to training for natural disasters and equipment, is needed in the state.
“I’ve seen firsthand the difference training, personnel and equipment makes,” he said.
Smith said she has always been in favor of “solid public safety policy,” for first responders and increasing public awareness of the challenges and dangers they face.
McMullen stressed the importance of investing in transportation projects and ensuring they are fully funded. He emphasized the positive impact of moving of goods within the state and the projects providing living wage jobs. He did not identify specific projects he wanted to fund at the time of the interview.
Smith said her transportation focus has been, and will continue to be, the ferry system. She expressed concern over a recent workshop given by Washington State Ferries in which the projected growth in ridership for the Mukilteo-Clinton route was the lowest for all routes in the system. She said she plans to continue to work with the agency to make sure the local route’s needs are met.
“Certainly the ferries that serve Whidbey serve not only the residents here, but we serve the world,” she said. “Tourism is a critical component to the economy of the 10th district.”
Both candidates emphasized environmental stewardship as major priorities as well. McMullen specifically pointed to protecting native fisheries in the region and using the Growth Management Act to protect farmland and encourage “smart growth.” To achieve this, he said more effort should be placed in partnerships between public and private entities as well as with state and local governments.
Smith helped establish the Joint Center for Deployment and Research in Earth Abundant Materials, which aims to create sustainable manufacturing materials that are acquired in humane conditions. She said current materials often used in technology are not only rare and difficult to obtain, but in many cases are mined in other countries under poor conditions.
“It is not right, nor is it good policy,” she said.
She also introduced a bill to create a solar panel take-back program because the materials for the equipment can be difficult to recycle, she said. She said her focus revolves around “product stewardship … so that we don’t leave another generation the consequences of our consumption today.”
Smith said she’s running for reelection to continue to build on the work she’s started, particularly regarding efforts related to net neutrality and internet data protection as well as providing a safety net for mental and behavioral health care.
McMullen said he decided to run because of his passion for the issues and his belief his background has prepared him for the task.
“I think my being able to work with different governments on my time on the city council and my military time prepares me to take on the challenges that we have here in the state of Washington,” he said.