Political eyes across the state are focused on the 10th Legislative District, where a Senate and two House seats are on the ballot. Democratic and Republican organizations have been shoveling money into the swing-district races, which are considered winnable by both sides.
There could be a major shift in a district that was represented in Olympia by three Republicans just four years ago.
Ron Muzzall, R-Oak Harbor, was appointed to fill the remainder of retiring Barbara Bailey’s seat. He will face Helen Price Johnson, a Democratic Island County commissioner and Clinton resident.
Both Muzzall and Price Johnson are Whidbey Island natives.
Muzzall is a fourth-generation farmer on Whidbey Island. He previously served as an elected fire commissioner for North Whidbey Fire and Rescue as well as on boards of Skagit Farmers Supply and the Land O’Lakes Cooperative.
Price Johnson is a third-generation small business owner who was elected to the South Whidbey School Board before being elected as county commissioner. As a commissioner, she also has served in a leadership position with the state Association of Counties.
Muzzall clearly cares deeply about his community and his family. He focuses on dialogue and compromise ahead of dogma and politics. While he’s a fiscal conservative, he says he’s not an anti-tax crusader. He isn’t afraid to disagree with his caucus if he thinks it is wrong. He is one of those rare politicians who says what he thinks in plain and often humorous language — a reporter’s dream.
Price Johnson, however, has much more extensive experience in government and public service. Her main motivation for running for the seat is the lack of forethought she sees in state lawmakers when it comes to how their decisions affect local government. It’s a point of view she can provide.
Price Johnson’s years as a county commissioner were bookmarked by the Great Recession on one end and COVID-19 on the other. These are crucibles that Muzzall has never faced. Her adept handling of the strained budgets and difficult politics of the situations — and her success at ensuring essential services were provided — shows that she has the skills necessary for the challenges in Olympia next year and into the future.
House, position 1
Angie Homola, an Oak Harbor Democrat, is facing Republican Greg Gilday of Camano Island.
Homola, owner of a small architecture business, worked as a plans examiner and building inspector for Island County before being elected as a commissioner for a single term. She previously ran for state Senate and lost.
Gilday is an attorney and real estate broker. He previously served on the boards of Stanwood’s Safe Harbor Free Clinic and the Stanwood Camano Food Bank.
Homola has some valuable local government experience and an unmistakable passion for public service and the environment. She was also a commissioner during the difficult period of the Great Recession and understands budgets.
Unfortunately, her prickly personality affects her ability to communicate effectively. She, for example, refused to answer a reporter’s question about a comment she made in an online forum, claiming it was somehow inappropriate to ask her about a separate interview.
Gilday’s lack of government experience is a concern, but his experience as an attorney is valuable. His job is to communicate effectively, understand complicated laws and make convincing arguments. As a candidate, he is open and honest.
Gilday’s experience in real estate is also valuable since affordable housing has been and will continue to be an important issue.
House, position 2
Rep. Dave Paul, D-Oak Harbor, is the only incumbent in the District 10 races. Bill Bruch, R-La Conner, is challenging him.
Paul has done a good job in his first term in office and deserves a second. He is an administrator at Skagit Valley College and has been a strong advocate for higher education and workforce training. He helped pass legislation for a unique pilot program supporting Running Start.
Bruch, on the other hand, has troubling ideas about COVID-19 that are out of step with reality. He called for an immediate return to in-person learning at schools and said the virus was a “non-issue” for people younger than 20 years old. He said this a week before a Coupeville elementary student tested positive.
Paul is a moderate voice in a moderate district that has largely been responsible when it comes to the pandemic.