Washington state Sen. Sharon Brown is emphasizing her concern for the community’s most vulnerable people as she faces civic activist Leo Perales on Election Day.
Brown, a Kennewick Republican, says since she joined the Senate in 2013, she’s fought against wasteful spending, out-of-control budgets and burdensome regulations on small businesses.
As her clout has increased — she’s the Senate’s deputy Republican leader — she’s counted on the respect of her fellow lawmakers to help protect the state’s most vulnerable residents, she said.
She’s worked on suicide prevention and other mental health issues, support for the developmentally disabled, anti-human trafficking and expanding Meals on Wheels service for seniors, she said at a recent League of Women Voter’s forum in Richland.
Brown is a business attorney who served on the Kennewick City Council before replacing Jerome Delvin in the Senate when he became a county commissioner. She won her first four-year Senate term in 2014.
Her challenger, Leo Perales, a Kennewick Democrat and site inspector for an engineering company, said before the primary election that he thought Brown was too focused on business and economic development at the expense of working class people.
“We can’t get issues resolved when we play the same old politics with the same old players and hope to achieve a different result,” he said at the League of Women Voter’s forum.
He would fight for universal health care, affordable higher education, an economy built from the middle class out, workers rights and making sure that large corporations play by the same rules as everyone else, he said.
He has held leadership positions with the Kennewick Housing Authority and Benton County Planning Commission and has used his college degree in criminal justice to work with agencies addressing juvenile justice issues, including ethnic disparity and truancy.
He ran unsuccessfully for Kennewick City Council after trying to get the council to pass an inclusiveness statement in the wake of controversial social media posts by a former councilman.
Perales said at the forum that the state needs to overhaul its state tax structure, in response to a question at the forum citing the state’s regressive tax structure.
He would favor starting to look into becoming an income tax state, but opposes a head tax. He also would look at a capital gains tax and reform the business and occupation tax, perhaps looking at a corporate tax.
Brown “hands out tax exemptions like candy,” he said.
Brown said it would be nice for the Tri-Cities if she had that ability, but she has to work within the parameters of her fellow legislators. Too often the West side is the winner and the East side is the loser, she said.
Brown said that now is not the time to talk about additional taxes, given the state’s revenue growth. She opposes an income tax and also a capital gains tax, saying capital gains are cyclical and cannot be counted on for a balanced budget.
On the matter of teacher’s salaries, Brown said she sympathizes with teachers after watching her two sisters who are teachers use their own money to buy supplies.
But this year, teachers in the state will start at almost $50,000 a year, which is a living wage, she said.
The 2018 Legislature revamped the way K-12 education is funding in Washington to comply with the state Supreme Court’s 2012 McCleary ruling. It added $1 billion in new funding, much of it focused on teacher salaries.
Perales said that there may be issues with some districts retaining teachers, based on the way the funding change affects individual districts.
He expects the funding plan to require modification to address several issues.
In the primary, Brown took 61 percent of the vote with Perales receiving 34 percent. A libertarian candidate won 5 percent of the vote, failing to make it to the November election.
Brown has raised $143,478, while Perales has reported raising less than $5,000 to the state Public Disclosure Commission, which means he doesn’t have to name his donors.
Brown’s largest donor was the Washington State Dental Political Action Committee, which contributed $2,500. Other donations of at least $2,000 came from transportation, banking, agriculture, energy and other companies, associations and PACs.
Ballots must be returned or postmarked by Nov. 6 to be counted. Postage is prepaid.