Senator Debbie Regala is stepping down from her position in the 27th District. John R. (Jack) Connelly, an attorney with his own law firm, is running for the seat. The other candidate is State Representative Jeannie Darneille, who has represented this district since 2001. Both are Democrats.
Q) Why did you decide to run for this position?
CONNELLY: I am running to serve. It is so important to remember that this election is not about Jack Connelly, it is about the people of this district, and it is about representation in the Legislature. We need change. Our legislative delegation must do a stronger job in Olympia. Historically this district had one of the strongest delegations. Its influence has dropped markedly over recent years, and it is no longer able to effectively work with both sides of the aisle for the common good. We need representation recognizing that education, and our schools, represent our future. Over the past 12 years we have not prioritized education and have allowed slippage to the bottom tier nationally. Dropout rates have soared and test scores have dropped. Our children deserve better. The Washington Supreme Court in McCleary correctly stated the Legislature’s paramount obligation under our Constitution is education. Additionally, we must create family-wage jobs, to build Tacoma and to attract people to this area. Tacoma is an outstanding city with great, proactive, innovative people, many natural amenities and affordable family neighborhoods. Businesses should not be leaving Tacoma. We must pay attention to Tacoma’s small business community – including the businesses of minority and immigrant citizens. We must focus on building Tacoma and welcoming small businesses. We need to bring infrastructure (State Route 167) to the Port of Tacoma, which will allow it to bring business and jobs to Tacoma. Our port must remain nationally and internationally competitive. We must build infrastructure and jobs on Tacoma’s Hilltop, in East Tacoma, on Pacific Avenue and throughout the 27th District. Our legislative focus has to change to these areas. We can do this while maintaining a safety net for our most vulnerable citizens.
DARNEILLE: I have a passion for making Tacoma a great place to live. It has been a joy to represent the 27th District over the last 12 years as one of your State Representatives because I have found that the values of this district overlap my personal values so closely. Whether it is making sure we are securing a woman’s right to choose, assuring marriage equality, supporting vibrant pre-K to12 and higher education opportunities, sustaining small business opportunities, maintaining our safety net, or keeping our neighborhoods safe, I have worked hard on all these issues and will continue to do so as your senator. Senator Debbie Regala’s retirement leaves big shoes to fill, but my expertise in health and human service issues and budget negotiations will fill an important niche in the Senate. I am proud to have Senator Regala’s endorsement and am committed to continuing to work for the betterment of the people, organizations, and businesses in Tacoma and Pierce County as a member of the Senate.
Q) What have you done in your career outside of politics that makes a good choice to serve in Washington State Senate?
CONNELLY: Past president, Washington Association of Justice working on legislative issues for the past 15 years. Civil rights attorney, successfully advocating for justice throughout this state on behalf of victims of discrimination, the elderly, abused children, domestic violence victims, women who have been harassed or victimized in the workplace, firefighters, Lakewood Police Department families and victims of racial discrimination; Community service: ownership group Tacoma Rainiers; trustee, Tacoma Public Library; active supporter, Nativity House, Point Defiance Zoo, Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital; Tacoma General Hospital, Children’s Museum, Violent Crime Victims Services and others. My wife Angela and I live, work and raise our nine children in the district.
DARNEILLE: I have spent my professional career primarily working in leadership positions in nonprofit social service agencies, including the Pierce County AIDS Foundation (18 years), the YWCA, the Emergency Food Network, and as interim director in recent years for the Korean Women’s Association, Hospitality House shelter for homeless women, United Cerebral Palsy of South Sound and Tacoma Community House. During the mid-1980s, I worked for three years at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, when we launched ZooLights as part of an economic development strategy. My first career work was in higher education administration, giving me a breadth of knowledge about community and technical colleges as well as four-year public colleges. As a volunteer, I have served throughout the community, including the Tacoma Human Rights Commission, City Club of Tacoma, Planned Parenthood, Band and Odyssey of the Mind booster clubs for Lowell, Mason, and Stadium, and Tacoma Sunrise Rotary.
Q) While the House of Representatives and the Senate have both been controlled by Democrats for quite a while, at times it seems these two legislative bodies disagree on various issues. What can be done for the two bodies to better collaborate on legislation?
CONNELLY: We need legislators who are leaders, who have experience working with others who disagree, who are not ideologues, not controlled by stronger legislators, not bound by special interests, and who are able to stand up for their constituents and their beliefs. We also must embrace diversity of thought, be willing to listen, and be willing to reach across the aisle and work with members of the opposing party. We must understand that “progressive” means working to build Tacoma, our schools and a better future for our children – not requiring rigid adherence to one system of beliefs. Jack Connelly is a moderate Democrat who is supported by people from both sides of the aisle, by six Supreme Court justices who know and understand his ability to work fairly with others who may disagree, by politicians, business leaders, pastors and citizens who understand that he has the experience and ability to work with people of all ideologies, races, creeds, genders and orientations to reach solutions for the common good.
DARNEILLE: Making good policy decisions in Olympia is dependent on building personal and professional relationships between members of both parties in both the Senate and the House. My goal as a legislator is to be someone that others can trust, to demonstrate a good work ethic, and to focus on problem solving, not politics. In my 12 years of service, I have focused on building relationships that improve communications and information sharing. As a member of the Pierce County delegation, I have worked alongside my Senate and House colleagues of both parties to establish a solid, consistent voice on priority bills and budget issues to benefit Pierce County. I have worked with nearly half of the members of the Senate when they still served in the House, and will continue to develop these relationships in order to advance policies and budget decisions that positively impact the 27th District and the state as a whole.
Q) Public safety is an issue that has been raised during this campaign. What role do you think state government should play in addressing crime?
CONNELLY: Support of public safety entities: ensure the Department of Corrections is adhering to its mission and accountable for the taxpayer dollars we give to the agency. One of government’s core functions is to ensure the safety and well being of its citizenry. This includes steps to protect against crime and steps to prevent crime from occurring. We have many areas where a dollar of prevention and assistance avoids many later dollars spent on incarceration. We can prevent young citizens from being forced to enter a life of crime by providing good schools, jobs and meaningful alternatives.
DARNEILLE: Improving safety in our community is a goal common to every legislator in Olympia, regardless of party affiliation. It is important for there to be consistency in the laws across the state in order to assure equal and fair access to justice. The Legislature develops policy about everything from maintaining evidence from crime scenes to implementing community supervision of offenders returning to the community. We benefit from the renowned research work conducted by the Washington Institute for Public Policy to apply science in our decision-making; this often results in concurrence between parties about how to implement policy that works to improve public safety. I have been honored for my work on public safety issues, which has included four years as vice-chair of the House Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee. I am endorsed by every level of law enforcement, including the Tacoma Police Union Local #6, the Washington Troopers Association and the Washington Council of Police & Sheriffs. I received the Legislator of the Year Award from the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs for my work on reducing crimes against women and children.