Election 2020: 49th Legislative District House of Representatives, Position 1

Rep. Sharon Wylie challenged by Republican Justin Forsman in race for state legislative seat

CLARK COUNTY — As the Nov. 3 general election draws ever closer, the League of Women Voters Clark County (LWV) organized several candidate forums for residents to watch through a Zoom call format streamed on Clark/Vancouver Television. 

On Thursday (Oct.1), the 49th Legislative District faced off; including the candidates for Washington House of Representatives, Position 1. Incumbent Democrat Sharon Wylie is running against Republican challenger Justin Forsman. 

In the Aug. 4 primary election, the aforementioned candidates were joined on the ballot by Independent Kelli Danielle Fiskum who received 11.59 percent of votes, with Wylie receiving 57.25 percent and Forsman receiving 30.97 percent. 

This report focuses on three key questions and candidate responses from the forum, but to view the responses to all eight questions, visit CVTV.org.

Opening statements

Sharon Wylie
Sharon Wylie

Wylie began:

“I have a 30-year background in organizational development and management consulting,” Wylie said. “I’ve worked in a lot of nonprofit organizations as well. I served as the government relations person for Clark County, as well as other governmental entities for 10 years. I’m running again, because I find that this is the best job in the world. It’s the greatest honor to represent people. I have worked really hard to develop knowledge of how the state works and how effective government needs to be in order to serve people. I am vice chair of the Transportation Committee, and I’ve been working on the bridge. I’m also on the finance committee.”

Wylie also explained how she was first appointed by her colleagues in 2011, and has served ever since. A small portion of Wylie’s opening statement was unintelligible due to internet connections issues.

Justin Forsman
Justin Forsman

Forsman followed:

“I’ve been active politically since 2014,” Forsman said. “I, right now, am the vice president of a nonprofit called the Broken Pole Fishing Hole for Wounded Veterans. It provides a tranquil fishing retreat for wounded veterans. The motto is one catch, one recovery, no suicides. I care very strongly about protecting the civil rights of the American people. That’s one reason why I decided to run, because COVID-19 lockdowns and the shutdown of our economy. That’s something that I’m very focused on is keeping Americans working.” 

Forsman has, in the past, run for other offices, including a Vancouver city council seat. He is currently listed on his voter pamphlet information as a small business owner since 2018. 

Question: What are your top two priorities for the 49th Legislative District that should be addressed in the legislature in the next two year session? How would you promote these priorities?

Forsman began:

“The top two priorities that I have right now, is stopping the government from being able to suspend civil liberties when in times of emergency,” Forsman said. “There’s nothing in the Constitution that says when in an emergency your constitutional rights are suspended. One of the things that are guaranteed to the American people is life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Your right to life is suspended when your ability to feed yourself and your family is limited.”

Forsman went on to explain his position on the restrictions placed on businesses also stems from a desire to see the economy stabilize. He said he believes the actions taken by Gov. Jay Inslee and the state to address COVID-19 to be malicious.

“Our economy has been held hostage by the state and by many politicians,” Forsman added. “It’s important that we open our country immediately.”  

Wylie followed:

“It’s hard to pick only two but I think two that really need some attention are, we need to get our entire state connected to the internet,” Wylie said. “The shutdown has shown us how spotty our coverage is and how difficult it is to do remote learning and remote work. We also need connectivity for healthcare, and the kinds of jobs that we need in the future. And there’s been a battle going on for a long time between the private sector and government.”

Wylie explained her focused emphasis on the expansion of connectivity, which she later addressed in the forum at greater length. She also elaborated on her view of the importance of major updates to the region’s transportation system. 

“Our transportation system is missing a lot of funding sources and those funding sources pay for rides for special needs people; rail, public transit, and we need to find other funding sources.”

Question: With distance learning playing an increasing role in K-12 schools, what should the state do to provide more access to broadband?

Wiley began:

“We need to make sure that every community is connected,” Wiley said. “We have the tools to do that, but it hasn’t been urgent. So we need to pay a lot more attention to that. We’re going to have to provide the tools and the parental support so we can prepare kids for the world that they’re going to be living in. I trust that we will be able to get back to school and back to in person learning, but we need to do a lot better job with technology, and we know how to do it, we just need to get it done.”

The incumbent state representative did not elaborate beyond this, but did stress the need for better connectivity throughout the forum.

Forsman followed:

“I disagree that it’s the state’s responsibility to provide telecommunications access,” Forsman said. “The way our 4G runs right now, it’s pretty sufficient. If we were able to have contracts with companies  like Comcast and CenturyLink, that would allow students to be able to log in remotely; connecting to other people’s modems, just like they currently have for customers. If you have a Comcast account, you can log into other modems within the area. That would be great.”

Forsman went on to say how his business works in the realm of communications and internet, and his experiences have led him to believe that many of those living in areas with reduced connection do so intentionally. 

“We need to be careful when we start talking about getting into 5G technologies and installations,” Forsman added. 

Question: Tell us about homelessness in your district. What is happening to address this issue? What other steps do you suggest?

Wiley began:

“Over the last 10 years that I’ve been in the legislature, we have done a lot to provide a variety of tools at the local level so that communities can do what’s necessary in their own community, because not one size fits all,” Wiley said. “Not all homelessness is the same, and we need to have those tools. We’ve provided tools for local financing, but we have something called the Housing Trust Fund, making sure that’s robust, and it provides matching money to provide specialized housing, and address housing needs is really critical.” 

Wiley went on to explain that she is in support of looking into land banks, as well as fixing the divide between state and federal governments and partnerships to create housing and resources for mental health. 

“We’re in the middle of a perfect storm,” Wiley added. “And the way to get out of it, is to come together, come up with tools that work for each situation, and make sure that we do it collaboratively, and we make sure that we work smart.”

Forsman followed:

“I think that there is a lot of people who want to just label homeless as either being criminals or drug addicts,” Forsman said. “I think that there’s a level of criminals that are homeless, and it’s not just because they’re actively committing crime, there’s a lot of people who have had pasts; these past follow them.”

Forsman told an account of a family member of his who is struggling to find housing in Oregon due to her criminal history that prevents her from being approved. He said he is in favor of reducing discrimination against people who have served time, since they have already “paid their debt to society.’’

“There is a lot of people who are suffering from drug addiction, and I think that even though the war on drugs is a failed war, I think that we need to have more efforts to be able to get people treatment instead of sending them to jail,” Forsman continued. “That’s not the way to operate. We need to create incentives for businesses that hire people who are less fortunate, or homeless. Give them tax breaks, and give these people a second chance. We need to create regulations to create tiny home communities, and just have a various set of other options.”

Closing statements

Forsman began:

“I’m running for office, essentially, because I’m trying to get out there and wake people up. I’m trying to say the things that people aren’t out there saying. I’m trying to go out there and wake people up, let them know we’re under attack. We’re under psychological warfare by our media, by our government, by our governor. He’s in bed with Bill Gates, his daughter is part of the board of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. I just want to let people know the time to act is now. The time to be, I would say, outspoken is now. The time to get out and assert your rights are now before they’re forever taken away. I guarantee the power and control that has been taken over this COVID-19 lockdown, they’re not going to relinquish it. They never relinquish control once it’s taken. So stand up, fight, defend your rights, and elect people who are going to do the same. Thank you very much, and blessings because the government cannot take that away.”

Wylie followed:

“I have to say that after being in this work for a while campaigning is a competitive process. It could be a grudge match at the roller derby or it can be a chess game. Governing is something entirely different. It’s collaborative problem solving. And the problems we face are really complicated. They require all of us to roll up our sleeves, work together and look for real solutions. Then we have to work with the public to make sure that the public is on board with those solutions. That’s what my approach is for doing this job and I would be honored to be able to continue doing this job and working for the people of Clark County and the 49th district. Thank you.”