Election 2020: 49th Legislative District state senate

Sen. Annette Cleveland challenged by Republican Rey Reynolds in race for state senate seat

CLARK COUNTY — With the Nov. 3 general election fast approaching, 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; beginning with the candidates for Washington state senator. Incumbent Democrat Annette Cleveland is in the race with Republican challenger Rey Reynolds. 

In the Aug. 4 primary election, the aforementioned candidates were the only names on the ballot, with Cleveland receiving 57.86 percent of the vote and Reynolds receiving 41.98 percent. 

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

Opening statements

Sen. Annette Cleveland
Sen. Annette Cleveland

Cleveland began:

“I was born and raised here, spent the majority of my 38-year career working in public policy, spent over a decade as staff to Senator Brock Adams and later U.S. Senator Patty Murray,” Cleveland said. “Went on to serve as Government Affairs Director for the American Cancer Society and also work in public affairs for our local Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce and most recently spent the last 14 years working in federal health policy for a hospital health system Legacy Health.”

Cleveland went on to share her support for the LWV as a member of the organizations, and her appreciation for their emphasis on data. She also elaborated on her work with health care as a member of the Senate Health Care Committee in Olympia.

“Now, more than ever, in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, we need consistent leadership and particularly healthcare expertise,” Cleveland added. “I utilize every aspect of my decades of experience, background and knowledge to be a strong champion for this community in Olympia.”

Rey Reynolds
Rey Reynolds

Reynolds followed:

“I grew up in South Chicago. I’m one of nine kids. My wife and I have six children together. We adopted one. Four of my children are in the military. I have one captain, I have two Marines and one soldier. And also now we have a nurse. So I’m very blessed that way,” Reynolds said. “I believe I’m the perfect candidate for this position based on my experience with the environment as my life experiences and also as a police officer. And I relish the opportunity to serve here in Clark County.”

Reynolds also elaborated on his education at the University of Wisconsin in water resources and fish management, and how it led him into 12 years of work with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. He also spoke about his 23 years as an officer with the Vancouver Police Department. 

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?

Reynolds began:

“The two tops are no question about it. The economic recovery and solving the homeless epidemic here in the 49th district,” Reynolds said. “And we’re going to start that off by doing business incentives. That means we need to help our small businesses. We need to ease restrictions on businesses. We need to roll back the recent B&O tax and new regulation compliance so that the small businesses can get back on their feet.”

Reynolds stressed concern on how he believes small businesses make up the majority of those employed in the state, and how many may not reopen due to the state’s pandemic response.

“I personally have helped unhoused people using a system we call the NET, which is Neighborhood Excellent Team,” Reynold added. “It’s a low cost, real time solution at a local level, as well as we work with the counties to create triage systems that reduce recidivism and help with addiction, mental health and job skills.”

Cleveland followed:

“I ran for office in 2012 with one overarching goal, to work toward ensuring that this community was one of opportunity for every single individual and for me, this means ensuring that there’s access to quality education, access to living wage jobs, access to quality health care and housing,” Cleveland said. “My priorities for next session specifically are continuing to make progress toward our communities crucial need for replacement of the I-5 Bridge. My second priority will be economic recovery from COVID.” 

The incumbent senator elaborated on a bridge replacement with emphasis on the safety, environmental and economic impacts of the aged structure. She said she sees replacing the crossing as a key component of helping the region recover economically. 

“I’ll promote these priorities in the way that I do all of my legislative work,” Cleveland added. “By meeting with local constituents, understanding our needs and perspectives, carrying that vision forward to Olympia to my senate colleagues, and building the coalition and majority support that allows us to be successful.”

Question: In what ways, if any, do you think systemic racism affects people of color in our state? How would you address these?

Reynolds began:

“I believe I have to speak to those with first-hand knowledge, systemic racism. But we need to know where it started,” Reynolds said. “It began in the reconstruction when conservative black people were getting elected to office. So progressive politicians developed what they called poll taxes, and Jim Crow laws, land ownership laws that prevented black people from even owning land. That was systemic to prevent black people from moving up.”

Reynolds went on to share a story in which one of his sons was in Salmon Creek and left his car only to realize he had forgotten his keys. Reynolds said someone called the police saying a “suspicious black man was looking in cars.’’ He also relayed instances in which he, personally, was attacked with racial slurs for his race and his beliefs. 

“Thank goodness those police had the training they needed,” Reynolds added. “Those police then recognized that this was a possible systemic racist call, and they told my son and sent him on his way, but it impacted him. We need to understand that right now, there are no black people in our senate in Washington state, there was only one before. I believe we can stop systemic racism.”

Cleveland followed:

“I agree with my opponent that we have to do everything possible to end systemic racism,” Cleveland said.  “And I do understand racial inequality impacts nearly every facet of life for people of color. As chair of the Senate Health Care committee, I distinctly understand the disparities that exist within health care for people of color, particularly the disparities that have been laid bare by COVID.”

Cleveland continued, saying she believes racism to exist in all levels of society, and her desire to continue legislating against the resulting disparities in employment, housing, healthcare, politics, education, and the criminal justice system.  

“I’m committed to learning and continuing to educate myself, and I’m ready to take action,” Cleveland added. “I joined my Senate Democratic caucus in supporting and passing the creation of a new State Office of Equity this year. In addition, we have agreed that we’re extending the use of an equity lens and assessment tool beyond healthcare in our state to other policy areas, including our budget.”

Question: What legislation would you propose, if any, to address homelessness in our state? Please give your reasons.

Cleveland began:

“I distinctly understand … that housing is health, housing stability,” Cleveland said. “On any given day in our state here in Washington, over 21,000 people are experiencing homelessness, and over the last decade, child homelessness has doubled. It’s partly due to that fact that there are so many children experiencing homelessness, that I am not a proponent of criminalizing homelessness. It only adds to the trauma and the fear that comes with being homeless.”

Cleveland went on to explain her support of the Senate’s Housing, Stability and Affordability Committee. 

“We’ve passed legislation along with the house to combat housing discrimination, strengthen housing assistance programs, reform eviction practices, and we invested over $175 million in the Housing Trust Fund,” Cleveland added. “It’s going to take a multi pronged approach.”

Reynolds followed:

“I work on a daily basis with our homeless people, and we have seen the homelessness in this area explode. We’re not just seeing it being tended to there’s no real efforts that are being done,” Reynolds said. “That is the way it appears, especially in the field.”

Reynolds elaborated on the NET program he mentioned in an earlier question; giving context to the proposed approach that he says he’s used in his work as a police officer. 

“We are bringing together all of the stakeholders,” he said. “That includes mental health, that includes people that are employers, that includes people that are helping with peer counseling and housing. All of those working together in real time, we actually bring people on the phone together, and we work with the homeless at the site. We’ve seen tremendous success in getting the homeless housed, counseled and employed. We’ve been very successful, and I will pursue this as legislation later.”

Closing statements

Reynolds began:

“I have served the 49th District going on now 34 years total, developing solutions to problems. I’m deeply involved with caring for our veterans, our teachers, our teenagers and most vulnerable. I’m running because I am dissatisfied with the unresponsive government, to the plight of our businesses in the area, our safety and our houseless populations. Right now, in-power bureaucrats have tightened restrictions on businesses, threatening huge fines for insignificant violations. The safety of our Vancouver residents is in jeopardy with increasing lawlessness behavior. The homeless population is exploding with no clear solution being offered to stem the tide, as you can see when you’re traveling around our area. I see these problems daily, and I’ve developed working solutions to restore businesses, increase safety, and to end homelessness here in the 49th. I need your support. And thank you.” 

Cleveland followed:

“With all that we are facing today, experience matters. Leadership matters. Governing matters. My background, my skills, my experience, my deep knowledge of this community enabled me to be an effective listener and advocate and champion for you and Olympia. I’ve secured and returned to this community over $50 million in state funding to help grow our economy and invest in infrastructure that helps grow jobs and opportunity. I’ve worked with my colleagues on the hard work of consensus building in order to find a path forward toward an I-5 Bridge replacement; primed a bill supported by a majority of us here in southeast Washington to create a bi-state committee and at this goal. I’ve sponsored to pass legislation to address the opioid crisis, safeguard health care access and address the high cost of prescription drugs. I see it as my role to carry forward our vision for this community to Olympia in order to build a better future. I ask for your support in sending me back to Olympia to continue our work together. Thank you.”