An NPR member station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Graham, Wilson Compete For WA Sixth District State House Seat

Dave Wilson/Jenny Graham

The Sixth Legislative District in Spokane will have some changes in its representation next year. It starts in the Senate, where Republican Michael Baumgartner is vacating his seat. Republican Representative Jeff Holy wants to replace him. That means Holy is also vacating his seat. Today, we’ll hear from the two candidates who want to replace Holy in the state House: Republican Jenny Graham and Democrat Dave Wilson.

Jenny Graham says her journey to this campaign begin years ago.

“The process started when I made a cold call one day because I had questions about my sister’s murder. She was murdered by the Green River serial killer. And when I gained access to her death investigation files, I started to recognize that there was evidence there that I didn’t know existed,” Graham said.

She says her brother was also murdered, so she began to look for information about the investigations. All three siblings, she said, were abused. As a result of her research, she was convinced about the need to change state law as it related to finding justice for victimized children.

“The old law stated that a child had to report abuse, and this was the same for child pornography as well. They had to report the incident within a year of it happening. The problem with that is most of the time in those instances, children are not like adults. They don’t have the life experience with trauma to know how to navigate that,” she said.

Graham says two years working with state officials and legislators from both parties paid off in 2013.

“Now every survivor has until their 30th birthday to report the abuse and, if there is evidence available, because these cases are so hard to try, if that evidence is there, then they have an opportunity to have their case heard in court,” she said.

She says the change in state law came too late to benefit her siblings, but she says abuse survivors who worked on the bill are happy it will apply to the current and future generations.

Graham says she’s also dedicated to making schools safer places for teachers and children.

“One teacher told me that she locked her door because she was the first point of entry and she was afraid. She got in trouble for locking her door. I think that’s something that we can change," she said.

She supports having security cameras in schools and putting alarms on locked doors.

“I am not a huge fan of guns being in the schools with teachers. I don’t have any idea what their training is and who knows if there were a situation. Now the teachers are put in the place of trying to distinguish themselves between being a good guy or a bad guy. I would really rather work on getting that security in the schools to prevent that to begin with," Graham said.

Jenny Graham’s opponent is Dave Wilson. He owned and operated Interface Computer School in Spokane for 30 years before selling it six years ago. Now he’s an education and business consultant. Wilson ran twice as an independent candidate for Washington’s Fifth Congressional District, in 2014 and 2016, losing in the primary both years. Now he’s shifted his focus to the legislature.

“I believe in good government. I believe government has an important role to play in our economy and in our society. And it’s never going to be run like a business. It’s not the same thing, but it plays an important role," Wilson said. "It really bewilders me when I hear people in office or the candidates talk about dismantling the government. Is it excessive in some points? Sure. Do we have to tear the whole thing down? No. Do we need to tweak it? Sure. I look at my job as a legislator to make sure the rules are fair, to make sure the regulations are fair and, when they’re not fair, listen to constituents, help them if they need help. That’s my job.”

Wilson says government’s role is to create a civil society and create a structure by which everyone agrees to abide.

“The example I like to use is, when I’m in a room, I’ll ask people, ‘Raise your hand if you drove here today.’ Almost every hand goes up and then I’ll say, “How many of you stopped at red lights on your way here?’ And, of course, that gets a laugh, but the point I’m making is we need those kinds of rules to function," he said.

Wilson says he’s interested in working on the state’s tax structure. The high sales tax, he says, puts a greater burden proportionally on low income people. But any changes in the tax structure, he says, must be developed and agreed upon in a bipartisan fashion. He says he’s also interested in working on developing solutions to the state’s mental health problems, to emphasize early treatment and prevention.

“If you think about it, it’s not just a social issue, it’s also a public safety issue and it’s also an economic issue," Wilson said. "There’s enough body of evidence and research out there that shows that if people get mental health help, early on especially, they can be very productive citizens.”

Democrat Dave Wilson won a four-way primary in August, winning about 40% of the vote. Republican Jenny Graham won 33%.