On October 7th, the League of Women Voters of Snohomish County held its Candidates Forum for the positions of County Council Positions 2 and 3, County Auditor, Sheriff and Treasurer. The event was moderated by Lynn Carpenter.
Carpenter asked questions provided by the audience on notecards. Each candidate was allotted one minute to respond, and each candidate also had the opportunity to use one challenge card. A challenge consisted of one candidate challenging another candidate’s point for up to 45 seconds and the other candidate getting a chance to respond.
The two candidates running for the position of Snohomish County Treasurer are Brian Sullivan and Rob Toyer. They were asked what their qualifications were for the position.
Sullivan answered first and cited starting his career on the Mukilteo City Council in 1986, serving as Mayor of Mukilteo from 1990 to 1997, serving in the Washington House of Representatives from 2001 to 2007 and finally being in the Snohomish County Council since 2007. “I’ve been the budget chair for the County Council now for the last 11 and a half years and oversee and implement the budget.”
Toyer started with mentioning his six years of service in the Marine Corps before going to Western Washington University where he received a degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Finance, Economics and Accounting. “In 2011, I was elected to the Marysville City Council; my primary focus has been finance, and I serve on the Finance Committee.”
Next, the candidates were asked their priorities as they fulfill their responsibilities for the office.
Toyer wants to focus on the customer service aspect and always striving to make things better as well as training and technology with the changing technological environment. Sullivan stressed better transparency online for investors as well as the main issues for the Treasurer’s office being safety, liquidity and return on investment.
Next, Carpenter picked an audience question which asked what they would do with a budget surplus if there was one.
Sullivan initiated a sustainability fund for Snohomish County, otherwise known as a rainy-day fund, and would put the money there to prepare for an economic downturn. Toyer said he would reach out to the County Council and ask their priorities, but his top two priorities would be law enforcement and transportation.
The next question asked how candidates could affect policies in the county to assist with perceived social issues (homelessness, addiction services, etc.)
Toyer’s answer began with a mention of bipartisan endorsements and those allowing him to work closely with others. Sullivan’s answer focused on the Snohomish County Foreclosure Fund and using it to help put people back in homes.
The candidates were then asked how they view public service.
Toyer began with recalling his public service in the Marine Corps and the meaning he obtains through service, whether it be in the Marines or as a City Councilmember. Sullivan mentioned disliking the term politician and preferred “public servant.” He said that public service has to be a passion in order to follow it, and he grew up with a “service above self” attitude like Toyer did.
The two candidates running for the position of County Sheriff are incumbent Ty Trenary and Adam Fortney, Patrol Sergeant with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office.
“I’ve been doing the job of public safety for 23 years in Snohomish County,” Fortney said. “I’m currently a Patrol Sergeant at our South Precinct; I’ve worn a uniform and driven a marked patrol car the entire time… I would rather not be up here running for election; it’s uncomfortable with my boss sitting next to me. If there was anything different that I could do, I would be doing it.” Fortney mentioned previously suggesting numerous changes and Trenary “not being open to those changes.”
Trenary opened with saying, “I’ve been in the business for 32 years; I actually started policing in Eatonville, WA.” He moved to Snohomish County in 1991 and spent his first 10 years as a patrol deputy, was promoted from sergeant to lieutenant to captain and appointed to sheriff in 2013. “As the Sheriff, my job is pretty unique… we’ve worked really hard to streamline how we do business and be financially responsible.”
When asked what more the county sheriff’s office can do to encourage people of color to become members of force and staff, Trenary responded, “I think we need to continue to work on being transparent… A law enforcement agency is only as good as the trust that people put in us.”
“You have to absolutely be reflective of the community you serve,” Fortney said. He also stressed the importance of transparency like Trenary. He did, however, criticize Trenary for banning ride-alongs after an earlier occurrence of a local elected official going on a ride-along and posting about it on social media. “It’s not okay,” Fortney said. “We should always be transparent.”
The next question asked about the candidates’ plans for reducing crime in the county. “We’ve had trouble booking people in the past six years under our current sheriff,” Fortney said. He stressed accountability and booking individuals who commit crimes, whether they are under the influence of drugs or not.
“I think it’s probably safe to say, for those of you who have heard Adam and I speak, we couldn’t be further apart on this issue,” Trenary began. He recalled overcrowded jails and the federal government looking into the way the county handled issues when he first started as sheriff. At that time, Trenary said, they were arresting everyone they could. “Nothing was changing.” Trenary also mentioned being named one of five innovative jails nationally by the National Sheriff’s Association last week after the changes he implemented.
Fortney challenged Trenary’s statement, and he argued that was Trenary’s public position and that his internal position is different. “Why is his internal position at the Sheriff’s Office to lift all jail restrictions during a political campaign?… But there are two distinct positions by the Sheriff. You will always get one position from me… you ask a question, you will get a direct answer.”
“No confusion, no doublespeak, our goal has always been to treat people humanely,” Trenary responded. “We never turn someone away who is a threat to community safety.”
More information on the Sheriff race can be found in our previous article, “Affordable housing breakfast candidate forum.”
The two candidates running for the position of the County Auditor are Cindy Gobel and Garth Fell.
In response to asking her qualifications for the position, Gobel began with mentioning her early career in law enforcement before working in the Auditor’s Office. She currently works in the election division of the Secretary of State office. There, she trains auditors and election administrators and certifies election equipment.
Fell started with citing his past 20 years of experience administering elections in Washington, the past 12 years of which he has been on the Snohomish County Auditor’s Office Management Team as the County Elections Manager. He then mentioned being non-partisan and putting the voter’s choice first before continuing to state his bipartisan support from elected officials in the state.
Carpenter then asked the candidates how confidant they were with the existing election security in Snohomish County.
“I am so confident, and you should be too,” Gobel said. She went on to explain the security measures taken by the county including a cybersecurity team, a hard-working IT department and the continuing implementation of more advanced systems.
Fell agreed with Gobel. “All of our equipment is federally tested and state certified,” he began. He insisted on keeping a paper-ballot that is counted on a system that isn’t connected to the internet.
The next question tackled low voter turnout rates and asked candidates what they would do to increase those rates and decrease barriers to voters.
“Washington State has made several improvements over the last few years in making the voting process easier,” Fell said. “I still think there’s work to be done, particularly in the area of minority language and providing access to materials that can help voters with low English proficiency.”
Gobel mentioned the specific programs Washington has put in place to combat barriers to voter turnout including automatic voter registration when getting an enhanced driver’s license, changes with the dates of registration and others. “At the state, we also use… social media accounts, and I think those could be used more at the county,” she said.
The candidates running for County Council Position 3 are incumbent Stephanie Wright (D) and Willie Russell (states no party preference). The candidates running for County Council Position 2 are Megan Dunn (D) and Anna Rohrbough (R). The City of Lynnwood is represented by Position 3, so the answers will be focused on that position.
Wright was unable to attend the forum, but she provided a brief statement. “I appreciate being able to serve as your County Councilmember these last two terms, and I would love the opportunity to continue to serve in this capacity,” she started. Her statement went on to describe her advocacy for the Sound Transit Link Light Rail coming to Lynnwood when on the Lynnwood City Council and her continued support. Additionally, she mentioned serving on the Snohomish County Housing Affordability Regional Taskforce (HART) to develop affordable housing strategies and collaborating with cities in the county.
When asked qualifications to be on the county council, Russell said, “It’s real simple folks: age and life experiences.” He boasted not having a political background like the rest of the candidates instead having the experience of being a previous small-business owner and a current owner of a non-profit.
“What we need is a complete overhaul of our system in the courts,” Russell said in response to asking his top issues in the county. “They’re talking about getting another court, a community court, we already have six of them.”
“These selective enforcement of laws, that’s our problem, folks,” Russell said. He argued that climate change is an issue that needs to be tackled now and that it needs to start with cleaning up the trash around the county that is affecting the water.
When asked what he was committed to do to help minimize impacts to the environment, businesses and residents of the upcoming Link Light Rail, Russell responded, “The Sound Transit issue could change tomorrow… I have no idea if we’ll have the money tomorrow.” He went on to criticize the amount of trees Sound Transit is cutting down to build the light rail. “Oh they’re gonna plant trees back; no they won’t. Until you see them, don’t believe it. It’s going to be grass sprayed on the ground.”
Russell also criticized an additional 1% tax affecting residents of unincorporated Snohomish County to pay for road use and 8.2 million dollars assigned by Sound Transit. “Where’s all that money going? Miss Wright told you [in her statement]: down to Lynnwood, the city she lives in. None of it up here where we need it to be.”
All ballots will be mailed to Snohomish County residents on October 17, and the last day to return a ballot is November 5. Ballots can be placed in ballot drop boxes or mailed in USPS boxes without postage.
For more in-depth information on candidate platforms, go to vote411.org and insert your address to see all the local and county races.