14th LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT

Seven area residents are vying for two spots to represent Washington's 14th Legislative District.

The district includes all of Klickitat and Skamania counties and parts of Yakima and Clark counties.

The majority of the candidates hail from Yakima. Only Position 2 incumbent Gina Mosbrucker and Position 1 hopeful Sasha Bentley - from Goldendale and White Salmon, respectively - are from the lower part of the district.

Making changes to education funding, fixing the state's mental health system and whether to impose further gun control will likely be a large focus in the next legislative session - all issues the candidates have rather decisive stances on.

But the majority were at a loss when asked how the state was going to find $2 billion in the budget to improve culverts - pipes that carry streams under a road or railroad - for salmon, something a U.S. Supreme Court decision recently mandated.

In addition to finding solutions to these issues that will satisfy a conservative district but pass in a majority-Democratic statehouse, the winner of Position 1 will have to live up to the largely positive reputation of longtime Rep. Norm Johnson, who is not running for re-election.

Vying for Position 1 - Johnson's seat - are Democrats Bentley and Earl Steven Lee, and Republicans Kathy Coffey and Chris Corry.

Position 2 candidates are Republican incumbent Mosbrucker, Democrat/Libertarian Liz Hallock and Democrat Noah Ramirez.

The top two candidates from each race will face off in the November general election.

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Washington's 14th Legislative District

15th LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT

Four area residents are competing for a spot to represent Washington’s 15th Legislative District.

Three Legislature-hopefuls are challenging veteran Republican David Taylor, who is seeking a sixth stint in the Position 2 seat he’s occupied for nearly a decade.

Jeremie Dufault (Republican) and A.J. Cooper (Democrat) hail from Selah, Mario Martinez (independent) is a Mabton resident, and Taylor is from Moxee. The 15th District covers parts or all of Selah, Yakima, Terrace Heights, Moxee, Union Gap, Wapato, Toppenish, Zillah, Granger, Sunnyside, Grandview and Mabton.

The top two vote-getters in the August primary election will face off in the general election in November.

Water is a prickly issue in Eastern Washington, and the candidates running for the open seat in the semi-rural district say it’s especially pertinent to the 15th. During the last session, state legislators put rural landowners’ minds at ease by allowing them to drill wells on their property again – amending a controversial decision made by the state Supreme Court in 2016. Water is on the agenda for the next session, too.

After a recent tie by the U.S. Supreme Court, the state needs to come up with $2 billion to improve culverts for salmon. Each candidate in this year’s primary race — with one exception — offered ideas for how to finance the project.

They also discussed their views on other hot-button issues in Washington, ...

Click to see what the candidates had to say

Washington's 15th Legislative District

YAKIMA COUNTY COMMISSION

Seven candidates have crowded into the race for the Yakima County Commission seat being vacated by Rand Elliott, who has decided to hang it up after 12 years in office.

Commissioners oversee day-to-day operations of the county, set policy on land use in rural unincorporated areas, and oversee the county’s $244 million overall operating budget with $64 million general fund.

Commissioners earn an annual salary of $100,173 plus benefits.

Although the county has seen revenue steadily improve the past several years after enduring an economic tailspin in the wake of the Great Recession, there are still budget challenges.

The Office of Assigned Counsel has sought additional funding in previous years to help overcome an increasing number of criminal cases that continue to swamp the office. Defense attorneys are bound by case limits set by the state, and the office often has to rely on outside contract attorneys.

Other challenges include enforcement of the county’s ban on recreational marijuana businesses in unincorporated areas and the county water utility’s assessment of permit and usage fees on new rural domestic wells, which went into effect in January.

The county successfully shut down a retail pot store in an unincorporated area, but other businesses have threatened to sue if the county attempts to shut them down.

Also unclear is whether the county’s controversial water utility will discourage rural development. Counties are req...

Click to see what the candidates had to say

YAKIMA COUNTY CORONER

In terms of budget and staffing, the Yakima County Coroner's Office is one of the smallest departments in the county.

Staffed with two full-time employees - the elected coroner and the chief deputy coroner - and a part-time employee, the department operates on an almost $700,000 budget to investigate suspicious, violent and untimely deaths within the county.

In 2017, the coroner's office investigated 654 of the 1,960 deaths recorded within Yakima County, with 76 autopsies performed by a medical examiner on contract.

In addition to investigating deaths, the coroner's office handles unclaimed human remains, posting names of those who have died and maintaining a vault at Tahoma Cemetery where the unclaimed urns are stored until next of kin come forward to claim them.

The office has not been without controversy in recent years. In April the county agreed to pay $150,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a county employee who accused Coroner Jack Hawkins of sexually harassing her. The woman alleged that Hawkins made unwanted advances, including rubbing her shoulders, hugging and kissing her, and blocking her movement, according to court documents.

County officials admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement, calling it a way to limit the county's financial liability. Hawkins denied the allegation and said the settlement was seen as a cheaper alternative than going to trial.

The office has also faced a backlog of toxicology tests at the state crime lab, which has delayed making final findings in death investigations sometimes for m...

Click to see what the candidates had to say

PRIMARY FOCUS: YAKIMA COUNTY CORONER

Primary Focus: Interviews with the Candidates

YAKIMA COUNTY SHERIFF

The next Yakima County sheriff will have some big issues to address.

The office is understaffed and has difficulty recruiting and keeping deputies, a problem facing law enforcement agencies nationwide. That makes it harder to tackle the crime rate, especially considering that Yakima County is geographically the second-largest county in the state, spanning 4,296 square miles.

While the office is budgeted for 61 deputy positions, only 58 deputies are out on the road. While the office has been actively trying to hire people, strict backgrounding, high standards and a lengthy hiring process have made it more difficult in recent years.

In 2017, the sheriff’s office had 0.65 commissioned officers per 1,000 citizens and is the only law enforcement agency in the county to have less than one deputy per 1,000. In comparison, Yakima police had 1.47.

Sheriff Brian Winter announced earlier this year that he would not seek a second term after being diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, or ALS.

Candidates Rick Mottice, Dave Simmons, Bob Udell and Nolan Wentz will face off in the August primary election. The top two candidates will move forward to the general election. All are Republicans.

We asked each of the candidates five questions about the office and how they'd run things as sheriff.

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Click to see what the candidates had to say

PRIMARY FOCUS: YAKIMA COUNTY SHERIFF