Candidates for 5th Legislative District talk priorities at recent forum

General election is Nov. 8. District includes Snoqualmie, parts of Fall City and a sliver of North Bend.

Ballots have been mailed and voting has begun for midterm elections in King County.

In the 5th Legislative District, which includes Snoqualmie, parts of Fall City and a sliver of North Bend, there are two races for positions in the state House of Representatives.

With ballots due on Nov. 8, here is a look at both races and what candidates had to say at recent forums hosted in the Valley and Issaquah.

State Representative Pos. 1: Bill Ramos (D-Issaquah) v. Ken Moninski (R-Maple Valley)

Democrat Incumbent Bill Ramos is once again being challenged by Republican Ken Moninski for his seat in the House.

The two faced off for the same position during the 2020 general election, where Ramos won nearly 60% of the vote on the way to his second term. Unless Moninski can pick up some of Ramos’ voting block, it appears a similar result will play out this year.

During this summer’s primary, Ramos again won 60% of the vote, with the remainder split between Moninski and fellow Republican Landon Halverson.

Ramos is a former member of the Issaquah City Council who has spent prior years working for the U.S. Department of Transportation and U.S. Forest Service. He is also the husband of King County Councilmember Sarah Perry.

Moninski is a 12-year resident of Maple Valley and president of Global Aircraft Services and Safeair Media, two aviation service companies. He has never held elected office.

Moninski has branded himself as a voice for small business, law enforcement and tax cuts, frustrated by decisions made by the state Legislature’s Democrat majority. During two forums, he criticized Ramos for not working across the aisle and “chasing progressive fantasies.”

“Send me to Olympia,” he said. “I guarantee you it will be one less vote for the crappy policies to come out of there.”

Moninski said he believes the legislation coming out of Olympia does not reflect “our common values,” and attacked Ramos for being partisan, citing the state Move Ahead Transportation package that was passed largely on party lines.

Ramos, vice chair of the House Transportation Committee, said most of his bills were bipartisan, and touted the transportation package as a victory for 5th District and the state. He noted that it delivered the final funding for State Route 18 improvements. He blames Republicans for the lack of bipartisanship, saying the most important thing was that the package got passed and delivered on promises to fix state roadways.

“They refused to negotiate with us in good faith,” Ramos said.

Moninski also cited frustrations with state law enforcement reform legislation passed in wake of the 2020 George Floyd protests, saying it “tied the hands of police.” He specifically highlighted concerns with pursuit laws that limit when officers can engage in high-speed chases and state drug possession laws, passed in wake of the State v. Blake Supreme Court decision.

Ramos, who has supported reforms, said police legislation needs to follow data, “not just what people think.” He said he continues to work alongside police and their unions and is hoping to expand state police academics to increase training opportunities.

Ramos also said he would like to fix the state’s regressive sales tax structure and address rises in property taxes to make the system more fair, while not reducing the services the state provides.

Moninski, citing his own experience running a business, said new state taxes coming are a burden to business owners. He said he would support a 1% decrease in the state’s sales tax to provide that relief.

To address housing affordability, both candidates said the issue was a lack of housing supply. Moninski proposed losing restrictions for developers and the Growth Management Act, which concentrates growth in urban areas, rather than rural or open ones.

Ramos said each city is at a different spot in expanding housing options and he would like to work alongside them to find their individual needs without introducing a mandate.

The two candidates also clashed on abortion. Moninski apposes abortion, but said he does not think Republicans would overturn the will of the people. Ramos countered, saying that Republicans introduce legislation to ban abortion annually.

State Representative Pos. 2: Lisa Callan (D-Issaquah) v. Chad Magendanz (R-Issaquah)

The other 5th District race appears to be far more interesting, as both incumbent Lisa Callan and challenger Chad Magendanz have multiple years of state-level elected experience.

As a Democrat, Callan is seeking her third consecutive term in office, with previous elected experience as a member of the Issaquah School Board. She was formerly an engineer at Boeing. In a primary this summer, she beat Magendanz by 10 points, winning 55% of the vote.

Magendanz, a former Navy officer, Issaquah School Board member and state legislator, has spent the last four years as a computer science teacher in the Bellevue School District. He served as a representative for the 5th District — in the seat Callan currently holds — between 2013 and 2017.

Magendanz abandoned that seat in 2016 to unsuccessfully challenge Mark Mullet for a state Senate position. He made another unsuccessful bid for the state House in 2018, narrowly losing to Bill Ramos.

Magendanz said he had no plans to run again, but was concerned about new state taxes, decreases in student test scores and police reform legislation. He said police reform would be his top priority, if elected.

“I think that had the most impact on our local communities,” he said. “Even though I’m an education guy, that would be the bill that I would focus on.”

Magendanz said it’s hard not to draw connections between new police reform laws and rises in crime. Callan countered, noting that crime is up across the board on a national level, not just in Washington, and saying you cannot draw a direct link between the two.

Much of Callan’s work in office has focused on behavioral health and improvements in public schools. Last year, she brought state funding to the Snoqualmie Police to fund its new behavioral health specialist.

“When you talk about housing, when you talk about public safety and community safety — all of these issues we’re having — there’s an intersection of health and well being,” she said.

Both candidates said they support access to abortion, although Magendanz said he would like to see more paternal involvement for reproductive health decisions in schools. Callan has been endorsed by Planned Parenthood and Pro-Choice Washington.

When asked about relief to schools struggling in wake of the pandemic, Magendanz said he does not think funding is the issue, adding that there needs to be more rigorous advancement standards.

“I think we need to have an objective standard,” he said. “We don’t let them go onto the next grade until they can prove they are meeting standards.”

Callan said her approach should be focused on the individual needs of students, with specific focuses on those in special education and those who have experienced mental health challenges.

“We have standards, absolutely,” she said. “But it’s really important to know you can master concepts and you can develop and move on that pathway at a different rate.”

To support more affordable housing, Callan said she would like to approach the issue from a three pillar standard that involves increasing supply, stabilizing existing affordable housing and providing subsidies for development.

Magendanz said the state has made it difficult for developers to come here and said it is time to revisit the Growth Management Act and look at areas where they can loosen zoning restrictions and provide more local control.

The Issaquah Candidate forum was hosted by the Kiwanis Club of Issaquah and Issaquah branch of the American Association of University Woman. You can watch the forum here.

The Snoqualmie Valley candidate forum was hosted by the SnoValley Chamber of Commerce. You can watch the forum here.