The race between one-year Republican incumbent Rep. Teri Hickel and first-time Democratic challenger Kristine Reeves might be the most important race for the state House of Representatives this year.
With Democrats holding a slim 50-48 margin in the House, every vote counts on both sides. Democrats need to win this seat and the other 30th Legislative District seat to keep their majority. Republicans hoped they would hold both seats and win enough other races to capture majority control.
The pre-primary line for Hickel was that she would win comfortably against an unknown, under-funded opponent. That has not been the case, as Hickel and Reeves are locked in an extremely tight race that could go either way.
Both are capable candidates, but they have different backgrounds, styles and philosophies.
Hickel is a hiker and rabid WSU Cougar who has been active in many community activities for many years. She is well-known. She’s friendly and approachable.
Her husband, Tim, went to Federal Way High School, has a law practice, and served two terms in the state legislature several years ago. Hickel defeated Democratic incumbent Carol Gregory, who had been appointed to serve the first year of the late Rep. Roger Freeman’s term. Hickel was elected to serve the second year of Freeman’s term and is running for a new two-year term.
She has been actively involved in support of local school levies and served as executive director of Advancing Leadership for several years until her retirement. Advancing Leadership was a program within the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce until a few years ago — Hickel also served a year-and-a-half as interim CEO of the Chamber.
Many graduates of Advancing Leadership hold prominent positions in the community, and observers thought that would give Hickel a notable edge. Her list of supporters reads like a “Who’s Who of Federal Way.” Her interest in serving in the Legislature seemed a logical extension of her interest in education and community service.
Supporters include Tom and Cindy Pierson, Peggy and Dennis LaPorte, Tom and Karin Vander Ark, Deputy Mayor Jeanne Burbidge and Dr. Jim Burbidge. Burbidge is joined by other elected officials such as Council members Susan Honda and Mark Koppang and legislative seatmate Rep. Linda Kochmar. Hickel also received a sizable donation from the Aerospace Futures Alliance, for whom City Councilwoman Kelly Maloney is the CEO.
Hickel has raised more than $207,000 in her bid for re-election. She spent only $48,000 heading into the last month, when most of the money will be used for advertising. Her financial support comes from traditional Republican sources such as development interests, including the Multi-Family Housing Association, along with Wal-Mart, Boeing, the Gun Owners’ Action League and many other businesses.
She also received $55,000 from the House Republicans. Hickel has a “very good” rating from the Municipal League.
Most people in the community have probably never heard of Reeves, who may be the antithesis of Hickel. Reeves’ personal story of a childhood foster home seems to drive her to reach out for those less fortunate with whom she can identify.
Her future success would not have been predicted by the challenge of her youthful years, but succeed she did. And part of that success is driven by her commitment to her two small children’s future educational needs.
Reeves currently serves as the Director of Economic Development for the Military and Defense sector for the State of Washington. Like Hickel, Reeves is a WSU Cougar (though her Master’s degree comes from Gonzaga). She is active in the March of Dimes, the American Cancer Society, and she chairs the Task Force on Human Relations.
Reeves has raised $144,00 and spent $54,000. Her financial contributions are from typical Democratic sources such as the King County Labor Council and other local labor organizations including Fire Fighters, State Employees, Steel Workers and Machinists. The National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League and Planned Parenthood are also supporting her.
Reeves does not have the local network of political connections as Hickel, but she is endorsed by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and Congressman Adam Smith, as well as school board member Liz Drake. Reeves and her family have lived in Federal Way for about 10 years. She has a “good” rating from the Municipal League.
One of the biggest areas of disagreement between the two candidates is on how to fund education. Both believe the McCleary decision was correct, but Hickel supports the Republican position that fully funding education should come from a levy swap in which some school districts, such as Federal Way, receive money from other school districts.
Reeves believes this an unworkable solution, as other districts would not want to give money to Federal Way just as Federal Way would not want to give its money to other districts. She believes full funding should work for all schools and wants to discuss all options for full funding. For revenue sources, Reeves does not support a state income tax (outside interests have tried to tie to her one regardless). Despite Hickel’s long history of school support, the Washington Education Association (WEA) endorsed Reeves.
Another area of disagreement is on Sound Transit 3. Sound Transit has said if ST3 does not pass, light rail will not come to Federal Way. Hickel believes the price tag is too high and opposes the issue; Reeves supports ST3 and does not believe more freeways are the answer to the million-or-so people who will move here in the next few years and continue filling up the freeways. She believes mass transit is the best answer, particularly for low-income residents who have no other transit options.
Both are supporters of the Second Amendment, an increase in the minimum wage, and equal pay for equal work. Both want to see increased economic development for Federal Way.
Reeves has already said she will support the nominee of her party for the presidency. Hickel is in a much more awkward position and likely isn’t thrilled with her party’s nominee, but she also doesn’t want to alienate Donald Trump supporters in such a close race — she’s continued to decline to say who she’ll support for president.
Hickel won the endorsement of the Seattle Times; Reeves won the endorsement of the Federal Way Mirror.
These are two capable candidates, but they have many differences between them. Both want to represent you in Olympia. Only one can.
Time to vote.
Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is the former mayor of Auburn. He can be reached at email@example.com.