Incumbent Drew Hansen and newcomer Elaina Gonzalez-Blanton are running for the 2nd position of Washington’s 23rd Legislative District, which encompasses Kitsap County.
Hansen has played crucial roles in creating the state’s Workforce Education Investment Act, creating a centralized gun purchase background check system, the New Hope Act. Dream Act 2.0 and Net Neutrality. But his primary focus this election is COVID-19 pandemic recovery.
“I think the top three issues right now are all pandemic recovery. We are being overwhelmingly responsible in Kitsap County with wearing masks and keeping our distance and meeting up outside. As a result, we were able to move toward reopening faster than some of the rest of the state,” he said. “I asked the governor’s office for some regional flexibility, recognizing that the virus risk in Kitsap County is not the same as in Yakima County. That was granted, and that’s what allowed us to move toward Phase 2.”
In past campaigns, Hansen has run on job creation, which is still a focus of this campaign.
“I’m not stopping focusing on access to going to college and job training, I guess that is also part of the pandemic recovery,” he said. “The number one way we address job creation is getting the virus under control so that we can reopen more of the county safely. I have been active in advocating the governor’s office for loosening restrictions where they just don’t make sense.”
Hansen is a Democrat who has served since 2011. He attended both Harvard College and Yale Law School and has spent much of his career as a trial lawyer representing small businesses and individuals impacted by financial fraud. Hansen also taught Civil Rights History at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Hansen lives on Bainbridge Island with his wife and two children and is often involved in community sports.
Newcomer Elaina Gonzalez-Blanton is running as a Republican, after joining the party and volunteering as a precinct committee officer during the 2016 election. She has lived in Kitsap County for over 30 years, attended Olympic College where she got her degree in Human Services and has worked in Social Services. She is earning her graduate degree through Washington State University in History and Policy while living with her blended family of eight in Bremerton.
For Gonzalez-Blanton, the top three issues facing the county are deregulation, repealing recent taxes and repealing the new sex education bill.
She said repealing taxes and deregulation would allow more businesses to thrive and survive rather than die.
As for sex ed, “I’m gathering signatures for another initiative that would put the power back to the districts that the school board, parents and teachers can decide what kind of sex ed curriculum they want.”
Senate Bill 5395, which passed in March, requires public schools to provide a comprehensive sex ed curriculum for all grades. The bill is controversial and some say too explicit, leading to R-90 being placed on the Nov. 3 ballot, thanks to almost 250,000 people who signed a petition to get rid of it.
Another piece of Gonzalez-Blanton’s platform is infrastructure, particularly roads.
“Making sure that our taxpayer dollars go toward fixing the roads and accountability to where our money is going and that it goes to the right places so that we don’t have these long lines and don’t have these roads that are forever being fixed,” she said.
Hansen and Gonzalez-Blanton were asked if they support broadband infrastructure as the coronavirus and stay home orders have shown that Kitsap County is in need of affordable and accessible internet for all.
“I think we could look at programs that take into account what people can afford,” Gonzales-Blanton said, adding schools fund should pay for it if schools are going to require online learning. “We’re paying so much in taxes to schools right now, and I don’t know exactly what we’re doing with that money…”
Hansen said: “I’ve been working for some time now on a bill to expand broadband as a public utility akin to electricity or waste disposal. There are restrictions on the Kitsap Public Utility District to offer broadband as a utility – my bill would eliminate all of those restrictions.”
As to which of them is the better candidate, Hansen spoke about his record while Gonzalez-Blanton talked about being of the people of Kitsap County.
“I come from a diverse background. I live right in the heart of Bremerton so I’m accessible, and I have worked hard to get what I have in life. I am a real person that has had struggles in life. I know what your average person has gone through,” Gonzalez-Blanton said.
Hansen said: “I have a track record of successfully bringing more affordable college and job training opportunities to Kitsap County that I want to build on and expand. We are an underserved area in the state in terms of college opportunities. I have a record of really delivering on promises made in past campaigns.”