2020 Election

The three candidates aiming for the state Senate seat being left open by Republican Sen. Maureen Walsh of College Place have their eyes on similar issues.

Democrat Danielle Garbe Reser of Walla Walla, Republican Perry Dozier of Waitsburg, and Republican William “Bill” Jenkin of Prosser — and current Position 1 state representative in the 16th District — are all vying for the vacancy, with only two advancing beyond the Aug. 4 primary, regardless of party affiliation.

All three candidates have seen their campaign efforts turned upside down during the COVID-19 pandemic, which consequently gave all three similar talking points as they spoke of reconciling a new state budget, supporting education and keeping the economy afloat while still combating the novel coronavirus.

The senator position for the 16th District represents all of Columbia and Walla Walla counties plus a chunk of Benton County and a small portion of Franklin County.

This is Garbe Reser’s first time running for an elected government position. Dozier previously served two terms as a Walla Walla County commissioner, up through 2016. Jenkin will be releasing his spot in the state House of Representatives, after serving two terms there, in order to run for the Senate.

Here are the candidates presented in alphabetical order:

Perry Dozier

Dozier has had a deluge of duties throughout his days in the Walla Walla Valley.

As he pondered entering the race, Dozier approached Walsh, broaching the idea of running in spring of 2019, unaware if she was running again. He began his campaign in earnest that summer and eventually found out that Walsh would not be seeking reelection.

From his farming practices to his community service with state, regional and local agencies and nonprofits, Dozier believes he has seen the gamut of dilemmas that make him informed on the most important issues to bring to the stage in Olympia.

But one thing is sticking out the most when looking at his past experience — budgeting.

Dozier was a Walla Walla County commissioner when post-Recession budgets were being drafted. He oversaw budgetary measures being taken including freezes on pay raises for elected officials and reduced spending, all while making sure reserves were not depleted.

“It’s gonna be similar going into this legislative session,” Dozier said.

He said with the state losing tax revenue, it will be important to prevent businesses from taking the fall.

“A lot of these small businesses have been hemorrhaging their finances that they have, eating up their equity to try to remain afloat,” Dozier said. “So to go out and try to make a bad situation worse by raising taxes is not going to work.”

Another top priority is education funding, specifically for kindergarten through high school. Dozier would like to ensure projects that have already started in the transportation field are seen to completion, such as U.S. Highway 12 improvements.

Dozier believes having been a heavily involved citizen for most of his life has given him expertise in the areas of the environment, agriculture, long-term care, behavioral health and economics.

Danielle Garbe Reser

As Garbe Reser began her steps toward her run for the state Senate, it began with stepping down.

The former CEO of Sherwood Trust has been in and out of the political world for most of her life, following her education in politics at Whitman College, including stints with the Obama Administration and former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.

Garbe Reser stepped down from her role in the Walla Walla philanthropic organization to run as the sole Democrat in this race.

Garbe Reser said she is the perfect candidate to span the political gap between Olympia and Eastern Washington, thanks to her local roots and history of aisle-bridging, saying she has “proudly worked” with both Republicans and Democrats.

But during her time at Sherwood Trust, she was dismayed to see the Legislature leave rural communities in limbo.

“I saw tremendous work in our communities and tremendous initiative,” Garbe Reser said. “And yet in philanthropy you could help on things, but you couldn’t fix. I kept on seeing systemic problems where if Olympia was a stronger partner with Eastern Washington we would have more success.

“I’ve really wanted to bridge the divide in our state. It has often felt like we are two states.”

Garbe Reser said running as a Democrat will help bridge that divide because Democrats will continue to hold the majority in the Legislature.

She said Eastern Washington needs “at least one Democrat from rural Eastern Washington that can fit in that room and explain that one-size-fits-all policies won’t work for our region.”

She saw promise in Republicans calling for a special session of the Legislature to help stop the bleeding of the state budget. She also was greatly dismayed by the failures of the Employment Security Department and the fraudulent claims that bled millions of dollars from the state.

“We’re going to have to make hard decisions about the budget going forward,” Garbe Reser said. “I’d like to see a mix of responses.”

She said that mix includes federal partnership, canceling new initiatives, making cuts and using the rainy day fund when necessary. Tax raises, in her opinion, should only be considered for the wealthiest earners in the state, if necessary.

Garbe Reser said two areas of passion: making sure mental health services are properly funded and bolstering efforts to increase child care and early learning across the state.

William “Bill” Jenkin

Jenkin enters the race as the only candidate from the western portion of the district, and the only one with legislative experience.

“It was a tough decision,” Jenkin said of giving up his representative seat in order to run for senator.

“I really pondered it ... I go to church, so I prayed on it, and I gotta say it was tough. The House has been good to me. I’ve worked hard and they’ve seen it, and I’ve been rewarded with being a ranking member on a pretty important committee (regarding) housing.”

Jenkin ultimately threw his hat in the ring after talking with some of his peers, believing that his voice and views could do more good in the Senate where there are fewer voices vying for attention.

“A lot of the policy, if not most of the policy signed by the governor, comes from the Senate side,” Jenkin said.

When asked about the most important issue facing the Senate in the next session, the answer was simple and in line with the other candidates — “the budget,” Jenkin said.

“(House Republicans) asked for a special session about a month ago,” Jenkin said. “... That special session shouldn’t be political ... so we can get a plan in place for our budget.”

Jenkin said the budget planning needs to happen now and putting it off to the next biennium is improper considering the economic situation.

He said the special session is also important for education because it could address concerns about schools reopening in the fall.

“OK, if students come back in the fall, we need to have policies in place that protect against lawsuits in case students get (COVID-19),” Jenkin said. “... If students come down with (it), and they will, who’s gonna start paying those lawsuits? ... In putting school districts on the line, we’re putting taxpayers at risk.”

Jenkin also pointed to education funding, water usage and rights, the economy and unemployment fraud as areas that need to be addressed sooner than later.

Jedidiah Maynes can be reached at jedidiahmaynes@wwub.com or 509-526-8318.

Jedidiah Maynes is the managing editor of Walla Walla Lifestyles magazine. He also writes about business news in the Valley and covers a variety of others topics on occasion. He enjoys making music and puns.