A Republican incumbent state representative will defend his seat in the West Plains against a Democratic challenger who hopes to grow awareness of housing issues at the state level.
Mike Volz, who first won his 6th District seat in 2016 and also works as the Spokane County chief deputy treasurer, said education issues got him into politics and he plans to continue his efforts if re-elected November.
His opponent, Kay Murano, said she was inspired to run for office after the Legislature failed to pass the state construction budget, which included money to pay for low-income housing, due to a separate disagreement over water rights legislation. She said she understood that water rights issues are complex and affect many Spokane residents, but said the budget should not be used to strong-arm the other political party.
“I truly think people need to come together and not use a budget as a bargaining chip,” she said.
Volz won his seat by 8 percentage points in 2016. But the August primary hints at a much closer race this time. Volz took 50.3 percent of the vote to Murano’s 49.7 percent. He won by 228 votes out of nearly 44,000.
Both Volz and Murano said there is likely more work to be done on the state’s education funding plan, which the Legislature negotiated in 2017 after the state Supreme Court ruled that K-12 education was underfunded.
Murano, who is the executive director of Spokane Low Income Housing Consortium, said she is concerned that over the next five years the current plan may not have the funds to continue to pay teachers at the levels recently negotiated by their districts. She and Volz want more funding to boost support services in schools.
Volz said he hopes to increase funding to smaller schools to ensure they have at least one mental health or career counselor and adequate funding for a school resource officers.
Murano said one of her priorities if elected is ensuring the capital budget includes ample funding for the Housing Trust Fund, which goes toward organizations that build low-income or homeless housing. She also hopes to eventually work alongside city and counties to build more affordable homes and sponsor eviction protection legislation.
In some parts of the state, she said, cities require landlords to provide just cause when evicting tenants, but it’s not a statewide policy. She said the state should create a uniform set of rules that protects tenants from being evicted without a good reason and requires landlords to provide earlier notice so tenants can find new housing.
Volz, who was one of several Spokane-area legislators who voted for a public records bill that would have shielded calendars and past records from the public view, is a member of the task force created to find a Public Records Act compromise. Volz said he has been subject to the Public Records Act for 19 years as an employee of the Spokane Transit Authority and the county treasurer’s office and thought the bill would have opened many records to the public that had previously been denied.
He said he does believe legislators should be subject to the act, but some of their communications should be protected so there is not a stifling effect on people attempting to contact them privately.
Volz said as a parent he’s been frustrated in the past over the ever-changing graduation requirements and the push to ensure high school students are college ready. Outside of improving education funding over the next few years, he said he hopes to continue his efforts to decouple testing and graduation requirements and support skill classes, such as shop, that prepare students for a future outside of a four-year degree.
Both candidates said they support Initiative 1634, which would bar local governments from taxing grocery items, but they took different stances on the other initiatives on the ballot. Murano said she supported a carbon tax and a police initiative that would create a good faith test for using deadly force. She also supports, I-1639, which would require additional background checks, raise the minimum age to purchase fire arms to 21 and require safe storage of firearms, but she said she was concerned about how police would enforce the safe storage component.
Volz said said he opposes a carbon tax because consumers likely would pay higher prices as companies likely would pass on the tax. He said he believes the trainings the police and deadly force initiative calls for are already in place at many departments and it may be unnecessary. He also said the gun initiative would create unnecessary regulation.