Marko Liias, who was appointed to fill the 21st District State Senate seat vacated by the retirement of Paull Shin, seems to have the support of his colleagues.
At Wednesday night’s Senate campaign kickoff event in Edmonds, a long list of elected officials showed up to support Liias. Among those in attendance were City Councilmembers from Edmonds, Mountlake Terrace and Shoreline, a Snohomish County Councilmember, Edmonds and Mukilteo School Board members, four State Representatives, the Mayor of Mukilteo and the Chair of the Snohomish County Democrats.
In her remarks introducing Liias, 21st District State Rep. Mary Helen Roberts said, “I think that the number of legislators in this room speaks to not only the support for Marko but also some of the why the support is there.”
Many in the State House of Representatives feel they have done good work but have been disappointed by the State Senate, Roberts added.
“What we need is more good Democrats in the State Senate,” she said.
Roberts cited two important issues in the 21st District – education and transportation – that Liias had supported as a State Representative for the last six years before being appointed to the Senate.
Education has played an integral role in his life, Liias told the crowd. His parents came from Finland to the United States to start a new life. Liias was the first in his family to attend college.
“Making sure that our kids get a quality education is the only reason I’m here,” he said.
Liias’ parents moved to Mukilteo and he benefited from a good education in the Mukilteo School District.
“That’s the reason I’m standing in front of you today,” Liias said.
At each of his previous kickoff events, Liias said he focused on the people he’s met in his journey as an elected official.
“The faces and experiences of people that I represent are really what I take with me to Olympia and trying to fight on issues that are going to help,” Liias said. “The people out there have poured out their hearts to me. They have told me the toughest things that happened in their lives and asked for help. That’s who I take with me.”
Liias related the story of a Mukilteo woman who contacted him after the failed passage of a bill that would have made it against the law for individuals to obtain a gun if they have a domestic violence protective order against them. The House passed the bill but it was killed in the Senate.
The woman told Liias that her mother was the victim of domestic violence and had been shot by one of her partners. The woman, who had three children, brought her mother home to Mukilteo and told Liias that she worried every day that her mother’s partner would show up.
She asked what would happen if that crazed angry person showed up with a gun at their doorstep.
Liias told the woman’s story and related the impact of the Senate’s decision on her. The Senate later passed the bill.
Liias also told the story of a young gay man, whose parents subjected him to gay conversion therapy. The man attempted suicide multiple times and eventually got out of the situation. Liias introduced legislation to ban conversion therapy but the Senate killed the bill.
“When I talk about taking the voice of everyday people to Olympia I really mean it,” Liias said.
A number of teachers were in the audience and Liias noted that in his visits to classroom, he observed that more and more children are being crammed into classrooms and that teachers are asked to do more without the proper resources.
“Our teachers are given a larger role and less and less help,” he said.
Liias said he has introduced legislation to require a reduction in class size. Currently, Washington state is 47th in the nation in terms of class size.
“I don’t think our kids deserve number 47,” Liias said. “I think they deserve better.”
The 21st District includes all or parts of Edmonds, Lynnwood, Everett and Mukilteo.
— Story and photos by David Pan