Meet the 2024 candidates: Lauren Davis, 32nd Legislative District, Position 2

State Rep. Lauren Davis

Ahead of the Aug. 6 primary election, the My Neighborhood News Network submitted a list of questions to candidates running for election. We are publishing responses as we receive them.

Lauren Davis is seeking reelection to the State House of Representatives in the 32nd Legislative District. She has held the Position 2 seat since 2019.

Davis was the founding executive director of the Washington Recovery Alliance and currently serves as its strategy director. The WRA is a grassroots movement of individuals and families impacted by addiction and mental health challenges.

She received her bachelor’s degree in ethnic studies from Brown University and began her career teaching Head Start preschool at a transitional housing facility, then spent several years researching education access as a Fulbright Scholar in Ghana, West Africa.

Upon her return to the U.S., Davis worked as an international development consultant for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. She  helped to launch Forefront, a suicide prevention nonprofit, where she directed school-based mental health programs. She has also taught mental health policy in the masters program at the UW School of Social Work.

In the Legislature, Davis serves on the following committees: appropriations, community safety, justice and reentry, health care and wellness and rules.

How do you plan to stay in touch with constituents while you are in office?

I intend to continue to host Town Halls, both in person and virtually, to publish newsletters (electronic and mailed), to prioritize constituent meeting requests, and to attend events of importance to the communities across our district. Every time I speak or meet folks at an event, I always share my contact information and offer to follow up to have more in-depth conversations about ideas or concerns folks may have.

What are the top three priority areas you would focus on as a lawmaker?

Behavioral health, public safety and housing

What are the priority areas of your legislative district?

Addressing unmet behavioral health needs, adequately funding the schools in our district so they don’t have to make painful cuts, and improving public safety

What do you think the state’s top three budget priorities should be?

Behavioral health, housing and K-12 education/early learning

Recent state legislation has focused on housing initiatives to increase housing supply and the construction of middle housing. Do you support these initiatives? Why or why not? 

Yes! Increasing housing supply is a top priority for me and my constituents. It is a cornerstone of addressing our homelessness and affordability crises.

With rent rising, does the state have a responsibility to cap rent increases? Do you have ideas for supporting struggling renters?

Yes! This issue is personal for me as I am one of the only renters in the Legislature. Rent stabilization is the best support we can offer renters. Additionally, we can continue to work to break down barriers that make it difficult for some folks to rent, such as having a past criminal conviction.

Is there more that lawmakers could be doing to address behavioral health issues related to mental health and substance abuse? What about homelessness? 

Absolutely yes. At the end of the day, we largely know what to do to address mental health and substance use challenges and homelessness. We know which programs work and are backed by reams of evidence. We just haven’t adequately funded these programs. We continue to spread the peanut butter around and offer comparably minor investments compared to what would be needed to make a significant impact in these areas.

What responsibility does the state have in mitigating the impacts of climate change? 

Washington state has been a leader in combating climate change and I am proud of that work. We have a responsibility to continue to push the envelope and be a model for what states can do to maximize their impact at curbing the effects of climate change.

What is your opinion on a state income tax?

Enthusiastically supportive.

School districts are facing drastic budget cuts, which many say is due to the Legislature’s failure to fully fund basic education. Is this a fair criticism? If so, how would you propose addressing it? 

Completely fair. Providing ample funding for K-12 education is the state’s responsibility alone and we have failed our children and families. We are going to need significant revenue increases to fund at the level our students deserve. This could come from progressive revenue sources such as a progressive real estate transfer tax and/or a wealth tax.

What role should the state play in supporting underrepresented groups? 

A large role – -we should lead by example. My caucus applies an equity lens to all of our work. One of my favorite bills of this past session was the “nothing about us without us act,” which ensures persons with lived experience from underrepresented groups will have three seats on state-created statutory committees.

The Legislature failed to pass several police accountability bills during the last session. Would these be a priority for you in 2025? 

I serve on the House Community Safety Committee and am heavily engaged in these discussions. Some of the legislation passed our chamber, but died in the Senate. In other cases, there were insufficient votes in the House. The makeup of both chambers will change next year, which could lead to a different outcome.

How can we increase civic engagement among younger age groups?

As a Millenial myself, I am keenly interested in increasing civic engagement, especially among young folks. I think it’s important to increase opportunities for young people to have exposure to government bodies and the political process. The work of the Legislature is foreign to most people of all ages. I was wildly unfamiliar with the Legislature until I found myself testifying for the first time on a suicide prevention bill in 2013. That legislation passed, and I got hired to help implement it (training school staff in suicide recognition and referral). It was then that I realized how much power lawmakers have and how that power can be wielded for good. I found that captivating and increased my engagement in public policy work significantly. I don’t believe it’s the job of the public to come to us, but rather our job to come to them. “Representative” is in our job title! I frequently speak to all sorts of groups about demystifying the legislative process and I invite young people to come page or shadow me in Olympia.

You can learn more about Davis on her website.

PO Box 9100 | Seattle, WA  98109

— By Jasmine Contreras-Lewis

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