Two vie to unseat county councilman

Democratic challengers face Low in August primary

Kelly Sullivan

Two Democrats hope to supplant Republican incumbent Sam Low from the Snohomish County Council District 5 seat this year.

Maltby resident Tara Schumacher and Kristin Kelly of Snohomish say they are ready to tackle concerns related to traffic, affordable housing, homelessness and drug use.

District 5 covers Monroe, Sultan, Gold Bar, Maltby, Index and several other cities and unincorporated areas.

“I think it is great the voters have the choice,” Low said.

Low has held the position since last fall. He won a special election against Hans Dunshee, who was appointed to the seat when Dave Somers exited following his election as Snohomish County Executive.

Low was born and raised in the area, as were his wife and children.

Low received about 37,000 votes, more than any other official who has run for the position, he said. Prior to his win, Low served on the Lake Stevens City Council for three years. Last year his campaign centered on fiscal responsibility, which included finding a cheaper solution to renovating the Snohomish County courthouse in Everett.

This year he is targeting transportation.

Many of the roads in District 5 are not sufficient to handle the millions of commuters that traverse the system daily, Low said. He estimated the area’s arterials are underfunded by about $1.5 billion.

Low points specifically to widening the bottleneck from one to two lanes between the Snohomish River to Paradise Lake Road on State Route 522, and the two-lane highway that spans the stretch from Skykomish to Sultan. He said the commute is “unbearable, period,” especially on weekends.

“Transportation issues have been neglected for way too long,” he said. “I am not anti-bus, but we need to have a balance of buses, but also improving our infrastructure by adding more lanes. We need to add more lane capacity to our infrastructure.”

Low said he will continue to push at the county, state and federal level for the necessary funds. Schumacher said efforts need to be more creative than just adding lanes. She, like Low, is a small-business owner.

Schumacher has lived in the Pacific Northwest for the past three decades. The presidential election last fall finally spurred her into proactive politics. She joined the 1st Legislative District Democrats, which is where she was approached to run for county council.

While she does not have direct experience working in government, Schumacher said she does have the necessary and relevant skills. Before starting her business, she was most recently the director for the education nonprofit Pratt Fine Arts Center in Seattle, where she said she learned the ability to work and negotiate with diverse groups.

Schumacher said she knows how to lead and manage a large budget. She is currently the precinct committee officer for the 1st Legislative District’s Turner District, and she said she wants to bring more representation to the county’s unincorporated areas.

Schumacher offers other strategies for dealing with traffic congestion. She said incentivizing people to stay off the road during peak hours could be an option. That could mean more companies offer four-day workweeks, for example. She also said it will be important for the county to support sustainable transportation alternatives as the area’s population continues to grow.

Low and Schumacher agree the county’s homeless population is in need of attention. Both said mental illness and drug and alcohol addictions overlap the experiences of unsheltered populations, but should be addressed as separate issues.

Kelly said affordable housing also ties into the homelessness problems. Her background is in small business, as well as sustainable growth management. She is the executive director for the Pilchuck Audubon Society, and has worked as the program director for Futurewise, which promotes land-use policy.

When she found out Dunshee was not running again, she decided to apply for the seat. She said she wants to ensure there is support for more small businesses, which are vital to a healthy economy. While corporations are too, their counterparts need more help, she said.

Kelly said she has more government experience than Low and Schumacher. She has spent 15 years working on public policy, she said, serving on the past two Snohomish County Charter Review Commissions.

Kelly said she ran against nearly a dozen other candidates and won the most votes for her district both times. She said she has the necessary knowledge and skills to lobby, conduct public outreach and develop regulations.

“I am honest, I am dependable,” she said. “As people get to know me, they see my good sense of humor and my heart is in the right place.”

Schumacher said her motivations are what set her apart.

“I want this to be a very issues-based campaign — I think that just behooves everyone,” she said. “I am the only one whose campaign is being funded by people; not special interest groups, not developers... I want to go into this office with no obligations to anyone but the citizens of Snohomish County.”

Low said his endorsements stand alone. He is being supported by every Lake Stevens City Councilmember, five Monroe councilmembers, the entire Sultan City Council and the mayor of Sultan. He said his advocates include Republicans, Democrats and independents.

“I have a proven track record at the county council,” he said. “I have experience and balance, and I understand the issues, and I have a track record on the issues.”



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