Jodi Wilke, running for a House seat in the 24th District, attracted attention from Republican leaders last year when she led a successful campaign to defeat a ballot measure to increase income taxes in Jefferson County in order to pay for low income housing.
Wilke, a nurse from Port Townsend, hadn’t thought about running before that, but the campaign led to multiple people asking her to run for state representative. This is Wilke’s first foray into formal political positions, but she believes her varied work background has helped prepare her for the job.
The 24th District includes Hoquiam and stretches north to include much of Grays Harbor County and all of Jefferson and Clallam counties. Wilke, a Republican, is challenging Democrat Mike Chapman of Port Angeles, the incumbent.
If passed, the ballot measure would have provided funding for affordable housing for low income households by increasing the county’s income tax. But Wilke said the tax would have harmed 3,000 to 4,000 people while the state built government housing to help just 200 people, and said it would have done more harm than good by pushing poor people who already have homes into an even tougher situation.
“These low income people already had houses, were already struggling to make ends meet, and the increased taxes were going to push them to the edge, where they couldn’t even afford the housing they had,” said Wilke in a phone interview.
Following the campaign she led, Jefferson County voters defeated the tax measure in an election.
Even though Port Townsend votes mostly Democratic, Wilke said explaining the details of the tax to county residents got them to vote against it.
“The big surprise was even though we have a Democratic Port Townsend, and more of a fifty-fifty out in the county, we found that when we got the message out about the details of this initiative, and educated them about what was in the 30-plus pages, people agreed with us,” she said.
Prior to being a nurse, Wilke has worked in restaurants as a waitress, in a boat manufacturing plant, and has owned a contracting company.
If she’s elected as representative, Wilke says she would revise how the state spends its income, and said the state has made unwise decisions like spending 45 percent more in the past five years when the population has gone up by just 8 percent.
In order to reduce unemployment rates, Wilke says she also wants to revise the state’s Growth Management Act, which limits where urban growth can go, and in turn limits where large companies and employers can build.
Another issue Wilke wants to focus on is increasing school security in the wake of school shootings, and says ideas such as single points of entry for schools, automatic door locks and having safe rooms should be “no -brainers.”
“I think if we had some standardized designs that accommodated the needs of the schools, this would benefit our first responders because they would have a limited number of plans they would have to memorize,” said Wilke. “They could develop a response team plan ahead of time, and practice it, so they’d be prepared in the case of emergency.”
As a pro-Second Amendment candidate, Wilke opposes Initiative 1639, which would raise the age requirement to purchase semi-automatic rifles to 21 and create enhanced background checks, along with other changes.
One of Wilke’s complaints of Chapman is that she says the incumbent won’t give a definitive endorsement or disapproval of Initiative 1639. Wilke says that in the past, Chapman has given tacit approval of 1639 by saying the issue should have been handled in the Legislature.
When asked on Tuesday, Chapman told The Daily World that he does support the initiative, particularly the higher age restrictions on assault rifles and enhanced storage requirements for firearms. Chapman added, however, that he’s a gun-owner himself and is “staunchly” pro-2nd Amendment.
“By saying he dislikes the initiative process, that means he thinks the Legislature should’ve put these laws into effect. So without saying he supports 1639, he has tacitly implied that he supports it,” said Wilke. “I’ve not been able to get him to straight-out say he supports it. He speaks out of both sides of his mouth.”
Wilke says Chapman also tried to play both sides of the argument with other initiatives, such as with one public-records bill that would have made the Legislature exempt from the Public Records Act, while making some other records public. Wilke said Chapman voted to approve, and then requested it to be vetoed following public backlash when the bill was set to be passed.
“Following public outcry, he and the other Democrats in the House wrote to Gov. Inslee asking to veto the very legislation they just voted to approve. It’s another example of him voting out of both sides of his mouth.”
Chapman responded to this by saying the bill was just a “first step” towards the state being in full compliance with he Public Records Act, and that he fully supports legislators being subject to public records requests.
“Like a good legislator, you need to listen to public input,” Chapman said. “When the public weighed in and said, ‘We don’t support this bill,’ I responded to my constituents and asked the governor to veto it. I’m proud of the fact that I listened and changed my mind. ”