Politics Blog

Elections: Monjure an eager learner in state race

I am waiting for a call back from Vincent Buys to hear about his re-election campaign and his priorities for 2015 in the state House of Representatives. What follows is from two interviews with his opponent, Joy Monjure, one on June 25 and one today, Monday, July 28. -RS

The first and second impression I got of Joy Monjure, the Democratic candidate for state representative in Legislative District 42, was that she is a natural-born student with an eye to the practical.

"I'm learning a ton of things about the issues," Monjure said in an interview in June. "I'm the kind of person who can't read a fiction book because I feel like I'm cheating. I need to read nonfiction. ... I'm a learner."

Monjure, a former Everson City Council member, stepped up to challenge Vincent Buys, R-Lynden, who is seeking a third term in the House. Monjure was asked by former Bellingham Mayor Tim Douglas and other active community members to run for the House seat.

"We really need you to this because otherwise he's running unopposed," Monjure remembered being told.

(Democrats have lined up a full slate to try to break the Republican grip in the 42nd that's been in place since the 2010 elections. Seth Fleetwood is challenging Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale; and Democrat Satpal Sidhu of Lynden is one of four people, including two Republicans, who seek the other 42nd District House seat, being vacated by Jason Overstreet, R-Lynden.)

Monjure was on the Everson City Council from 1995 to 2005, with two years off during that period. She and another farmer started the Whatcom Food and Farm Finder. The two of them published that brochure for six years before Sustainable Connections took it over, Monjure said.

Monjure worked for city of Bellingham Public Works for more than 20 years. She put in time with the county Flood Advisory Committee and the executive board of Whatcom Council of Governments, which largely handles transportation issues.

On the issues, Monjure focused on water for farmers, education and road construction jobs.

As they work to approve a 2015-17 budget next session, legislators will be pressured to add more money to the K-12 education budget (billions more by 2018, according to estimates). Monjure wants to see that happen.

The pressure comes from the state Supreme Court, which ruled in 2012 that the Legislature is not adequately funding education. Since then, the Legislature hasn't done enough to meet the court's expectations. The partisan divide will be apparent on this issue in 2015 (as on most issues); many Republicans in the House and Senate resist being told what to do by the judicial branch.

Monjure also supports passing a transportation budget, which would provide a large revenue source -- probably a gas tax of around a dime a gallon -- to get bridge and road work done in the state.

"That will create hundreds of jobs in Whatcom County," Monjure said.

Monjure wants to help make progress in a protracted dispute over water in the county -- how much should be left in streams for salmon, and how much the farmers, industries and the rest of us will get.

Farmers have admitted to using more water than they have a right to. The state has been lax on enforcement so far. The issue promises to come to a head, as Lummi Nation and the Nooksack Indian Tribe have asked the federal government to determine an amount of water that should be left in streams.

"We need to work together so the resources are allocated fairly. Otherwise, the courts will decide, and there's going to be winners and losers," Monjure said over the phone on Monday, July 28.

"I don't think we can risk there being losers."

Monjure said it's essential that farmers get the water they need.

"Our agricultural economy is essential to the quality of life we have here, and to our health and everything else. I believe that communities that can't feed themselves are going to be the ones that will be in big trouble as we go into climate change," she said.

Monjure has a disadvantage against Buys that is common among challengers to incumbents. Buys has out-fundraised Monjure about 5 to 1. (About $55,400 to about $10,900.)

"I could definitely use a lot more financial support," Monjure said. "I haven't been able to print signs or anything yet, which I'm really hoping to be able to start soon."

Campaigns in partisan races take the results of the primary seriously, even in two-person races. The willingness of donors to support general-election campaigns could depend on how well candidates do in the primary, even though that result has no immediate bearing on who gets elected to office. The state's top-two election law requires all partisan races to be on the primary ballot, whether or not there are more than two candidates.

Voters who have Monjure and Buys on their ballots live in the 42nd District, which includes north Bellingham, the small cities and rural Whatcom with the exception of the southwest county. 

Primary ballots are due in eight days -- by Tuesday, Aug. 5.