State Rep. Skyler Rude, R-Walla Walla, will face Democratic challenger Jan Corn in the upcoming Nov. 8 General Election in a race to decide who will represent the 16th Legislative District in Olympia for the next two years.
The 16th Legislative District includes Walla Walla County, a little under half of Benton County and a sliver of Franklin County. Those boundaries were recently changed in statewide redistricting efforts following the 2020 Census. Every legislative district is served by two state representatives and one state senator. Rude and Corn are competing for state Representative Position 2.
The candidate selected by voters to represent their district in Olympia will be faced with countless issues, including state taxes, policies affecting housing and health care, and police reforms, to name a few. The winner will likely need to make these decisions in a Democrat-controlled state House, Senate and Governor’s office.
Washington state legislators who are not caucus leaders are paid salaries of $57,876 per year.
Q: What is your top legislative priority if elected, and how would you ensure you can accomplish it in Olympia during your term?
A: There is not one, but many, top priorities for our region. Among those at the top of my list are economic development, affordability concerns (health care, housing, groceries, child care, etc), long term water management for the Walla Walla Basin, and educational opportunity. My strategy over the last four years has been to work across the aisle for the benefit of the district. That was my commitment in 2018 when first elected, and my commitment moving forward. This collaborative spirit has worked well for our district, resulting in numerous bills that I sponsored being signed into law — bills related to water rights and straw pulp use, to school safety and mental health supports for corrections staff.
Q: Voting is the backbone of our democracy, and Washington state residents vote by mail. Do you support this method of voting? Are there areas of our voting system you would work to improve or change in our current system?
A: I don’t see this being an issue in the Legislature next year. However, I do support mail in voting for a few reasons. Allowing a voting period that is more than just one day allows for greater access to participate. Many folks work inflexible jobs and long hours that make showing up in person on a specific day challenging or even impossible. I co-sponsored a bill, that is now law, requiring the state to provide prepaid postage for ballots because constitutional rights, as a general rule, should be as barrier free as possible.
I know there are concerns about widespread voter fraud, and I have taken those seriously. There are a very small number of instances of fraud, which do get prosecuted, but the evidence to support the widespread fraud claims hasn’t materialized. Washington has been a vote by mail state for a very long time, and in my opinion, mostly does it right. Of course, I am always supportive of changes to improve the confidence and security of elections, because that is the foundation of our democratic republic. After discussing these issues with election officials, including former Secretary of State Kim Wyman, I am confident voting by mail can remain effective and fair in Washington.
Q: What would you do if elected to improve access to health care, including for mental health, in rural areas?
A: I’ve had the chance to work on health care policy in the Legislature already and I serve on the House Health Care Committee. One of the projects I sponsored in the capital budget funded an expansion for the Columbia County Health System in Dayton to build a dental clinic. It allows expanded dental services for the area’s Medicaid population in a financially sustainable model. I sponsored a bill, which is now law, that authorizes peer to peer mental health support programs for correctional staff, who often times experience traumatic and stressful work environments.
I support expanded treatment options for individuals experiencing substance use addiction. This could be in the form of facility construction dollars and/or mental health professional education and training opportunities. I supported an expansion of support staff funding in schools to address the current gap in counselors and other mental health professions. I will continue to make sure rural areas have a voice when these conversations are happening in Olympia, because policies that don’t acknowledge the differences between urban and rural areas generally don’t work well in Eastern Washington.