September 2, 2022
From the Editor’s Desk: Fact-checking state Senate candidates
Mike Sato and Salish Current staff

Truth and trust: Candidates for the 42nd Legislative District Senate seat — incumbent Sen. Simon Sefzik (R) and 42nd District Rep. Sharon Shewmake (D) — appeared in a recent online forum presented by Bellingham City Club. In pursuit of the truth, Salish Current staff have done a post-event fact check on candidate statements. (Salish Current photo)

September 2, 2022
From the Editor’s Desk: Fact-checking state Senate candidates
Mike Sato and Salish Current staff

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The Bellingham City Club on Aug. 24 featured 42nd Legislative District Senate candidates Sharon Shewmake and Simon Sefzik in a moderated virtual forum. Shewmake, a Democrat, has represented the district in the House for two terms. Sefzik, a Republican, is the incumbent senator, appointed to finish out the 2022 session following the death of then-senator Doug Ericksen.

In our continued commitments to accuracy and to the fight against misinformation in our political system, the Salish Current fact-checked some of the statements made by the candidates. (Before the August primary election, Salish Current fact-checked statements in a Bellingham-Whatcom County League of Women Voters forum featuring candidates for 42nd District House and Senate seats.)

• Sefzik said that 22 new taxes had been passed since Shewmake was elected in 2018.
Score: Mostly true

Shewmake was first elected in 2018 and was not in office during the 2018 legislative session. The state legislature passed a total of 20 tax measures in 2019-2022; these bills were then placed for advisory vote on the general election ballots [11 in 2019, 4 in 2020, 3 in 2021, 2 in 2022]. 

• Sefzik said he worked on and voted for flood relief for Whatcom County. 
Score: Mostly untrue

Sefzik has been involved in flood relief discussions but voted against the major flood relief appropriations in ESB5693.

• Shewmake said Sefzik voted against the stabilizing school funding of $7.5 million to keep our schools open.
Score: True

As included in the supplemental budget bill ESB 5693; see votes for/against in Roll Call

Candidates Sen. Simon Sefzik (R), at left, and Rep. Sharon Shewmake (D) participated in a recent pre-election forum. (Photos sourced from candidates’ websites).

• Sefzik said Washington has the lowest mathematical performance in the country.
Score: Untrue

Florida has the lowest math scores in the country

• Shewmake said Washington is at or above average on the national report cards.
Score: True

Washington ranks 11th among states in pre-K–12 education.

• Sefzik said Shewmake voted for some of the most restrictive police laws in the country.
Score: Questionable

Washington (along with 19 other states) enacted use-of-force restrictions in 2021 that limited the situations in which a police officer could intervene. This bill drew significant criticism from the law enforcement community as being too restrictive. The legislature in 2022 updated and reworked the use-of-force section at the request of the law enforcement community. Shewmake voted for both the original bill (HB 1310) in 2021 and the reform bill in 2022 (HB 1735).

Whether the measures are the most restrictive police law in the country is questionable. The Brennan Center for Justice, which studies legislation relating to policing, identified a large number of criminal justice reforms that have been enacted in states across the nation over the last two years. While Washington is one of the states that made some changes to restrict police actions, to say it is the most restrictive in the United States is difficult to quantify.

• Sefzik said he the only candidate endorsed by law enforcement organizations.
Score: True

Sefzik has been endorsed by the Washington Fraternal Order of Police and Washington Council of Sheriffs and Police.  

• Shewmake said Sefzik got a “big fat check” from the NRA. Sefzik said no; Shewmake said there’s a photo of him holding up the enlarged check.
Score: True

Photo.

• Shewmake said that in other countries patients get better results and spend less with universal health care.
Score: True

The U.S. ranks last in a measure of health care access and quality, indicating higher rates of amenable mortality than peer countries. The data through 2020 shows that the U.S. spends significantly more on health care than other nations, both on a per-capita basis and relative to its wealth.

Salish Current will continue to work to inform the public on the accuracy of candidates’ statements as they run for office. Future installments will focus on the political mailers that are sent out as ballots arrive.

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