Election preview: 21st Legislative District

By Brandon Gustafson | Jul 25, 2018
Marko Liias

Campaign signs are covering roads all across the county, and ballots were mailed out late last week as the Aug. 7 Primary Election is fast approaching.

The 21st Legislative District includes all of Mukilteo and some of Edmonds, and all three seats in the State Legislature are up for election this year.

The Edmonds Beacon and Mukilteo Beacon sent out a questionnaire regarding hot-button issues in the area.

The topics of the questions were opioids, affordability, homelessness, gun control, and closing comments.

State Senator

Marko Liias has been the state Senator for the 21st Legislative District since 2014, serving as the Floor Leader for the Democratic party in the 2018 Legislative session, and before that was a member of the Washington House of Representatives from 2008 to 2014. Liias was born in the district and graduated from Kamiak High School.

He has three challengers for his seat: Mario Lotmore, Scott West and Riaz Khan.

Lotmore, a Republican, is from The Bahamas and has lived in Mukilteo for the last six years. Lotmore is an engineer, and has experience managing lean accountable processes and policies within his 18 years of strategic development and project management in aerospace and manufacturing.

West, running as an Independent, has resided in the district since 2005 and served in the U.S. Navy. He has two daughters with his wife and has work experience including retail, construction, and factory work, a career as a federal agent, holding director positions in non-profit organizations, and currently running his own business.

Khan, a Democrat, is perhaps best known as the president of the Islamic Center of Mukilteo, a group that has been working to build a mosque in the Harbour Pointe area of Mukilteo. Khan has previously ran for office, losing bids for Mukilteo City Council in 2015 and 2017, and an unsuccessful bid for state Representative in 2016.

Marko Liias

Opioids: This is a multifaceted issue that calls for a multifaceted solution. I co-sponsored legislation to declare the opioid epidemic a public health crisis, which would increase availability of treatment services to those

in need. We need comprehensive treatment and emergency services, and tools to help prevent addiction and abuse.

Affordability: As a member of the Transportation Committee, I helped pass one of the largest transportation packages in our state’s history; this will help bring good jobs and reliable transportation to our district and county.

It is critical we connect residents of the 21st to a variety of transportation options and good paying jobs.

As a member of the Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee, I will continue to fight for job training and employment opportunities that set young people up for success and financial stability.

Homelessness: As Floor Leader, I will continue to urge my colleagues to join me in fighting for a greater investment in smart solutions - like the Housing Trust Fund - that support our most vulnerable and marginalized populations. We must ensure resources are available to support those who are in need.

Gun Control: I wholly support Initiative 1639. Common sense gun regulations, including policies that require background checks and raise the age of purchase, are vital to public safety.

Additional Comment: It’s an honor to serve as your Senator, and champion policies that put people first. In Olympia, I’ve supported investments in jobs, transportation, housing, and mental health while maintaining reserves and cutting property taxes - an immediate relief for families.

Mario Lotmore

Opioids: Approaches have been symptom-based; not root cause. The debate of public health issue vs. criminal issue led to inaction and now an epidemic.

Providers must consult the Prescription Monitoring Program before prescribing opioids. We must promote safe prescription disposal options to protect kids.

I will advocate the “controlled substance homicide” statue to hold drug dealers accountable for overdose deaths. We must use “tough love” to save lives.

Affordability: Many of you ask yourselves, “Aren’t I taxed enough already?”

We can no longer trust current officials to control spending that didn’t pass car tab or full property tax relief.

I will apply my expertise implementing policies to eliminate redundancy to get more with your money.

Let’s work with cities, provide relief for seniors, utilize unused land, and suspend the mandatory in-fill rates of the Growth Management Act.

It shouldn’t be a cost burden to simply live.

Homelessness: Implement low-income housing re-qualifying requirements to make units available for those truly in need.

We must promote vocational trades for a future Technology Corridor to provide jobs. Furthermore, to get addicts and those with mental health issues off the street, we must continue funding programs like the Office of Neighborhoods.

Gun Control: As a gun owner and responsible member of our community, I will defend the 2nd Amendment. Laws should be universal to remove confusion, but we can’t continue policies that impact law-abiding citizens.

Additional Comment: I have expertise no one currently running for office has, and that’s a successful track record for implementing lean and accountable processes and policies.

Scott West

Opioids: We need to restrict opioids, encourage better pain management, and enhance treatment options.

Affordability: We should consider all options to revamp our regressive tax structure and reconsider our transportation policies.

Homelessness: We should understand that not all homelessness has one cause nor one solution, and we should better support our police and first responders.

Gun Control: We should ensure that our current gun laws are enforced and that violations are prosecuted.

Additional Comment: I have real life experience from being on my own since I was 16. I earned bachelor and master degrees and have been married since 1991, raising daughters with my wife, Suzanne, and homeschooling them.

I have real world experience having served in the Navy, in both enlisted and officer positions, travelling internationally with a marine conservation organization, including fighting whaling off of Antarctica; and surviving a full rip 9.0 earthquake tsunami in Japan.

I have real work experience including retail, construction, and factory work; a career as a federal agent, retiring as a Special Agent-in-Charge; holding director positions in non-profit organizations, serving in the U.S. Navy; and now running my own business.

I am not a career politician. I believe in a citizen legislature. I am independent and nonpartisan, free from party demands and big money influence.

I know that good ideas can come from either side of the aisle.

We need to be better prepared for the coming full rip 9.0 earthquake and tsunami, and start planning for the inevitable rise in our coastal waters.

Riaz Khan

Opioids: I believe that expansion of rehab programs including clinics, revelation of unethical marketing practices, and the exposure of treatment scams must be controlled.

I think pharmaceutical companies should take responsibility and accountability, sharing liability with the government and local agencies to combat this epidemic.

Affordability: I think developers should work hand-in-hand with zoning to establish affordable housing in communities where only a small percentage of units are considered affordable.

Homelessness: Provide designated shower/hygiene facilities for those that don’t have a place to get cleaned up or have the support of a family member.

I would like to see more nonprofit organizations become partnered with governmental agencies to rally for support and continued awareness.

Create programs that will provide the lowest possible interest rate for home ownership to people that are returning back into the mainstream of society.

Gun control: I believe there should be stricter background checks, and that the minimum age for purchasing a gun should be 21 years old. There should be a ban on assault weapons, and guns should be licensed, just like cars.

Additional Comment: I will be extremely careful with taxpayers’ money. I will make sure every dollar is accounted for and spent wisely. I will work for traffic congestion relief and a better transportation system that works for us.

I will oppose installing multiple 5G meters in our neighborhood that will expose the radiation, resulting in worse health condition causing cancer.

In addition, when elected, I will donate my entire salary to Mukilteo to help pay for roads and parks.

Position 1

Incumbent Strom Peterson, Democrat, is a small business owner in Edmonds who has held the position since 2015. Peterson also served on the Edmonds City Council for six years prior to joining the state Legislature. Peterson helped pass the nation’s first drug take-back program and other measures to tackle the opioid crisis.

He is challenged by Amy Schaper.

Schaper, a Republican, has served five terms as an elected Precinct Committee Officer, and as a delegate to state party conventions, and has worked on numerous political campaigns and causes, according to the Snohomish County Local Voters’ Pamphlet.

Schaper did not respond to the Beacon’s request for comment.

Strom Peterson

Opioids: One of my proudest moments was passing the Drug Take-Back Act last session. As a first-in-the-nation program paid for by pharmaceutical companies, this makes it easier for people to dispose unwanted medicine at their neighborhood pharmacy. As someone who has lost a family member to overdose, this has been a priority of mine.

Affordabilty: I will work with elected officials on issues around land use and density to create housing options for families, working people, and seniors while making smart investments in housing. We need to grow public transportation options to connect residents to affordable housing and employment opportunities. I’m working on issues around tenants’ rights as the cost of rental units are skyrocketing, leaving many people on the verge of homelessness.

Homelessness: As vice chair on the Capital Budget Committee, I was proud to invest over $100 million in affordable housing for seniors, veterans, youth and others. We must invest in our mental health system as the nexus between mental health and homelessness becomes more apparent. There’s over 30,000 homeless kids in public schools; this is a priority issue for me.

Gun control: I support Initiative 1639, and I have sponsored legislation to ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines. Common sense gun regulations are critically important to protect our kids.

Additional Comment: Despite the national political climate, there’s still great opportunity for bipartisanship in Olympia. I am proud to have passed legislation that had support from both sides, and I will continue to work with everybody to find good solutions for our state’s needs.

Position 2

Lillian Ortiz-Self, Democrat, has held this seat since 2014. Her background is in education, and she is currently employed as a school counselor in the Everett School District. She lives in Mukilteo and has three children who have grown up in the Mukilteo School District. Her challenger is Petra Bigea, Republican, who is from Romania. She came to America in 1995 with her husband, and has served as a Republican Precinct Committee Officer and rights activist.

Bigea currently works at Summit Cardiology as a Records Lead. She lives in Lynnwood and has two children.

Lillian Ortiz-Self

Opioids: I’d like to see a better physician monitoring system to ensure coordination and communication among physicians and patients. I’d like to see better options for those in pain that do not include such hard degrees of pain management. I’d like to see better education around this issue. We need accessible, affordable, and multiple treatment options.

Affordability: We could work with our housing committee to explore incentives for local communities to create multiple housing options. We must make sure that we are tapping into all federal matching dollars available through the Housing Trust Fund.

Homelessness: There isn’t one solution. It must be attacked with a comprehensive model that includes providing mental health services, financial literacy and assistance, multiple housing options, creation of jobs and training programs, and abuse treatment options. South Snohomish County is in dire need of an emergency housing shelter. I’d like to see all local and state officials come together to address this.

Gun Control: I believe in stricter background checks that include looking for domestic violence and mental illness. I support raising the age of purchase to 21 years old, especially for semi-automatic weapons.

Additional Comment: As an educator, meeting the needs of the whole child is important to me. That includes removing barriers families face, from transportation and jobs to healthcare and mental health. We’re facing a mental health crisis, especially with young people. We must find a way to remove the mental illness stigma, increase education, and provide treatment options so the county doesn’t grieve the loss of one more child.

Petra Bigea

Opioids: Prevention/education needs to be present at doctor’s offices, schools, churches and homes.

On-demand treatment for those wanting recovery and more embedded social workers will help get addicts back into productive society. Public and private entities need to work together, finding ways to maximize treatment options without burdening taxpayers. I will lead this effort.

Utilize “Stay Out of Designated Areas” programs keeping nuisance addict cases away from business centers.

Enable law enforcement with the tools necessary to remove the criminal addicts not wanting treatment from communities and neighborhoods.

Affordability: Industries like Blokable putting in 70 affordable housing units in Edmonds is an example of private industry providing cheaper housing.

Some affordability issues are related to skyrocketing property taxes. With ST3, car tabs rose astronomically.

Higher taxes hurt households.

I am for electing a Sound Transit Board for accountability of tax dollars used on ST3 - already $500 million over budget. I will work for residents to retain more of their hard-earned money; holding government spending accountable.

Homelessness: Partner public and private entities helping those wanting to receive job training. Transitional housing such as Everett’s Housing Hope is an example of public/private sectors helping people transition into self-sufficiency.

Gun Control: Gun laws restrict registered gun owners, not criminal elements creating most gun crimes.

Often, it’s societal, mental health, and criminal elements behind gun crimes, irrelevant of age.

Proper early identification of these issues along with enforcement of current gun laws are needed.

Additional Comments: Help working poor with job training/education to become self-sufficient, improving their quality of life.


Candidate websites are as follows:










Ballots for the Primary Election are due by Aug. 7 if turning them in to an approved drop-off location.

Mailed in ballots must be postmarked no later than Aug. 7.

Look for another Primary Election preview in next week’s paper.

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