Candidates give their take on taxes, housing, and gun safety

Running for senator in the 48th Legislative District is Democrat incumbent Patty Kuderer and the Democrat challenger Rodney Tom. The 48th Legislative District includes parts of Bellevue, Redmond, and Kirkland.

See more election coverage online at

Please provide a brief biography:

Kuderer: Patty Kuderer moved to the Eastside nearly 20 years ago where she raised her two children, Michael and Emily. She has over 30 years’ experience as an attorney in municipal and private practice. Her current practice focuses on employment discrimination, sexual harassment in particular, and helping people injured by texting, drunk, or other negligent drivers. She is an advocate for open government, becoming well versed in public records laws when working as a city attorney, an area she also continues to practice in today. She has represented the 48th Legislative District since 2015, first as a representative and now as its first female state senator.

Tom: Rodney Tom was born and raised in Eastgate, a proud graduate of the Bellevue School District, and worked his way through college at the University of Washington. Having worked over 25 years in real estate, Rodney is an avid outdoorsman having climbed all five of Washington’s volcanoes. Rodney was first elected to the Legislature in 2002. In 2009-10, he was the chief budget writer for the senate Democrats, chair of Higher Education in 2011-12, and Senate majority leader in 2013-14.

Do you believe that taxes are calculated fairly to fund education in our state? If not, what would you change?

Kuderer: No. Washington has the most unfair tax system in the country – we force the middle class and the poor to pay huge tax bills while the richest among us don’t pay their fair share. We need to reform our taxes to close loopholes that have no connection to job creation or job retention and only benefit the corporate special interests. I would start the change by lowering property taxes and replacing that revenue with a capital gains tax on financial investments dedicated to education funding. This will help make our whole system fairer for working families, while investing in the things we know our community needs — better schools, health care for all, more affordable housing, and a transportation system that works.

Tom: Education funding is about prioritization, since 2011 it’s up over 64 percent. The education budget in 2005 was only 38 percent of the state’s budget. Due in part to my leadership and laser focus, next year it’s projected to be 51.6 percent. When I was Senate majority leader, over 80 percent of the new revenue went to education, reversing a 30-year slide.

My opponent let your property taxes dramatically increase. When I was Senate majority leader, I made sure property taxes didn’t go up because I always thought the tax swap was a one-way deal; you would never see the local taxes reduced especially here in the Puget Sound region. Money alone will not solve our education problems, we need fundamental reforms that my opponent and her biggest supporter the teacher’s union will never agree to. No other profession today pays mediocre employees the same as their star performers, yet that is exactly what we do in education. If we want great math and science teachers, they need to be paid more than a PE teacher, yet the union fights tooth and nail for everyone to make the same. We must quit letting the teacher’s union dictate education policy and put the interests of our students first for once.

Home prices and property taxes have been on the rise. How would you promote housing diversity and affordability?

Kuderer: We need to work on housing affordability on all fronts. We need to expand our housing supply, especially near transit hubs, since housing scarcity is making it so much harder for people to live near their school or work. This includes common sense reform of regulations that are unreasonably inhibiting housing development. We need to increase our investment in the state’s Housing Trust Fund, so we can build housing that is guaranteed to be affordable for all. We need to reduce our reliance on regressive property taxes to allow our seniors to age in place and to keep rents affordable. And we need to hold developers accountable to actually build the affordable housing that we need in our communities. By working with our cities and counties we can expand our supply of affordable housing so more people can afford to live in our communities.

Tom: The first thing you do to make housing more affordable is to stop the never-ending increases in property taxes. My opponent thinks big government is the solution to every problem, she wants more revenue not less. Second, we need to reform the condominium construction liability laws. Every single condo built in the last 15 years has been sued under state laws written by trial attorneys, so developers quit building them. Having worked over 25 years in real estate, I know how to solve this issue while protecting the interests of condo buyers. If you think my trial attorney opponent has any interest in changing these laws, good luck I can’t help you.

Mass shootings, suicides and school security are big concerns in our communities. When it comes to guns, how do you balance safety with constitutional rights?

Kuderer: The Second Amendment is completely compatible with reasonable and effective laws to protect us from gun violence. I strongly support Initiative 1639, and in the Legislature, I’ve been a champion for gun safety legislation to reduce the risk of terrible shootings in our schools, homes, and communities. I’m proud to be endorsed by the Alliance for Gun Responsibility and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense. I’ll keep on working to keep guns out of the hands of those who intend to do us harm.

Tom: I support I-1639, common-sense changes to our gun laws like tougher background checks and longer waiting periods. The Second Amendment doesn’t allow you to own a tank, so clearly there are limits to it we can all agree on. I don’t think anyone needs an AR-15 to go hunt Bambi. We don’t need 10-plus round cartridges that are designed with one thing in mind, massive destruction. We can protect individual rights to own firearms, but we can do it in a sensible way that curtails those wanting to inflict harm on society. Our children’s lives depend on it.

CORRECTION: This story has been corrected to reflect that Rodney Tom is a Democrat.