Two-term state representative and congressional candidate Beth Doglio has won endorsements from several unions, environmental groups, and progressive politicians in her bid to capture retiring Rep. Denny Heck’s 10th District seat.
The 10th District race is one of only seven vacant Democratic House seats in 2020 and 19 candidates are vying for a top-two finish in the August jungle primary. Based on her platform and endorsements, Doglio seems to be building a coalition of key progressive interests: unions, environmentalists, gun reform advocates, etc.
In the wake of her recent endorsements, I called Rep. Doglio and asked her to explain a few of her policy positions. We touched on issues related to the Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), access to higher education, wielding leverage in a legislative body, the future of organized labor, and more.
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Michael Goldberg: I want to begin by asking you a couple of questions about your district. According to a 2018 survey, around 73,413 veterans reside in Washington 10. Can you lay out what you think are the biggest issues veterans face today and a few policies you might pursue in Congress that target veterans?
Rep. Beth Doglio: Clearly JBLM is one of the most important areas that a member of Congress from the 10th District needs to address. It’s a major economic driver in our district. I believe the JBLM regional economic impact is between $8.3 billion and $9.2 billion. So, clearly it’s a priority and I think Denny Heck has done a very good job addressing issues at JBLM. A couple of key issues on the base itself before I get to key issues that veterans and military families in the district face.
The North Clear Zone is a place where we need to invest significant amounts of money. We’re out of compliance there and as a member of Congress I would be very committed to working with the base to address that issue. I’m also very concerned about at-grade crossing. Because the base is bisected by I-5, many members live on the west side of the base and travel in on the east side through at-grade crossings, and we have the high speed rail going in. So that’s another big infrastructure project that I would be working to find funds to address.
In terms of military members and veterans, I’m very committed to ensuring we fund good health care, housing, mental health services, and educational opportunities. Some of the key issues that families face surround childcare. When families move here it can be very challenging to find childcare. In Congress I would be pursuing universal childcare to make sure that all families, including military families for whom it’s a particularly tough issue, have access to childcare. The licensure issue for spouses – something that I’ve worked on in the Legislature – is also super key to making sure that military spouses who are moving from place to place have opportunities to find employment.
And of course for all families, military families included, affordable housing is a huge issue. 70% of families live off the base so we need to find all kinds of ways to build more affordable housing.”
MG: Census data from 2010 shows a college graduation rate in the 10th CD of 26.4 percent, which is below the average higher education attainment rate in Washington State. Do you think that state and federal governments should prioritize expanding access to higher education by making it more affordable, or should the priority be carving out a sector of the economy with enough jobs that don’t require one to have a four-year college degree in order to subsist or retain some level of social mobility. I realize this might sound like a false choice, but again, it’s a question of priorities given the institutional constraints that exist in government.
RBD: I think that any policy we work on needs to address post-secondary education of all sorts. So, we need to make sure we’re training young people to have the skills to fix our bridges and roads, put up new transmission lines for our fossil-free future, and all of that. We do that through apprenticeship opportunities and funding training for our young people who want to pursue that path. That path is a very important path for our country right now. We need more workers who can help us rebuild and fix our failing infrastructure. At the same time, we need to make sure that every young person and those who need to retrain later in life are afforded accessible options to pursue a community college degree or a four-year degree. I do think it’s a little bit of a false choice. We need to make sure, especially as we move out of this crisis, that we’re supporting people with a range of different skills. Rebuilding our infrastructure, for example, takes both engineers and people out there doing the physical work to make it happen.”
MG: You’ve received endorsements from Rep. Pramila Jayapal and the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) PAC. Should you get elected, I imagine you’d be among the new crop of members from your class to join the CPC. So assuming that’s true, I’m really curious to hear your take on the strategy the CPC might employ going forward. I think something you hear from people on the left flank of the party is that the CPC should act more like the Freedom Caucus did a few years ago. That they should take more of a stand and make more of an effort to block legislation that doesn’t align with their priorities. It seems that it might not be an apples to apples to comparison because you have fewer members in the CPC who have displayed a willingness to defy the party leadership. I realize you’re not in Congress yet but you are a state house member so can you talk about your view of wielding leverage in a legislative body?
RBD: I think one of the things that has allowed me to get very significant progressive policy across the finish line is my ability to work collaboratively with people across my caucus and across the aisle. That is something that I intend to bring to Congress; it’s how I operate and who I am. At the end of the day, we want to be pushing for as much progressive policy as we can. We need to be pushing for policies that make sure our most vulnerable communities are cared for with a social safety net, that we are addressing climate as rapidly as we possibly can, that we are working on gun responsibility, and that we are working on moving towards a health care system that covers everybody. I think what I bring is the ability to listen and hear where people are coming from in the negotiating room and to have everybody heard in the policy outcome.
Back to the question, I think I would be more of the mind that we need to work constructively and collaboratively to move policy forward that is both progressive and reflective of the multitude of interests on the ground. Those voices have to be at the table and whether they agree with me or not, we can move forward together.”
MG: I don’t think you’d disagree with me saying that climate policy is really your bread and butter issue. You’re involved in that work outside of the Legislature as well. You describe your climate plan as a combination of a COVID stimulus and a Green New Deal. Why do you think it’s important that climate policy not be divorced from economic policy?
RBD: I think climate change is the defining issue of our generation. I suppose COVID potentially supersedes that now. I hope we can recover from COVID and come out stronger while at the same time working towards climate solutions, whether that be policies that move us toward the fossil-free future that we need, or working on adaptation measures for forest fires, sea level rise, and other things that threaten our communities. With all of the solutions, we have an opportunity to put people back to work to both adapt and build our fossil-free future.
I don’t think we can separate our recovery from COVID with a vision for our future. It’s not just about climate; the workers building our fossil-free future need to have paid sick days, they need to have paid family and medical leave, they need to make higher wages. We also have to deal with the impacts on those who are most vulnerable, such as communities of color. We’re seeing a disproportionate impact of COVID on communities of color and lower income communities and we need to make sure that however we’re addressing this is also addressing climate justice as well. We can’t solve all of this at once and unless we’re all working toward a common vision, and that’s why we can’t separate climate policy from these other areas. We won’t be successful if we do.”
MG: Plans for rebuilding unions also feature prominently in your platform. You cosponsored a state bill in 2019 that brought Washington into compliance with the Janus ruling. I believe there have been reports that we’ve actually seen union membership grow in response to some anti-labor policies from the Trump administration and/or state governments in right- to-work states. In your view, what does the future look like for organized labor in Washington 10 and around the country?
RBD: I recently called my sister, who is a home care worker in Oregon – one of those essential workers who’s been putting her own health on the line everyday to ensure that developmentally disabled clients in a home setting are cared for. I asked her if she was a member of a union and she said, ‘no, but I sure as heck wish I was because I’d be paid more and I would have better benefits.’ I think that there is a growing understanding of this issue in our state and across our nation, particularly in light of how COVID has cracked our nation’s inequities wide open. I think this is an opportunity for workers who have been undervalued, who’s wages have essentially declined while we have CEOs who continue to pull in multimillion dollar salaries, to rise and say ‘we’re not paid enough, we’re not given enough PPE to work in the field, we’re the ones putting food on your tables and we’ve had it.’ We need to challenge the status quo and I’m hoping people will see this as an opportunity to move our country in the direction of giving stronger power to our working class to start turning the tide on the income inequities present in our nation. We have so much wealth concentrated in the hands of the few and so many people living paycheck to paycheck; that has to change and this is an opportunity to do that.”
This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.
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