Maureen Judge talks fast, but when it comes to conveying her message, she’s clear. She is running for the the state Senate seat in the 41st Legislative District on the Democratic ticket, and she’s going up against incumbent Sen. Steve Litzow (R-Mercer Island).
Judge is a North Seattle native, but spent much of her childhood visiting her aunt and uncle on the Island. She graduated from Boston University with a degree in political science and English. She jumped around professionally, working in the magazine industry before creating a software company, then she went corporate and worked for RealNetworks followed by Expedia. Suffice it to say, Judge has a unique background.
Judge ran for Mercer Island City Council in 2007 and won the primary but lost the general election. She then became the executive director of the Washington Toxics Coalition in 2009, but left the group in the fall of 2011 after helping push through legislation to get rid of BPA in baby bottles, sports water bottles and all children’s products.
Just as she was about to return to the corporate world, Judge had a change of heart, and entered the Senate race instead. She had been campaigning since April. Her reason for running was simple, “I felt a call to service,” she said. “I was watching what was going on in Olympia, and just felt that we could do better.”
Angered by recent federal legislation that affected women’s reproductive health and that percolated down to the state level, Judge believed she needed to be a part of the conversations taking place. “I am the champion for women’s reproductive health,” she said.
I recently sat down with Judge to find out what other issues she felt passionately about and to get a better understanding of her platform.
Her position on education:
Earlier this year, the state Supreme Court decided in the McCleary Decision that the State was not adequately funding public education.
Judge, who moved to the Island in 2006 so her daughter Katie could attend school in Mercer Island’s district, agrees with the court’s decision.
“Clearly, we are not doing our children a service by not appropriately funding our public schools,” she said. “We need to recommit ourselves to finding the revenue to meet the challenges that are before us, for these young kids, and frankly all the way up to higher ed as well.”
Judge also supports funding growing, innovative programs such as “Aviator High, International School and programs geared to very different ways of learning,” she said.
However, Judge is opposed to charter schools. “I just think charter schools are an unnecessary distraction from the real challenge of funding education,” she said. “Funds need to be focused on the millions of Washington state children.”
In 2010, Washington voters approved Initiative 1053. The initiative states that in order to approve legislation that raises taxes, the Legislature must come up with a two-thirds majority to support the measure or receive voter approval.
“I would like to see 1053 rolled back,” said Judge. “I think it hamstrings our elected leaders. They’re there to lead and to make good choices, and I don’t think keeping them from making the hard choices that they need to make is helpful to anybody.”
Judge said that a number of recent initiatives have troubled her, including I-1053.
“It doesn’t seem to be as democratic as it was designed to be,” she said. “That [the initiatives are] sort of bought and paid for … I’m actually hearing that at the door when I’m doorbelling.”
In May, a King County Superior Court deemed the initiative unconstitutional. The decision will ultimately be left to the state Supreme Court.
Raising Taxes and Cutting Spending
During every legislative session, senators and representatives deliberate, bicker and compromise over the state’s budget shortfall.
“There’s so many revenue streams that need to be explored,” said Judge. “There are tax exemptions and loopholes that are costing Washingtonians every year and they need to be reviewed.”
While Judge admits that such an approach wouldn’t solve everything, “it’s a good start.”
In terms of raising taxes to generate revenue, Judge said, “I’m just interested in getting to a place where everyone is paying their fair share … our current structure is pretty regressive.”
Judge said she’d rather get creative about finding new revenue sources, such as investing in renewable energy, and is hesitant about further cuts.
“I think that we’re in a place where we’ve seen cut, after cut, after cut and it’s pretty close to the bone,” she said. “Where there are cuts that make sense, absolutely. All of it should be on the table.”
The debate over shoreline standards can often get very heated, especially when they’re up for review. There are those who worry about overdevelopment and those who think development standards are too strict.
Judge believes that Mercer Island’s shoreline standards aren’t too strict.
“We need to remember that the littlest species depend on what we do,” she said. “We need to make sure that we’re not overdeveloping.”
Judge also believes that Washington has the potential to be a leader in clean water legislation and is in favor of mirroring the state’s clean water protections with federal ones.
“[Washington] is the kind of state that can lead and perhaps get the rest of the states to follow,” she said. “I think we have the political will.”
Though Judge is challenging an incumbent, she has the support and endorsement of a number of policy leaders including Sen. Ed Murray (D - 43rd District, Seattle), U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell and Sen. Kevin Ranker (D - 40th District, Orcas Island), as well as organizations like Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest, the Washington Federation of State Employees, and the Sailors’ Union of the Pacific.
Judge likewise supports Jay Inslee for governor.
“I think Jay’s a good example of an ideal Northwest leader,” she said. “He understands the issues of the Northwest.”
Similarly, Judge believes that she represents the values of Mercer Island’s voters.
“I love this community, I love this district,” she said. “I am the 41st.”