Campaigns are gearing up for the 2020 election, and one challenger for a local Washington state representative seat is seeking another attempt at a shot at Olympia.
Tanisha Harris, a Democratic candidate for the 17th Legislative District, announced the start of her campaign late last month for the seat currently held by Vicki Kraft, R-Vancouver. Harris, a child advocate for YWCA Clark County, had challenged Kraft in 2018, losing by a margin of fewer than 1,000 votes.
Harris said her father’s side of the family was one of the first African American families in the area, coming to work at the shipyards and on the railroads in the early 1940s. She said she’s stuck around in Clark County given the sense of community built up over the decades, valuing the schools and church ties as important to her roots.
Apart from her 2018 run at the statehouse, Harris had previously ran for the Clark County Council District 3 seat in 2016, losing to Republican John Blom in one of the closest races in the county that year.
Harris said her decision to run again solidified over the holiday season, explaining she felt that current representation was still lacking in the district. She pointed to votes and support from the incumbent Kraft she disagreed with regarding transportation funding, a lack of support of I-5 bridge replacement and opposition to a bill eliminating a personal exemption from the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine that was made law following a measles outbreak at the start of 2019.
“I believe in public safety and public health,” Harris said. Though Kraft was not in support of the vaccine bill, her counterpart, Republican Paul Harris (no relation), was the primary sponsor of the bill.
Harris also took issue with Kraft’s stance on I-5 bridge replacement, something the incumbent had advocated was less important than finding additional crossings over the Columbia River to alleviate traffic congestion.
“The I-5 bridge is the main priority,” said Harris, though she added looking at an additional crossing to the west of the interstate was not off the table for her.
Harris said her prior 10 years of experience working in multicultural and diversity education for the Evergreen School District gave her an understanding of the needs of public education. Her current work as a child advocate for YWCA Clark County also gave her an understanding of social service funding, with the YWCA utilizing funds coming from the state for several of its programs.
Public education funding, specifically for special education, was a big concern for Harris, something she’s seen through classroom observations and coordination of Individualized Education Programs. Though her main experience was with Evergreen, Harris noted the 17th Legislative District covers others including Battle Ground Public Schools, expressing concerns over the district’s recent inability to pass construction bonds.
“Those students are just as worthy as any other students in Clark County,” Harris remarked, recalling her time working on successful bond and levy campaigns at Evergreen.
Now embarking on her third campaign for elected office, Harris said past experiences would be an asset in succeeding this year.
“You grow and learn from each campaign,” Harris said, pointing out she had competitive races both times she was a candidate.
“It still has been about, for me, remaining engaged in my community,” Harris said about her decision to run. She recognized that more people and resources go into the campaign than just her, but felt she had a chance for a third time to be the charm.
“If I did not think I could win, if I didn’t have a plan to win, I would never have come back (to run),” Harris remarked.