Beth Doglio, left, and Marilyn Strickland, 10th District race. (Courtesy of the campaigns)
Beth Doglio, left, and Marilyn Strickland, 10th District race. (Courtesy of the campaigns)

Ask Marilyn Strickland about the differences between her and her opponent in their race for Congress, and she talks about her experience as mayor of Tacoma, her slate of endorsements and her general approach to policy-making.

Ask Beth Doglio about the differences between her and her opponent in their race for Congress, and she goes straight to specific issues: Differences in housing policy, environmental regulation and health care.

The race for the open seat in Washington’s 10th Congressional District features Strickland, the business-friendly former mayor of Tacoma who recently ran the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, against Doglio, a state legislator and longtime environmental activist.

Both women are Democrats, vying to represent a district covering Olympia, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Lakewood, Puyallup and eastern Tacoma. They are in a race that’s a microcosm of the schism in the Democratic Party that have emerged in the past five years between the party’s establishment liberal ranks and left-leaning progressives.

Strickland has the endorsement of state Democratic stalwarts like former Governors Christine Gregoire and Gary Locke, and prefers ambitious but more incremental policy changes: a public option added to the Affordable Care Act and getting the U.S. to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

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Doglio has the endorsement of national progressive stars like Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and prefers more radical changes: a “Medicare for All” health care system and a Green New Deal to push the world to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Surrogates for both candidates stressed different qualities, befitting what they see as key attributes in a member of Congress: pragmatism for Strickland, activism for Doglio.

“We want folks who are going to get stuff done; I want to make sure we have colleagues who are focused on bringing policies forth to solve problems,” said Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Medina, a Strickland endorser who was a Microsoft executive before running for office. “Experience is really important, the ability to work with others, and I think that’s what she’ll bring to the table.”

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, a Doglio endorser, said that if Democrats win the White House, having people who are “willing to push the limits of what may be seen as possible,” becomes even more important.

“She is an organizer first and foremost,” Jayapal, an immigration activist before running for Congress, said. “We need more of those and she’s somebody who’s been willing to take on big corporations, run on a bold health care platform, really fought for climate justice.”

Strickland points to Doglio’s position on the Heroes Act, the $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill that House Democrats passed in May, which has stalled in the Republican-led Senate. Doglio says she broadly supports the bill, but probably would have voted against it, citing union concerns that it would have endangered some pension plans.

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“Was that package perfect? No it was not, but it did a lot to help,” Strickland said.

Doglio says they’d approach the job differently; that she would advocate to make legislation more progressive as it’s being written.

“What I think is different is what we will be pushing for within the bills that ultimately come to the floor,” she said.

Still, there is plenty of common ground. Both candidates support stricter gun laws, abortion rights and criminal justice reforms and both would support adding seats to the Supreme Court if the Senate confirms Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the court before a president is inaugurated in January.

Strickland won the August primary with 20% of the vote in a 19-candidate field. Doglio came in second with 15%.

The winner will be only the second representative the 10th District has ever known: It has been represented by Rep. Denny Heck, a Democrat, since its creation after the 2010 Census. Heck announced in December that he was retiring, but is now running for lieutenant governor.

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Strickland, 58, who was born in Seoul, South Korea, would be the first Korean-American woman ever in Congress and the first Black member of Congress representing Washington. She was mayor of Tacoma from 2010 to 2017, leaving after two terms because of term limits. While she was mayor, she also served as a member and vice chair of the Sound Transit board. She served on the Tacoma City Council before being elected mayor and has previously worked at the American Cancer Society and Starbucks.

In 2018, she took over as CEO of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, leading the organization that lobbies for 2,200 local businesses. Her tenure was marked by the Chamber’s high-profile opposition to a head tax on big businesses to fund housing and by the organization’s heavy spending on the 2019 Seattle City Council elections. Amazon gave the Chamber nearly $1.5 million in a mostly unsuccessful attempt to try to swing the City Council rightward. She left the Chamber late last year to run for Congress.

Doglio, 55, who identifies as bisexual, would be the first openly LGBTQ member of Congress from Washington. She was first elected to the state Legislature in 2016 and was reelected in 2018.

She was the founding director of Washington Conservation Voters, a position she held from 1991-1995. She later worked for the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League and Audubon Washington. Since 2007, Doglio has worked at Climate Solutions, a Northwest environmental and clean energy advocacy group, serving as a senior adviser and campaign director.

Here is where each candidate stands on some key issues:

Health care

Doglio wants a Medicare for All plan, where the government provides health insurance for every American. Short of that, she would support interim steps, like a public option added to the ACA, that expand coverage. The Democratic presidential primary was largely about health care, and Joe Biden, who doesn’t favor Medicare for All, prevailed. But Doglio says advocacy for Medicare for All pushed Biden to embrace smaller aspects of it.

“Health care tied to employment has really got to go,” she said. “Nothing happens without really putting out a vision.”

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Strickland supports a public option and expanding Medicare by lowering the eligibility age, but not Medicare for All.

“We all want everyone to have coverage, but there are folks who say we like our coverage now, sometimes with a private insurer, and they want to make sure that’s not in jeopardy,” she said.

Housing

Strickland wants a “massive” increase in federal spending to build affordable and senior housing. She touted her work with the Seattle Chamber of Commerce helping launch a Housing Connector program, which helps connect private landlords with people experiencing homelessness, and as Tacoma mayor, her work with the city’s Housing Authority.

“I have local government experience and if you look at what we’re facing now, the lens of local government is much needed in a place like Congress,” she said.

Doglio wants $500 billion in new federal investments for housing. She points to a bill she got passed this year in the state Legislature, which lets counties raise the sales tax to fund housing, with the approval of the county council, rather than having to ask voters.

And she contrasted it with Strickland’s work at the Chamber, which successfully pushed for the repeal of Seattle’s head tax, which would have provided funding for housing.

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“That is a very stark difference,” Doglio said. “I definitely am working to bring resources to deal with our homelessness crisis and she was fighting against it.”

Strickland responded that voters in 10th District aren’t concerned with Seattle politics and that businesses she represented have generally supported tax measures.

“In this particular case there really wasn’t a plan,” she said. “People are willing to pay taxes if they have confidence in the leaders and that the money is going to be spent well.”

Climate

Doglio supports the Green New Deal, a nonbinding resolution that, among other things, calls for a “10-year mobilization” to shift the U.S. to entirely renewable electricity.

She touts her decades of climate advocacy work and her legislative work sponsoring and passing bills making Washington retail electricity carbon-neutral by 2030 and making buildings more energy efficient.

“We really can’t afford to build new fossil fuel infrastructure,” she said “There’s a clear difference here in terms of climate and work and experience and proven leadership.”

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Strickland favors the slightly less ambitious plan from the Democratic-led House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, which calls for net-zero emissions from U.S. electricity production by 2040.

Strickland points to her record as Tacoma mayor — she was one of hundreds of mayors to sign on to the Paris Climate Accords and recommit to it after President Trump’s decision to pull out of the agreement. And she launched a citywide community garden initiative.

Doglio says that wasn’t good enough. She points to Strickland’s past, early support of two fossil fuel projects in Tacoma, a liquefied natural gas plant and a methanol plant. Gov. Jay Inslee, who’s built a national reputation as a leader on climate change, also initially supported both projects, arguing they would replace dirtier alternatives.

“Those projects were brought to us as clean energy projects,” Strickland said. “I’m looking to the future, I want to work to tackle climate change, work with the Biden administration.”