Shift’s Newsmaker interview is with 30th Legislative District House candidate Ashli Tagoai, who is a Federal Way native, community activist, and promising young attorney. Republican strategists believe the 30thLegislative District (Federal Way, Algona, Pacific, and portions of Auburn and Des Moines) is where the GOP has a strong opportunity to pick up both House seats and the Senate seat as they attempt to take control of the Washington State Legislature. Tagoai is running for the House position currently held by Democrat Representative Jesse Johnson, who was one of the primary architects of the Democrats’ controversial anti-police package, which many law enforcement agencies blame for the sharp increase in crime in the state. Representative Johnson has decided to not run for re-election and the two Democrats who are seeking the seat were recently described by The Stranger as having “sincere support for progressive policies.”
In her interview, Tagoai provides her thoughts on the Democrats’ disastrous crime bill, Long-Term care, providing tax relief to Washington’s working families, what the legislature can do to prevent domestic abuse, and do Seattle’s “progressive policies” represent the. Togoai also selects a classic book as her favorite because it provides young attorneys with an important lesson.
First tell us about yourself and why you are running for the Washington State House of Representatives.
I grew up in the 30th District. I went to Rainier View Elementary and Sequoyah Middle School, which are part of the Federal Way Public School District. I even had a Wild Waves pass for many summers –that’s how you know you’re a true 30th District kid.
I graduated from Bellarmine Prep in 2011. I have a Bachelor of Arts from Boston University in both International Relations and Political Science.
After graduating from college in 2015, I moved home from Boston and campaigned for former Representative Teri Hickel in her special election race for the exact seat I’m running for now, which is a pretty full-circle moment for me. From 2015 to 2018, I worked at the Washington State Republican Party. In 2018, I started law school at Seattle University. I graduated from law school and passed the Washington State Bar in 2021. Now, I’m a practicing civil litigation attorney in Fremont.
I’m running for the Washington State House of Representatives because of my experience as a literal runner in my community. I started running in 2007 when I joined my high school cross-country team. I was an NCAA Division I cross-country and track athlete at Boston University from 2011 to 2015. I have ran thousands of miles in this District –if not more!
Recently, I have noticed that I feel less safe running now than I have ever felt before. And, I’ve been running in this community for fifteen years. Now, every time I go for a run, I never stop thinking of what I’m going to do if I get attacked. I make sure to run with my cell phone so I can call 9-1-1.
A majority of the 30th District is living in fear because of the dramatic increase in crime over the last several years. People worry about getting robbed at the 320th Safeway, and getting attacked while walking their dogs down the BPA Trail.
I’m running because I do not wish for anyone in this community to continue living in fear. We need accountability for criminals, and that starts with legislators who are brave enough to take a stand for safety.
You are running for the seat which is currently held by Democrat Representative Jesse Johnson who was one of the primary architects of the Democrats controversial anti-police package that was passed in 2021. (Representative Johnson dropped out of this race a couple of months ago, likely due to the controversy surrounding the bills.) What were your thoughts on those bills and what needs to be done to improve public safety in Washington State?
House Bills 1054 and 1310 are problematic for several reasons. First, both bills limit how police officers can apprehend offenders. Second, the standard of probable cause for pursuit rather than reasonable suspicion prevents police officers from addressing crimes altogether. For example, HB 1054 permits officers to only pursue drivers when they have probable cause to believe the driver has committed a violent offense or sex offense, or that the driver is a convicted felon escaping custody. Now, many people just refuse to pull over for officers, and the officer has no choice but to let them go. Third, HB 1310’s requirement that officers use physical force only when they have probable cause to make an arrest led to officers being unable to detain suspects and properly investigate crimes.
In order to improve public safety, we need to allow police to pursue criminals and address crime. We also need prosecutors who are going to prosecute criminals for the crimes they commit. There is a lack of accountability in our state for those who break the law and ravage communities. In the 30th specifically, we are seeing a dramatic increase in drug use and addiction, which has led to an increase in property crime that goes unpunished because of HB 1054 and HB 1310.
Many states around the country are providing tax relief for families who are struggling due to inflation and the rising cost of gas. Governor Inslee and the Democrats have refused to do the same here in Washington. What are your thoughts about tax relief and is the specific tax you believe should be suspended or reduced?
First, in terms of gas prices, I do not believe in taxing individuals to the point where they’re forced to stop driving their vehicles. At 49 cents per gallon, Washington has the second highest state gas tax in the nation. If the legislature voted to suspend the gas tax, then the average driver could save approximately $7.00 (in state gas tax alone) each time they fill their tank.
Second, I think the legislature could vote to reduce the sales tax by 1-2 percent. With inflation being higher than it has been in 40 years, working people are struggling to buy groceries and other life necessities. A sales tax deduction could provide some relief to all consumers equally.
The Democrats delayed until after the election their controversial Long-Term Care plan and payroll tax. What do you believe the 2023 legislature should do on this issue?
I do not support the Democrats’ Long-Term Care plan. I believe individuals should have the freedom to choose their own long-term care plans as they have been doing for years. For example, a long-term care plan could be investing in real property; using that property to provide housing as an independent landlord; and one day selling the property (which has likely appreciated in value) to pay for retirement or long-term care. I don’t see the benefit in taking money out of peoples’ paychecks now in order to give them $36,500.00 for long-term care down the road. Keep the money in their pockets so that they can choose to save, invest, etc., and provide for their long-term care on their own terms.
Recently The Stranger wrote that your two Democrat opponents had “sincere support for progressive policies.” Do you believe progressive Seattle policies are a fit for the 30th Legislative District?
No, Seattle policies are not a fit for the 30th District. The 30th District has a growing drug addiction problem borne out of Seattle’s response to drug addiction and homelessness. The drug problem has increased crime and left our community vulnerable –especially with the response to drug crimes in the wake of the Blake decision. Members of our community are taking a stand against the Seattle response to drugs and homelessness. For example, Stand Up Federal Way is working hard to clean up properties and encampments.
You have been active in helping victims of domestic abuse. Is there anything the legislature can do to reduce abuse or help the victims?
Refunding and supporting police. Victims of domestic abuse rely on police response for protection. Even if victims are able to obtain a Domestic Violence Protection Order, it is the police who respond to enforce the Order when the abuser violates it. If no officers are available to respond and protect a victim from an abuser, the result of the situation could be life-ending for that victim.
What is your favorite book? Why?
To Kill a Mockingbird because it teaches aspiring attorneys to dedicate their careers to fighting for what is morally right, even if doing so is the hardest path.
To learn more about Ashli Tagoai and her campaign for the Washington State House of Representatives please visit her campaign webpage.