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ISSUES

PUBLIC HEALTH & THE CORONAVIRUS

While our economy, public health system, and trust in government have taken severe blows over the last multiple years, I am confident that our American spirit remains strong and ready to rebuild. As governor, I will work to return us to normalcy as quickly and safely as possible while also working to minimize the impact of coronavirus.

As a physician and an immunologist, I understood the initial panic and confusion that plagued local and national leaders. It was a new virus, and no one knew exactly what to do. But over the last several months what had started as understandable confusion has turned into inexcusable inaction, with the lockdown lasting longer than it needed to and a persistent refusal to understand that the highest priority was to prevent hospital overloads and a collapse of the healthcare system. Even so, our government did not adequately protect our most vulnerable, such as people in nursing homes.

The time to reopen the economy was when hospitals began to lay off nurses and began to risk bankruptcy during late spring, but the current administration kept the lockdown in place, causing extraordinary economic damage and mental health problems for an untold number of Washingtonians.

The public has lost trust in the state government, and our current governor has even taken the extraordinary step of cutting out legislators who were not from his political party – effectively excluding millions of residents from having their voices heard.

I will work to restore trust by utilizing accurate data-driven policies like separating testing sites from hospitals and employing MASH-style emergency response tents to facilitate testing outside of high-risk areas like hospitals. We all have a role to play in protecting the most vulnerable, which is why I encourage voluntary mask-wearing – although I oppose top-down mandates.

As governor, I will unite our state, work to restore our economy, and spare no effort to keep our loved ones safe from the coronavirus.

EDUCATION​

I am a strong proponent of returning to in-person education this fall because I understand how critical it is to educate our children in an environment that is conducive to their learning. For some children, that is their home, but for many others it is school. As a father of children in the K-12 public school system, I believe we need less administrative bureaucracy in education – we should free up teachers to teach our children for meaningful work, not busywork.

I have released my strategy to reopen our schools for in-person learning this fall, which you can read here: A Smart Restart

My beliefs on education are informed deeply by my mother’s experience in Cuba. She lost her teaching license because she refused to become a member of the Cuban Communist Party. Unlike what we still see in communist countries, the American education system should model independence, accountability, and freedom as its guiding principles. We also must emphasize the competitiveness of our education system. Other countries are producing students prepared to challenge our students for jobs, and we need to ensure we are educating our children to meet that challenge. We also need to add civics back into the core of our education system because it is the first step to educating our children about the freedoms we enjoy and the responsibilities that come with them.

I also strongly support this year’s effort to overturn the legislature’s overreaching sexual education law. The government should not mandate and should educate, and different families and school districts should be allowed to decide this issue for themselves instead of receiving a top-down mandate. Additionally, because many students will decide to not go to college, I believe that it is our duty to create a Running Start-like program that would help students access apprenticeships to bring them into the job market.

My children attend public schools in the West Valley and Yakima School districts. As a parent in the education system, I see the school system as a father. I would like to see my children experience programs that instill a work ethic, including skills they will need to succeed in the modern world like language classes.

ECONOMY, RECOVERY, AND THE STATE BUDGET

Our state budget has been extremely strained by the lockdowns and pandemic – and while we’re lucky that unlike other states, we have a ‘rainy-day’ fund to pull from, there are many examples of misuse, poor financial stewardship – and even fraud in our state government that all point to the same thing: a lack of accountability. While this time we may only have to cut about 3% of the state budget to make ends meet, other states are looking at cutting K-12 education and other essential services.

Take for example the ongoing scandal of unemployment fraud – our state government was swindled out of many millions of dollars by Nigerian scammers, and the same person who lost that money is still in charge. There is no accountability in a state government that loses millions of dollars to a scam and leaves the same people in charge. And the worst part of it is that the thousands upon thousands of people with legitimate unemployment claims and needs are being forced to wade through weeks of bureaucracy – and frequently do not even succeed in getting the funds they need.

Despite our budget constraints, it is critical to fulfill the promises we have made to communities across our state about transportation funding. While we cannot raise taxes in an economic crisis, we must focus on addressing misallocated funds and direct them to these essential functions of government. These questions are hard and pit priorities against each other, but we won’t leave our communities behind.

I will work to rebuild the state’s reserve fund, establish accountability and transparency in our state’s budgeting and spending, and prepare for future inevitable downturn and crises.

My top two priorities for our economy are getting people back to work and protecting our most vulnerable. We must allow the private sector to safely return to work and begin to add jobs and let people provide for their families with the dignity of a paycheck. The economic systems set up within our state government are not equipped to deal with an ongoing pandemic, which is why my experience in the medical field is critical to safely reopen Washington and get people back to work.

In addition to the challenges faced by businesses across the state, it will be essential to ensure that we are also responsive to the needs of agriculture and farms. Our agricultural industry forms the backbone of much of our state's exports and provides jobs to thousands of Washingtonians - and on top of all that it provides us the food we put on our table. As governor, I will engage with the agricultural and farming communities and ensure that they have the resources they need to thrive as our economy reopens and recovers.

IMMIGRATION

Immigration is a critical issue for both sides of our state – technology and forestry in the west and agriculture in the east both rely on immigration to meet our state’s economic needs. And secure borders are an essential element of sovereignty: deciding who may enter, who may stay and under what conditions.

But there is a critical divide and disconnect on this issue, and we need to mend it in order to unify our state, protect our economy and borders, and ensure that we are supporting our communities. The current situation is unsustainable. We can’t have poorly secured borders and thousands of Washingtonians living in the shadows – most of whom are law-abiding and hard workers who came here seeking a better life, and yet those are the circumstances we find ourselves in.

My proposal for immigration reform within Washington state is simple: residents of Washington who are not legal citizens and meet certain criteria should be able to access a path to legal residence. I want to be very clear – if residents who are here illegally have broken additional laws, avoided taxes on earnings, or committed fraud of any kind, they should not be able to cut in front of law-abiding residents. But people who came to this country illegally years ago, and have lived in Washington for years, paid applicable taxes, and not committed crimes in Washington ought to be able to access legal residence in America. I believe that most people who came here illegally – many as children – are good people and are positive contributors in their communities. Allowing them to reside here legally is an important first step to recognizing the inherent lack of sustainability in our current policy.

This is a big proposal because it will require cooperation and help from the federal government. It’s a mistake for any state to take immigration policy into its own hands, without cooperation with the federal government – and it’s critical that we secure our borders, provide a path to legal residence for contributing members of our communities, and refuse to allow violent criminals who are here illegally to stay here. But there is no doubt – a change is needed, and the gridlocked federal government is looking for ideas. I will work to secure support from the federal government, Washington leaders from both parties, and local residents to ensure that we do right by all Washingtonians and support and protect our communities.

The path forward that we need to pursue is clear: Washington State's success is dependent on technology workers and agriculture workers from other countries. We need a pathway to legal residency.

THE SECOND AMENDMENT​

I support the 2nd Amendment, in large part because I have had a firsthand view of a totalitarian dictatorship without that right. One of my extended family’s formative experiences growing up in communist Cuba was watching my uncle and his friends get arrested for possession of firearms. My uncle was put in prison without food for weeks and nearly died. Our family friends were not so lucky – they were murdered in a firing squad.

The moment they took the right to bear arms away from citizens, the Cuban dictatorship was created, and it’s existed for decades since. And while I oppose unnecessary restrictions on the right to bear arms, I think we can all agree that it’s reasonable to have laws on the books to prevent felons and people with severe mental illnesses – we can protect our Second Amendment rights while also ensuring that guns stay out of the hands of criminals and those who would pose a risk to themselves or others.

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