State Rep. Dawn Morrell, D-Puyallup, has served five terms in the House. As a critical care nurse at MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital, Morrell has advocated for affordable health care and champions a budget that doesn’t cut quality-of-life services to the public.
Morrell said she plans to campaign for a sixth term in the House, leading up to the primary election in August and the general election in November. The Puyallup Herald spoke with Morrell recently about her campaign and her accomplishments and disappointments in the House.
Q: What inspired you to run for re-election in the fall?
A: I was appointed chair of the appropriations health and human services subcommittee this term. I went to Olympia to make a difference, and chairing this committee has allowed me to do what I do best: collaborate with both sides of the aisle to write a budget that saves taxpayer dollars and provides better service to the public. I have a great ranking minority leader, and we found that working together we were able to tackle the hard issues of increasing our communities’ capacity to treat the mentally ill and prevent tragedy. Anyone can cut a budget. It takes hard work to rework a budget to do more with less. I was able to do this and increase services to families and individuals with disabilities. We still have work to do on mental health, senior services and education. I still need to be there to get it done.
Q: What is one policy issue that you will campaign on in the fall?
A: The Legislature has to meet our obligation to our children and schools by fully funding education. Both sides of the aisle crafted a solid plan to improve schools — no more excuses — just get it funded. I believe that we have to go after those who rig the system. Taking the hard votes to take on the special interests and close tax loopholes and go after cheaters is what I do. These dollars could fund education. Families and small businesses pay more than their fair share of taxes. I believe that you should only get a tax break if you provide good paying jobs with benefits, not because you have highly paid lobbyists that can wine and dine legislators.
Q: What have been some accomplishments in your previous five terms?
A: As a mother, grandmother, working nurse and wife of a veteran that served during Vietnam all the way through the Gulf War, I have some “experience” under my belt. My issues have been health care, seniors, veterans, good paying jobs with benefits and, of course, the future of our children and grandchildren. Our tedious and steady work on health care prepared us to be able to take advantage of bringing our taxpayer dollars back to Washington state to insure over 1 million lives and save over $351 million dollars. This was an amazing accomplishment. Putting your head on the pillow at night and not having to worry that you will lose your home, your future security and even your life when you have a serious illness is important to all of us. Cancer doesn’t care if you are a Republican or a Democrat. I care that families across Washington state have that security and peace of mind. This past term I was able to strengthen our DUI laws. Great legislation happens when politics are put aside and all ideas are listened to. We have some amazing talent in Olympia and working together to craft tough legislation to keep impaired drivers from getting behind the wheel is lawmaking at its best.
Q: Do you have any disappointments in your previous five terms?
A: There were a number of lost opportunities the past two years that are serious for the economy of the state. The House worked together and passed a transportation package to bring 1.2 billion dollars to Pierce County along with thousands of jobs. It died in the Senate.
Working together, the House passed a capital budget that included three mental health and evaluation treatment centers and construction jobs across the state. For the first time in 20 years we didn’t have a capital budget because the Senate didn’t act.
The House passed a bill that would make smaller classroom size a reality. Our school superintendents told us that in order to decrease classroom size and start all-day kindergarten they needed more classrooms. Together the House passed a $700 million dollar bonding bill to build those classrooms to add jobs and economic boost that goes along with construction all over the state. It died in the Senate. I am not disappointed; I am furious. I take the hard votes to make sure that Washington can continue to compete economically; our children have the best chance to succeed; we have capacity to treat mental illness; and most importantly we have good-paying jobs to strengthen our economy and create security for families.
Q: How do you try to be the best representative for the 25th district?
A: I have lived in the 25th district for 30 years. Life experience counts, and my experience is the experience of the families in the district. Our communities embrace our troops and our veterans. We adore our children and grandchildren and would do just about anything to help them to be successful. We worry about health care costs, and our seniors worry that they will be able to live with dignity. We have a heart for the homeless and don’t want children to go to school hungry. We are willing to pay taxes if they make sense and the dollars are spent wisely. I strive to make sure that happens.
Q: What is something people might not know about Dawn Morrell?
A: I am really uncomfortable as a politician. I don’t like the limelight and prefer to get the work done and not spend hours bragging about it. Once I have solved a problem, I move on. I am much happier working on good policy. Don’t get me wrong, I will fight like a tiger to do what is right and am not afraid to call out hypocrisy. But then I go back to my real strength — crafting good policy and keeping Washington a great place to live. It has been an honor.