- Candidate Name: Phil Gardner
- Position Sought: U.S. House (WA-10) (Non-incumbent)
- Home Legislative District: 27th
- Democrat: Yes.
- Manager or Point of Contact: Spencer Dixon
- Phone: +1(360) 218-4419
- Address: P.O. Box 2766, Olympia, WA 98507
- Website: philgardner.com
- Email: Non-incumbent
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PhilGardnerWA
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/gardnerphil
Part I – Candidate Background
1. Please briefly describe your qualifications, education, employment, community and civic activity, union affiliation, prior political activity, and other relevant experience.
I’m more familiar with the needs of Washington’s 10th Congressional District than anyone but Congressman Heck himself. Having spent nearly all of the last decade of my life working alongside Congressman Heck on his senior leadership team both here in the district and in Washington D.C., I’ve gained the relevant federal experience to navigate Congress’ labyrinth and deliver real results for the working and middle class families of the South Sound. I’ll bring with me the invaluable institutional knowledge of our retiring U.S. Representative, and I won’t have the usual learning curve of a first-term Member of Congress.
Beyond my service with Congressman Heck, I am a product of Washington’s 10th Congressional District. I grew up here, I attended Puyallup Public Schools, and I graduated from high school in University Place. My family, my friends, and my neighbors in this congressional district instilled in me the importance of public service, and that’s why I’ve dedicated my life to serving others. That public service has taken several forms. Since I was in high school, I have volunteered and worked in Democratic politics because I see the Democratic Party as being one of the best institutions to improve people’s lives in this country. While in college, I volunteered as an EMT and with a free summer camp, Camp Kesem, that catered to children with family members who have cancer.
It’s been a privilege as a congressional staff member to give back to the community that raised me. I’d be honored to continue serving our corner of the country in Congress.
2. What prompted you to run for this office? What are your campaign’s most important themes, issues, or priorities (three to five)?
We’re at a crossroads where we decide who our government is fighting for, and what it’s going to use its power to do. Right now our government isn’t working for most people, and it’s definitely not working for young people. I’m convinced the only way that’s going to change is if young people with experience, know-how, and a record of service decide to step up and lead, with the goal of building a progressive society that works for all generations.
As Congressman Denny Heck’s District Director, for years I’ve helped lead his team as we’ve delivered progressive results for the South Sound – even while serving under a Republican U.S. House majority. I’ve developed a deep understanding of the unique challenges communities in our district face when it comes to:
Fixing our broken healthcare system,
Modernizing our infrastructure,
Fighting for our veterans and military families,
And, most urgently, getting serious about the climate emergency and saving Puget Sound
I believe I’m the natural fit to continue Congressman Heck’s progressive work in Congress during a difficult time in our country’s history. I’d also be humbled to make a bit of history as the first member of the House born in the 1990’s, and as Washington State’s first openly LGBTQ member of Congress. We need the fresh perspective of a younger generation in Congress to change the conversation, break the logjam, and get things done again. I’m ready to roll up my sleeves, build on Congressman Heck’s progressive record, and continue getting things done. Beyond continuing to respond to the public health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in the next Congress, my top priorities will be fixing our broken health care system, taking bold action on climate change, and fighting for our veterans and military families.
3. What steps are you taking to run a successful campaign?
I’ve called the 10th district home my entire life and am doing everything in my power to earn the support of voters here to succeed Congressman Heck and serve them in Congress next year. I’ve been a full-time candidate since leaving my job as District Director in early January.
Part II – Local and State Issues
1. Do you support Initiative Measure No. 940 (“De-escalate Washington,” requiring, among other things, that law enforcement officers be required to obtain violence de-escalation and mental health training, so that officers will have greater skills to resolve conflicts without the use of physical or deadly force)?
2. Do you support the right of public workers, excluding military, to bargain and strike?
3. Would you support a statewide “Ban the Box” law, prohibiting employers from asking about job applicants’ criminal history until after an initial screening or interview?
4. Do you support legislation that reimburses the cost of reproductive health care services, such as SB 6105, the Reproductive Health Access for All Act?
5. Would you support an automatic voter registration act such as HB 2595 (Automatic Voter Registration Act of 2018), streamlining procedures in order to automatically register citizens to vote?
6. Would you support a bill that would enable the state of WA to create a single health financing entity to provide health care financing for all Washington residents, independent from employment, such as the WA Apple Care Trust?
As these questions are all about state bills, I would not have the opportunity to support them in Congress. However, I support any state’s ability to expand health care coverage, but I also believe the federal government should lead the way by finally creating a system for universal coverage, that lowers out-of-pocket and prescription drug costs, and eliminates surprise medical billing.
Part III – Free Response
1. Why are you running as a Democrat? What aspects of the Democratic platform most resonate with you?
I’m a Democrat because I believe our government should belong to all Americans, not just the well-off and well-connected. I’m a Democrat because I believe our government should use its power to serve our common long-term interests, protect vulnerable people and our planet, and advance the work of equality and justice in our society. I’m also a Democrat at this moment in our country’s history because the Democratic Party is the only thing standing between us and the destruction of the rule of law and the end of science and objective truth in public policymaking.
I consider my time spent serving with Congressman Heck as time spent serving the Democratic Party and everything we stand for in public office. While managing and assisting Congressman Heck with his congressional campaigns, I also ensured our work helped Democrats up and down the ballot – including helping retake the U.S. House majority in 2018 through Congressman Heck’s leadership of the House Democrats’ Candidate Recruitment Committee.
I believe my commitment to electing Democrats and supporting Democratic values is evidenced by the support I’ve earned from Pierce County elected Democrats like State Auditor Pat McCarthy, Puyallup Mayor Julie Door, Tacoma Councilmember Kristina Walker, former Tacoma Councilmember Ryan Mello, Tacoma School Board Director Lisa Keating, former Pierce County Councilmember Rick Talbert, Fircrest City Councilmember Shannon Reynolds, and former Speaker of the House Wayne Ehlers.
Together, while working with Congressman Heck in his official capacity, we stood up to countless attempts by congressional Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and we also expanded and protected our majorities in the state legislature. I’m a Democrat through and through, and I believe I am the best choice for a progressive Member of Congress from Pierce County. An endorsement from your membership would signal this organization’s belief in the importance of putting young people and members of the LGBTQ community into office. I would be honored to earn your support and serve you in Congress.
2. In the past, many Democrat-sponsored bills have died in the Republican-controlled Senate. Please list three failed bills from the past legislative session that you will champion when elected.
I’m confident that November’s election will result in full Democratic control of the federal government for the first time in a decade, allowing progressive to pass a series of legislation needed to move this country forward. I will be most excited for the Senate to pass: the For the People Act, the comprehensive democratic and government reform package passed out of the House last year; the Raise the Wage Act, which would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour; and, the PRO Act, which would institute a series of changes to our labor laws that will revitalize unions in this country.
3. What important state and local issues have you worked on (or taken an interest in) that you feel aren’t getting enough attention from elected leaders and the media?
Having spent the better part of the last decade working with Congressman Heck to deliver results for working and middle class families in the South Sound, I have unmatched federal experience in this race. While I have a deep interest in tackling the climate emergency and responding to the health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have the most experience in health care, housing, veterans/military service members, and transportation.
As a patient living with two pre-existing conditions, I rely on five prescription drugs to live a fulsome life each day. As a former E.M.T. in our nation’s capital, I saw our broken health care delivery system up close. And as a former District Director for retiring Congressman Denny Heck, I fought alongside him — and you! — to successfully stop the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
During my time serving as the top staffer in Washington’s 10th Congressional District Office, retiring Congressman Denny Heck chaired a Housing Task Force to identify federal solutions to our nation’s housing shortage. Working alongside Congressman Heck and my colleagues in Washington, D.C., we published a comprehensive policy report identifying the shortfalls in our country’s housing supply. In Congress, I’ll build on the Housing Task Force’s work and support bold legislation aimed at bringing relief and social justice to the South Sound’s housing market.
As a member of retiring Congressman Denny Heck’s senior leadership team, I worked alongside Congressman Heck to always make sure Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s interests were well-represented in Washington, D.C. As Congressman Heck’s top staffer in the South Sound, I managed a team of caseworkers dedicated to serving our district’s veterans and military families. In Congress, I want to build on Congressman Heck’s record of service to those who served and sacrificed for our country. I’ll work every day to ensure our veterans, servicemembers, and military families receive the support they’ve earned.
I helped Congressman Heck pass the COMMUTE Act, making federal funds available for infrastructure projects, such as interstate improvement and traffic reduction, outside of military bases like JBLM. I also helped defend Sound Transit from attacks by the Trump administration and local Republicans who don’t believe in the mission of the transit agency. In Congress, I’ll use my first-hand experience and continue Congressman Heck’s work leveraging federal resources to address the urgent needs of the South Sound.
4. Do you think Washington public schools are adequately funded? If not, what minimum requirements should be met in an adequately funded public school system? What specific forms of taxation would you support to attain that funding?
Over the last 10 years our state legislature made significant progress towards adequately funding our schools, but those gains are now threatened by the upcoming state government revenue shortfall caused by the economic downturn. In Congress, I’ll fight for budget stabilization money, and I’ll make sure that the federal government is a better partner with states and localities to fund our schools, especially those that need the most assistance. I’ll fight for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) funding to the full federal obligation. I’ll also fight for more Title I funding and reform to the spending formula so that it takes a more equity-based approach, so communities that need greater educational opportunities see higher per pupil dollars across all funding streams. The federal government ought to go beyond a role of simply equalizing funding; it should provide true equal opportunity.
5. What are some obstacles inherent in proposed legislative solutions to climate change? How would you approach those obstacles in order to best overcome or minimize any negative effects?
I see two main obstacles to federal climate change legislation: corruption and perceived negative impacts by voters. On the corruption front, I look forward to supporting the For the People Act, which will reduce the corrupting influence of money in our politics and in our government. Once Democrats take back the Senate and the White House, this House-backed bill will actually become law. If we make it harder for fossil fuels companies to buy influence and sway, the government will better reflect the will of the people’s interest in addressing this crisis.
As for perceived negative impacts by voters, we must pass climate legislation that benefits all Americans and ensures no one is left behind. That’s why I’ll support Rep. Ted Deutch’s H.R. 763, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, which would provide every American with a carbon dividend and dedicate support for coal miners and oil rig workers who may be negatively impacted by reduced fossil fuel use. While I will have no problem going after oil and coal corporations and the executives that lead them, I will also fight for rank and file workers who will need retraining and education in order to benefit from the green economy of the future.
6. What are some obstacles inherent in proposed approaches to tax reform in Washington State? How would you approach those obstacles in order to best overcome or minimize any negative effects?
Washington’s regressive tax structure is determined at the state level, so I won’t have a direct influence on it in Congress. But I do support major changes to our federal tax code, including: repealing the GOP tax cuts and implementing a wealth tax on the richest fortunes in this country.
7. Do you support the voter-approved call for a Constitutional Amendment to overturn the Citizens United Supreme Court decision (I-735), and if so, how do you propose to work toward that goal?
Yes, I will fight for a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United. Since that will take large majorities in Congress and 38 states to pass, I will also support the For the People Act, which reaffirms Congress’ role to regulate money in politics, pushing back against the wrongheaded Supreme Court decision.
By typing my name below, I declare under penalty of perjury the foregoing is true and correct.
Printed Name: Phil Gardner