Washougal school board member Donna Sinclair announced this week that she will vie for Republican Rep. Larry Hoff 18th Legislative District seat.
“Working families in our region are struggling. I want to make sure they have good-paying jobs, affordable health care and high-quality schools — that is my passion,” Sinclair, a history professor at Washington State University Vancouver and Western Oregon University, stated in a press release sent to media Tuesday.
A Clark County native who graduated from Evergreen High School in 1982 before earning her master’s degree in history and Ph.D. in urban studies, Sinclair said she has always gravitated toward education issues.
“I know that public education changes lives,” Sinclair said during her campaign for the Washougal school board in 2017.
“I come from a working-class Northwest family, attended Evergreen public schools and graduated from local universities to become a teacher,” she said. “Access to education opened my eyes to the wider world and has helped me contribute to my community as a teacher and through service.”
Sinclair moved to Washougal in 2007, and married her husband, a Camas native, in 2008. Following her 2016 decision to get involved in government, Sinclair considered Washougal city politics and even the state legislature before focusing her spotlight on a more comfortable fit: the Washougal school board.
A role as the Washougal school board’s legislative representative helped open Sinclair’s eyes to issues happening at the state level in Washington that impact residents on a personal, local level — including issues surrounding growth, transportation, health care, affordable housing and encouraging a more sustainable environment without sacrificing jobs or raising taxes.
“I don’t think that ideas around jobs, the economy and a clean environment are mutually exclusive,” Sinclair said Tuesday. “We can create jobs that are sustainable and improve our quality of life. This is a time period of huge transition. We can plaster houses all over the county or we can grow in a deliberate way that creates a future we all want. But we have to create it together.”
Sinclair announced her campaign Monday night at the Clark County Democrats’ meeting. Hoff, a Republican, was elected to the Position 2 seat Sinclair hopes to win in the November 2018 general election. He assumed office on Jan. 14, 2019, and his current term ends on Jan. 11, 2021. The 18th Legislative District, Position 2 seat will be decided by voters in the Nov. 3, 2020 general election.
Sinclair said she understands the diversity of the 18th District, which includes rural and urban areas and spans from east Vancouver and Camas-Washougal in the south to La Center and Yacolt in the north.
“I come from a working background. I grew up in Clark County and have lived all over the area … my grandparents had a farm in Brush Prairie. I still have family out there. And I have family in Ridgefield, Battle Ground and La Center,” Sinclair said. “As a state representative, I will carefully guide regional growth without diminishing our quality of life, create jobs, continue improving education, protect taxpayers and business owners, and maintain clean air, water and rural lifeways. We know our region needs affordable housing and better transportation systems. I want to find solutions that meet our many community needs.”
Sinclair said the affordable housing crisis being felt on a local level in cities throughout the 18th District is something that needs to be addressed on a statewide level.
“I think we need affordable housing people can actually afford,” she said. “When you have ‘affordable housing’ that costs $1,700, and you can’t afford to live on your own when you’re making $20 an hour … that’s a problem and it’s something that is going to take all of us working together to do something about it.”
A historian and teacher, Sinclair is no stranger to facilitating conversations with diverse members of the community. In 2018, she helped spearhead the Clark County Stories Project, which collected oral histories from residents throughout the county.
At one workshop, Sinclair said, more than 50 people shared their stories of how they came to be Clark County residents.
“It created a shared understanding about who we are (in Clark County), which is a pretty diverse place,” Sinclair said.
The candidate said she will rely on those skills as she campaigns throughout the 18th District over the next several months.
“I think it’s possible to bring people together,” Sinclair said. “The key is just listening to them, hearing them, which is what I do for a living. When we talk to each other we find that we really do have the same values: we care about our homes, our kids, getting to work on time. It’s a crazy time, but I think there is hope that people are ready to talk to one another instead of just being angry at one another.”
A mother and stepmother to four grown children and grandmother of two, Sinclair lives in Washougal with her husband, Eugene “Bud” Harris, and the couple’s two dogs and three cats.
Sinclair talked to the Post-Record about her state legislature bid and said she first thought about entering politics after the 2016 presidential election.
“The timing was right for me to get involved. I was always a voter, but I’m also a teacher and I would keep track of what was happening,” Sinclair said.
When she heard from her college-age students that many hadn’t voted in the 2016 general election, Sinclair tried to figure out what was going on.
Bernie Sanders’ campaign had energized many of Sinclair’s Vancouver students, but they told her they felt disenchanted by the time November 2016 rolled around.
In an effort to show her students that they could make a difference by voting in local elections, even if they had a philosophical opposition to voting between two presidential candidates, Sinclair began to research various ways that she, as an individual, could help her community as a public servant.
To learn more about her and her campaign, visit sinclair4state.com or facebook.com/Sinc lair4State.