Rep. Vicki Kraft holds last town hall as state lawmaker


Washington State Rep. Vicki Kraft feels her years as a lawmaker for the 17th Legislative District have shown her track record of being a conservative voice. 

While meeting with a few dozen of her constituents at the Washington State University Vancouver campus on March 19, she noted she was recognized for having the most conservative voting record in the Washington State House of Representatives from the American Conservative Union, which puts on the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) every year.

During the town hall event, Kraft, a Vancouver Republican, recapped the 2022 legislative session which concluded the previous week. She noted it was the first in-person town hall she organized since the COVID-19 pandemic and the related shutdowns began two years ago. 

First elected to her seat in 2016, Kraft is not seeking re-election. A shift in legislative district boundaries that went into effect this year put her outside of the district she currently represents. Instead, she is seeking to unseat U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, in Congress, a push she did not delve into during the town hall due to a state prohibition on using government events to campaign.

This year’s session was the second of which COVID-19 restrictions were in place. Kraft said because she refused to get a COVID-19 vaccine or submit to regular testing for the disease, she could only participate in the session remotely due to restrictions in place at the capitol.

“Basically I was virtual because of the Democrat majority’s positions,” Kraft said.

Kraft went over the handful of bills she put forward this year which ranged from reining in the governor’s emergency powers, to providing scholarships for private and homeschooled students, and prohibiting vaccine mandates, as well as providing businesses and occupation tax relief for new enterprises.

None of the bills she introduced this year received a hearing in committee, Kraft noted. Kraft said she pushed forward with the bills regardless of their palatability to those across the political aisle because she wanted to represent her constituents.

“I’m fighting for you and I’m putting this on paper,” Kraft said about the bills.

Kraft focused on investigating elections this year as a result of the 2020 national election. She mentioned in August she attended the “Cyber Symposium” hosted by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell. She said she had approval from the Legislature to use $1,600 of state funds to attend. At the event, Kraft said she learned about hacking and security measures to combat alleged election fraud. 

Kraft said looking into election security is “just as a best practice, if nothing else.” She said what she learned from the symposium went into her own legislation regarding elections, which would require a forensic audit for general elections in Washington.

Though that bill didn’t make it past committee, Kraft said it preceded Gov. Jay Inslee’s push for a bill criminalizing public officials and candidates who knowingly make false statements and claims regarding the election process or results of an election. That bill also died after a session cutoff date.

“When the head of your state, the governor, threatens an elected representative (for) just speaking out about the people’s concerns — to try and silence me, you — that’s serious,” Kraft said. “That’s communism.”

Though most of her efforts were at odds with the majority in Olympia, she did mention she helped start a bipartisan sex trafficking prevention caucus with Democrat Tina Orwall. One of Kraft’s bills would require a mandatory fee ranging from $3,500 to $7,500 for those convicted of child sexual exploitation, though it didn’t advance this year.

Kraft commented on the state’s operating budget which more than doubled in a decade to about $65 billion in the 2021-2023 biennium.

“This trajectory is unbelievable,” Kraft said. 

She said the proposed Republican budget would have taken into account surpluses and provided 1% in sales tax relief, though that didn’t end up passing during the session.Kraft also touched on the nearly $17 billion “Move Ahead Washington” transportation funding package. She said the bill was “very Seattle-centric” and wasn’t done in a bipartisan fashion like prior transportation packages.

Though a six-cent excise tax on fuel exports was defeated following outcry from neighboring states, Kraft said the revenue it would have generated was made up through increasing vehicle registration fees.

Although the package earmarked $1 billion in funding for replacing the Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia River, Kraft pointed out the regular transportation budget did not include $300,000 in funding requested to study a potential third crossing between Washington and Oregon.

Kraft said adding an additional crossing is more important than replacing the existing bridge, which includes a span more than a century old.

“If we’re really serious about reducing congestion on the I-5 corridor … (that) would mean additional lanes across, getting us across that river much faster,” Kraft said. “The bottom line is, we really do need a third bridge quickly.”