Reps. Stonier and Harris Model Cooperation Across the Aisle

Jennifer Donahue
Communications Manager, WCAAP

On paper, they seem quite different: He is a businessman and a Republican, with grown children. She is a teacher, a Democrat, and mom to school-age kids. Representatives Paul Harris and Monica Stonier have different resumes and came to the legislature via different paths, but together they are a powerful force for Southwest Washington’s kids.

Rep. Paul Harris, a republican representing Washington’s 17th district since 2010, has called Clark County home for 30+ years. He has a background in business, and owns Solid Solutions, LLC., a Vancouver-based company which does sales, marketing, consulting and public relations work. He is also active in the community, serving on the Evergreen School Board of Directors and Boy Scouts of America. Harris is committed to a fiscally responsible state budget and is a strong advocate for kids, sponsoring Tobacco 21 legislation and working toward improved access to health care.

As an educator, Rep. Monica Jurado Stonier knows that the challenges children face today are changing at an accelerating pace. Since first taking office as a democrat serving Washington’s 49th district in 2013, Rep. Stonier has proven herself as a champion for children. She sponsored Breakfast after the Bell legislation, to ensure no child starts the school day hungry, and chairs the Child Health One Table, which brings together state legislators and organizations toward a common agenda for child health.

We don’t hear enough about bipartisan work toward common goals, but Harris and Stonier are an example of what can be accomplished when we all work together. “Paul and I meet with the people in our community to find out what’s important to them,” says Stonier. “If we are working toward something we know our region needs, that’s where the common ground comes in.”

Harris agrees that finding common ground is key to getting things done. “Whether it’s two parties or two individuals, there are so many things that we do agree on,” he says. “We won’t agree on everything, but I hope we can sit down and talk, even when we’re in disagreement. We can find some compromise and move good legislation forward.”

Sometimes that compromise requires patience and understanding that it takes time to craft viable legislative solutions. “One of the things we struggle with is recognizing that maybe there just isn’t enough consensus to move things forward,” says Stonier. “We have to get comfortable enough to have some patience and understanding.” Harris adds that he’s learned to look at incremental steps as a good thing. “If we can’t get the whole apple, but the two parties can come together to take a bite or a step forward, that’s progress.”

For the 2019 legislative session, Harris and Stonier are working together on several bills, including school-based health and raising the age to purchase tobacco and nicotine products to 21. They are also strongly committed to addressing the Medicaid rate in order to improve access to care – a serious problem in Southwest Washington that also affects communities throughout the state.  Stonier says her work in the schools has helped her understand the extent of the problem. “I get to see how these kids who can’t get care grow up over time, and how it affects their education and what kind of adults they become down the road,” she says. “It’s a matter of caring for my neighbors.”