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James DeHart seeks to push Republican incumbent out of 35th Legislative District position

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James DeHart — Courtesy photo
James DeHart — Courtesy photo

Montana native James DeHart is campaigning for position 2 in the 35th Legislative District (Mason County, and parts of Thurston and Kitsap Counties). After his opponent and current incumbent, Travis Couture, testified in March at a hearing regarding I-2081 — which has the potential to out LGBTQ+ students to their parents — DeHart is more fired up than ever.

During Couture's testimony, he spoke about a grade-schooler who was questioning their gender. "[Couture] went after them like they were another anecdote for him to use in a hateful speech, and unfortunately, the Republican Party tends to...demonize certain groups," DeHart told the SGN. "Making schools safer for children who are questioning or who have come out — that is a huge thing for me. We need to make sure these kids are protected, not just from bullies at schools, but from the possibility of abusive parents."

DeHart, who has lived in Washington since 2006, found a love for public service through his mother, who was a 27-year elected official in Montana, and through his own work in government. The candidate has experience working for seven state and local agencies, ranging from social and health services to transportation, early childhood education, and child welfare. DeHart currently works for the Washington State Gambling Commission.

This isn't DeHart's first campaign, however. In 2022, two years after moving to the 35th, he ran for this position against Dan Griffery. Although he lost, he garnered 43% of votes. If elected this fall, DeHart hopes to improve the district's dilapidated infrastructure and education, including addressing I-2081.

"I want to start carving holes in this ridiculous initiative and make it so children can feel safe talking to their counselors, because if this doesn't go away or we don't get rid of that requirement, kids aren't going to talk to their counselors," DeHart said.

He noted how this initiative — which will automatically go into effect on June 6, one day before his birthday — is so personal, as it relates to LGBTQ+ students questioning their identities.

"I disagree very, very much, especially with the parents having the right to see what their children's counselors are writing," DeHart said. "I have a big problem with that, because in almost every other situation, going to a counselor would be a confidential service. If you out somebody, you irrevocably change that person's life."

Telling someone that you're Queer is not something to be taken lightly, DeHart added.

"You continue to do it throughout your life. I still have to come out to people, and I'm 42 years old," DeHart said.

Growing up in Helena, Montana, DeHart felt the lack of protections, and said that he really could have used them — particularly as a questioning child at the time.

"You have to protect every child, and sometimes parents are the perpetrators of abuse, and not the ones that protect the child from abuse," he said.

DeHart said he has dealt with LGBTQ+ discrimination in the past and has relatively thick skin.

"I have many reasons for running. My community is one of those reasons. The fact is that there are Gay people in my district who have never had an elected official that was of LGBTQ status. I know if I...would've seen a Gay elected official, I would've felt at a younger age that 'Wow, that can actually work out for me.'"

To learn more about DeHart's campaign, visit https://www.dehart4wa.com