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ANACORTES — Incumbent state Sen. Liz Lovelett, D-Anacortes, and candidate Daniel Miller of Friday Harbor squared off Tuesday at a forum.

The candidates for the 40th Senate District seat fielded questions ranging from health care to education to climate change at the event, held Tuesday night by the Fidalgo Democrats at the Anacortes Library. There are four candidates on the ballot for the August primary, but only Lovelett and Miller attended the forum.

Lovelett was appointed in February to the 40th District seat vacated by Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island. She faces three challengers: Miller, Carrie Blackwood of Bellingham and Greta Aitken of Burlington.

In her opening statement Tuesday, Lovelett touted her support for the LGBT community and progressive climate policy, her experience as a local business owner, and the six bills she got through the Senate last session.

Miller, a former business owner and Evergreen State College graduate who prefers the Republican Party, has made multiple runs for office in recent years, so far unsuccessfully.

In his statement at the forum, he said his first priority if elected would be to call for Senate hearings on medication that may have some relation to Alzheimer’s or dementia and on an increase in missing persons in national parks.

He said he would oppose tax increases and would fight to keep ferry ticket prices low.

Candidate Carrie Blackwood, a lawyer specializing in workplace law, couldn’t attend, but sent her campaign manager, Ellen Zocher, to deliver a statement.

“My life began with my deaf-mute father acting as the lookout for Border Patrol as my mother, in labor, swam across the Rio Grande to provide me access to a better life,” she wrote in her statement.

She called for electing a more diverse group of legislators.

“We need progressive champions to break through the status quo,” she said.

The top two vote-getters in the primary will advance to the November general election. The winner will serve the remaining year of Ranker’s term.

When asked about government’s role in health care, Lovelett said she supported an expansion in government programs to get to universal coverage.

“Absolutely, health care is a basic human right,” she said, adding that reproductive health should be covered under every plan.

She supported legislation that will create a public health insurance option as an alternative to private plans.

Miller said he didn’t see a problem with the state helping people who can’t afford insurance, but doesn’t want to raise taxes to support program expansion.

“I don’t think government should decide when you go to the doctor or when you don’t go to the doctor,” he said.

To a question on climate policy, Lovelett said she supported the state’s efforts to hybridize ferries to reduce emissions and is exploring a program that would offer loans to low-income homeowners to install solar panels.

Miller spoke skeptically of fossil fuels’ impact on the environment.

“I don’t support oppressive regimes and programs they want to do about climate change,” he said.

— Reporter Brandon Stone: bstone@skagitpublishing.com, 360-416-2112, Twitter: @Brandon_SVH