There’s a streak of libertarianism that runs like a maverick through the 2nd Legislative District, and this year’s state House and Senate races offer a variation on that theme.
Sen. Randi Becker, a Republican from Eatonville, is the better choice for a third term, despite her unfortunate, extra-conservative positions on social issues. She is challenged by Marilyn Rasmussen, the former Democratic senator from Eatonville whom Becker ousted eight years ago.
Two House seats are also on the Nov. 8 ballot. We strongly endorse three-term Rep. J.T. Wilcox, R-Roy, over challenger Derek Maynes, an Independent Democrat.
And Amy Pivetta Hoffman, an Independent Democrat from Frederickson, is a better option to provide political balance in the district than appointed Republican Rep. Andrew Barkis.
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Barkis lives in the Lake St. Clair area of rural Thurston County, is an able businessman and quick study on legislative issues. But his social conservatism is as hard-nosed as Becker’s and, like her, Barkis is wedded to a no-new-revenue approach to funding public schools.
The 2nd district takes in suburban Thurston County areas near Lacey, the communities of Rainier and Yelm, and suburban Pierce County areas such as Roy, South Hill, Orting and Graham.
Senate: Becker, 68, is a retired clinic manager who touts her support for gun rights, property rights and other district staples.
Becker has done excellent work on telemedicine. Her efforts — including a tele-psychiatry pilot project in Eatonville — should bring vital medical services into rural areas. Voters can rely on Becker to help expand health services, even encouraging a new hospital or satellite hospital, in the district.
Unfortunately, she is squarely at odds with modern realities such as the need for transgender individuals to use toilets and locker rooms reflecting their gender identities. Becker also blocked reasonable, bipartisan legislation to require health insurance plans to include abortion and other reproductive services if maternity services are covered.
Rasmussen, 77, is a conservative to middle-road politician, but her moment in the political sun has passed. We’re skeptical Rasmussen can bring new thinking needed to fix the state tax system while adequately funding K-12 schools. Despite Rasmussen’s long advocacy of the skills center at Frederickson, Becker has been a good advocate and understands the role community and technical education in secondary and post-secondary schools can play in boosting the area’s readiness for jobs.
Position 2: Wilcox, 54, is a consultant and former family-business executive. He brought horse sense, intellect and results to the seat after winning it in 2010. Maynes, 39, is a small-business owner and Air Force veteran from Puyallup taking a low profile.
As floor leader for the House Republican Caucus, Wilcox has showed strength but also flexibility when needed. He was one of a half-dozen House GOP members to support the transportation tax package in 2015, but he did so after winning funding for the Yelm bypass highway project.
We hope Wilcox plays a similar role in fully funding our public schools, bringing our tax code closer to the modern age while helping low-margin businesses burdened by the business-occupations tax.
Position 1: Rep. Barkis operates a property management firm in Olympia. His laudable community involvement includes work with Lacey Chamber of Commerce, Homes First and the Boy Scouts. He is the only member of the 2nd district delegation who lives in Thurston County.
Pivetta Hoffman, an attorney, does legal work for many small businesses and serves on the Bethel School Board. Her perspective is sensible on social issues and realistic on K-12 school funding, which is the single biggest issue facing lawmakers in January.
Barkis favors the so-called levy swap, which would sharply reduce local voter-approved property tax levies and replace it with a larger, uniform state property tax, which would help tax-poor areas of the state. But Barkis seems to think that shifting property taxes from rural zones onto urban homeowners is enough. Pivetta Hoffman understands the levy swap is one piece of the budget puzzle.
Barkis wants to roll back a Human Rights Commission rule that has allowed transgender individuals to use the restrooms of their gender identities. He is reticent about regulatory actions that could bring Washington in line with its codified climate-change goals.
The challenger understands the pressures facing transgender students and adults transitioning to a new gender identity. Similarly, she grasps the realities of climate change and is more open to state action countering it.
Becker and Wilcox deserve another term. We commend Barkis for his service, but prefer Pivetta Hoffman to bring ideological balance to the urbanizing district.