The deadline for returning ballots in Washington’s vote-by-mail election is at 8 p.m. Tuesday (Nov. 8). The ballot is long because it’s a presidential year, and it will be historic if U.S. voters elect their first female president, Hillary Clinton.
As important are statewide races including governor, two seats for Thurston County commissioner, two Superior Court seats, a half-dozen state or local ballot measures, and contested legislative races in three local districts.
The Olympian Editorial Board spent more than two months interviewing candidates and studying issues, and our endorsements have been published over the last six weeks. Here is our recap (with dates each endorsement ran in print):
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COMMISSIONER: Hulse, Cooper (Oct. 23)
Democrats Kelsey Hulse and Jim Cooper are the forward looking candidates best prepared to smarten up the county’s response to the pocket-gopher issue, find resources to fix roads and hire sheriff’s deputies, and even mend relationships with residents in the south county rural zones.
In the District 2 race, former GOP sheriff Gary Edwards is running without party affiliation and is stuck on old resentments about previous commissioner decisions. Hulse, a college fundraiser, offers a fresh view and a willingness to learn and solve problems. In the Position 1 race, former Tenino police chief John Hutchings brings a rural perspective and a more open mind to road funding than Edwards, but he would move the county backward on land use issues, which makes Cooper, an Olympia councilman, the better alternative.
SUPERIOR COURT: Lanese, Skinder (Oct. 26)
In the Position 1 race, Chris Lanese, a lawyer for the state Attorney General’s Office, is the strongest candidate for judge. Rival Laura Murphy is a private practice attorney and Superior Court commissioner pro tem with a more varied background and stronger local ties. Though Lanese is younger, he brings experience in complex litigation that can benefit the local court.
In the Position 7 race, Deputy Prosecutor John Skinder is a more traditional choice than independent-thinking James Foley, who has a varied background in private practice. Skinder has a passion for justice and background working with a special victims prosecution team. Foley has run for several judicial positions before.
22nd DISTRICT: Hunt, Dolan, Doglio (Oct. 19)
State Rep. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, is an eight-term lawmaker who brings a proven record for supporting K-12 schools, state workers and environmental safeguards to his first Senate bid. We appreciate some of the out-of-the-box thinking by challenger Steve Owens, an independent and software engineer with Disney, who is running without party affiliation. Hunt has the best experience to face up to school funding challenges.
Laurie Dolan is a long-time former educator from Spokane who later led a governor’s policy office. She brings a wonk’s appreciation for tax law and realism to the state’s budget challenges in 2017 and is best qualified by far. Republican challenger Donald Austin is a newcomer to the community, a college student and deserving of kudos for jumping into politics at the age of 20.
Beth Doglio, a longtime environmental advocate, ran unopposed. Her credentials are superb on climate change, and she has a background in neighborhood schools and other issues that will serve her well as a legislator.
35th LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT: Bowling, MacEwen (Oct. 27)
Two-term Rep. Drew MacEwen of Union is a financial adviser who shows an openness to new ideas and a creative approach to difficult issues, including co-authoring a breakthrough bill to fund school construction needs that died in the Senate. Challenger Craig Patti of Allyn is a firefighter with a more progressive outlook than MacEwen, but his grasp of school funding challenges pales next to the incumbent’s.
Irene Bowling is a highly educated music teacher and small business owner in Bremerton who has a better grasp of the revenue needs of the state school system than does first-term incumbent Rep. Dan Griffey, a Republican firefighter from Allyn. Griffey adapted quickly in his role and successfully sponsored bipartisan legislation that dealt with untested rape evidence. But his positions on social and economic issues are far to the right.
Bowling and MacEwen together offer the best balance for a political swing district.
2nd LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT: Becker, Wilcox, Pivetta Hoffman (Oct. 28)
Sen. Randi Becker has earned a third term representing the libertarian-tinged district that overlaps southeast Thurston and south Pierce counties. The Eatonville Republican’s strengths include her background in health care and job-training advocacy. Her views on many social issues are far to the right, but she has served the district by passing bills to improve rural medical access through allowing telemedicine pilot projects. Democrat Marilyn Rasmussen of Eatonville lost the Senate seat in 2008, and we are not confident she can do better on the economic and health care issues facing the district.
In the Position 2 House race, Rep. J.T. Wilcox of Roy is a former family-business executive and emerging GOP leader on tax and budget issues. He has acted to solve transportation problems in the district and reveals a pragmatic streak needed next session. Democrat Derek Maynes is an Air Force veteran and business owner who has not mounted much of a campaign.
In the Position 1 race, Amy Pivetta Hoffman is a lawyer, small business owner and Bethel School Board member who is running as an Independent Democrat. She brings a less conservative view on social issues and is better suited than first-year GOP Rep. Andrew Barkis, owner of a property management firm and resident of the Lake St. Clair area.
Wilcox and Pivetta Hoffman give the district the political balance it needs.
GOVERNOR: Inslee (Oct. 16)
Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee’s first term saw Washington move forward on education and transportation funding, saving jobs at Boeing, restitching some safety net programs and improving higher education funding. There is every reason to think he’ll do the same if he holds off the challenger. Republican Bill Bryant is a former Seattle port commissioner who helped forged a cooperation pact between the ports of Seattle and Tacoma to better take on global shipping competitors. Inslee needs to tighten the ship at state agencies that have had management failures. But on big issues, the incumbent is best aligned with state interests and values.
LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Habib (Oct. 5)
State Sen. Cyrus Habib is a liberal state senator, son of Iranian immigrants and a Seattle University law professor. He is without question best qualified for the job. Despite losing his eyesight at age 8 due to cancer, Habib is a skilled attorney with a background in business law and intellectual property rights who would quickly adapt to the role of presiding officer in the Senate. Republican Marty McClendon, is a former anesthesia technician who went into real estate in 1999, became a pastor in Gig Harbor in 2002 and now also hosts a conservative radio show. But his experience is no match for Habib’s.
SECRETARY OF STATE: Wyman (Sept. 30)
One-term Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman should be returned to office. She could have taken strong roles on election-related reform but has the clearer grasp of how to run Washington elections. Democratic challenger Tina Podlodowski, a former Seattle City Council member, brings excellent executive experience and good priorities — especially to increase voter turnout — but has stretched the truth about voter turnout trends and has appeared to misunderstand the powers of the office.
STATE TREASURER: Waite (Oct. 20)
In Washington’s first statewide race featuring two Republican finalists, King County investment executive Michael Waite has the edge over Duane Davidson, a Benton County treasurer who also has served as an assistant state auditor and is well qualified. Waite, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Australia, is an investment professional who once headed the accounting team for the investment firm that served the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. He could be a force for modernization in state government.
STATE AUDITOR: McCarthy (Sept. 25)
Pat McCarthy, a Democrat and Pierce County executive, has management experience needed to steer the Auditor’s Office out of the shadows after incumbent Troy Kelley, the Tacoma-area Democrat who avoided conviction on federal fraud charges related to his former real-estate related business. Republican state Sen. Mark Miloscia of Federal Way brings laudable expertise on performance audits, but his focus is too narrow for the tasks at hand.
ATTORNEY GENERAL: Ferguson (Oct. 7)
First-term Attorney General Bob Ferguson has been a mostly stellar performer who uses the office to take on powerful interests that violate campaign finance and consumer protection laws. The Seattle Democrat has corrected errors by his office in a timely way, and his well-rounded view equips him far better for challenges at what is in effect the state’s largest law firm. Libertarian challenger Josh Trumbull is more focused on a single area of consumer protection law related to foreclosures still echoing after the national financial crisis of 2007-08, and we hope he can follow up with legislative reforms in that area.
LANDS COMMISSIONER: Franz (Sept. 28)
The next Washington state commissioner of public lands inherits a handful of natural-resource challenges in a world that also must adapt to climate change. Land-use attorney Hilary Franz has a 20-year background in environmental issues and is the best choice. But Republican Steve McLaughlin, a former military commander, brings strong management skills to an agency responsible for fighting wildfire, regulating logging operations, and other concerns. Overall, we prefer Franz’s experience as successor to Peter Goldmark, a Democrat who chose not to seek a third term.
SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION: Reykdal (Oct. 14)
State Rep. Chris Reykdal, D-Tumwater, and former state assistant superintendent of public instruction Erin Jones of Lacey are both qualified to take over the nonpartisan job overseeing the state’s K-12 schools. Both want to improve student achievement and bring sensitivities to the challenges faced by racial minorities and others in poverty. We favor Reykdal, a former teacher and school board member, for his management experience at the state board overseeing community and technical colleges. Jones is a former teacher and administrator who has worked with educational alternatives in Tacoma and also has a more global perspective.
INSURANCE COMMISSIONER: Kreidler (Oct. 20)
Four-term incumbent and former congressman Mike Kreidler lives near Lacey and brings a lifetime of experience in health care to the job. Voters should re-elect the Democrat at this crucial time when the national health insurance reforms are under great stress. Republican Richard Schrock, a Snohomish County fire commissioner and former director of the state Department of Commerce, makes some fair criticisms of the agency including managerial missteps. But Kreidler’s approach to insurance markets is more balanced and best suited to consumer needs.
STATE SUPREME COURT: Madsen, Yu, Wiggins (Oct. 21)
The three incumbent justices up for election this year have done a good job holding our Legislature’s feet to the fire over failures to fix an unconstitutional K-12 school funding system. Four-term Chief Justice Barbara Madsen has been a leader on diversity and access to justice issues, has a broader base of experience and is the surer choice than Kittitas County Prosecutor Greg Zempel, who is backed by charter school advocates upset by a poorly timed opinion written by Madsen.
Appointed Justice Mary Yu is a rising star who brings a strong mind, diversity and broad experience as a former judge to the job. She is the superior pick over challenger David DeWolf, a professor emeritus of constitutional law at Gonzaga University who accuses the court of overreach in the McCleary school funding case.
In the third race, Federal Way Municipal Court Judge David Larson is challenging one-term Justice Charles Wiggins, and the one-time litigator is also accusing the court for overreach. Larson also has assailed Wiggins for criminal case rulings, but Wiggins is endorsed by more than 200 judges and deserves to be returned.
PRESIDENT: Clinton (Oct. 9)
Hillary Clinton is the only viable choice. The former first lady and secretary of state is easily the most able, qualified candidate to run for president in years. As the nation’s first woman president, she will bring a steady, reliable hand to the helm of our nation. Her rival, Republican Donald Trump, is an unsteady and belligerent force willing to demonize immigrants, denigrate women and minorities, and his hysteria has no place in government.
U.S. SENATE: Murray (Oct. 12)
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray has proved through four terms she can work major bipartisan deals in Congress including budget agreements that averted federal government shutdowns. This year she co-wrote a major reform of the No Child Left Behind Act, reducing tests and federal policy coercion. Murray has been a reliable advocate for military veterans, women and children’s health care, educational opportunity, the environment and workers. Republican Chris Vance offers fresh thinking on many issues and a refreshing attitude about political independence. But there is too much at stake in this election to risk losing the clout of Murray, No. 4 in the Senate Democratic power structure and likely to move up.
CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 10: Heck (Oct. 13)
U.S. Rep. Denny Heck of Olympia has earned a third term representing the 10th District by exceeding expectations for any new lawmaker in the minority party. He’s been able to author and pass bills into law, extend the life of the Export-Import Bank, fight against across the board cuts harming Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and help build political support for a state transportation package approved in 2015. Republican James Postma of Steilacoom is a retired rocket scientist who holds views far to the right of this Democratic district that runs from Shelton to Olympia and north to University Place.
INITIATIVE 732: Carbon tax – Yes (Oct. 2)
I-732 would make Washington first in the country to enact a carbon tax as a neutral market incentive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by making alternatives slightly more competitive. It would put a $25 per ton tax on the carbon emissions from fossil fuels in two years, adding 25 cents to gasoline prices and modestly increasing heating prices. The measure offsets the burden on consumers by cutting the state sales taxes by a full penny, giving rebates to families eligible for the federal Earned Income Tax Credit and reducing business taxes for manufacturers.
INITIATIVE 1433: Minimum wage – Yes (Oct. 30)
I-1433 would raise the state’s minimum wage to $13.50 in four steps through 2020, while also imposing a small paid sick leave requirement for employers. Compensation for low-wage workers certainly needs to go up, and there’s fair argument other approaches can also work. But lawmakers failed to reach agreement on a more modest $12 wage floor, and this is a chance to improve life for many low wage workers.
INITIATIVE 1464: Campaign, lobbying reform – Yes (Nov. 2)
Initiative 1464 introduces a small public financing option for state legislative races, funded by repeal of a sales-tax break used by out-of-state shoppers. Though more sweeping than we’d like to see, the measure would give voters three $50 campaign credits to contribute to House and Senate candidates who have support from small donors and who agree to limit the amounts they accept from donors. The measure also enacts a three-year cooling off period for legislators and other state officials who want to lobby. And it limits the ability of shell PACs to conceal the identity of PAC donors in political advertising.
INITIATIVE 735: Federal campaign reform – Yes (Nov. 2)
In many ways a companion to I-1464, this measure offers more inspiration than real change. It asks Congress to begin an unlikely constitutional amendment process in order to reverse the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that allowed unlimited contributions to independent groups that now hide donors’ identity and flood the airwaves with electioneering ads.
INITIATIVE 1491: Extreme risk (firearm) orders – Yes (Oct. 29)
I-1491 is a small step that may reduce deaths by firearms, particularly suicides. It expands protection orders already available in domestic violence cases to let families or police petition to temporarily remove firearms from individuals who are acting in unstable ways due to a mental illness. There is concern about the due process rights of respondents, but the law provides a way to return weapons to the owner while giving families a tool for dealing with volatile situations.
INITIATIVE 1501: Identity theft – No (Nov. 3)
I-1501 is backed by Service Employees International Union 775 and is mostly an effort to shield the identity of state-paid home care workers from anti-labor groups that want to notify them of their right not to belong to the union. SEIU has helped raise wages for low-paid workers, and the attacks on union members are unfortunate but legal. Using the initiative process to block public records disclosure under the guise of protecting seniors from identity theft is wrong.
SJR 8210: Redistricting – Yes (Oct. 29)
Senate Joint Resolution 8210 is a modest amendment to the state constitution that will require the bipartisan state Redistricting Commission to complete its boundary-drawing work in 2021 by Nov. 15, rather than during the holidays and New Year’s Day in 2021. This could lead to more voter input on drawing the legislative and congressional boundaries once every decade.
OLYMPIA INITIATIVE NO. 1: income tax for tuition – No (Nov. 3)
This proposal to add a small 1.5 percent tax on Olympia household incomes over $200,000 would pay for a year of community college tuition for local high school graduates. But the proposal, backed heavily by out-of-town donors, likely outside a city’s authority. So it serves instead as a legal test case for the constitutionality of a progressive income tax in Washington, and Olympians may be stuck paying to defend it against legal challenges.
TUMWATER ADVISORY FIREWORKS BAN: No recommendation (Oct. 30)
The era of home launched fireworks ought to be over in most communities that are getting more densely populated. But this proposal to ban all but commercial, licensed fireworks displays in Tumwater threatens to end a tradition in a community that salutes the Fourth of July with a parade and also a municipal fireworks show. Residents must reckon what comes first: safety or tradition.