35th District: MacEwen, Thomas best picks

Rep. Drew MacEwen, R-Union, is a smart state legislator who worked across the aisle on capital budgets and also on school construction bills over his past six years as a House member.

This cycle he faces a stronger challenger, David Daggett, a Democrat from Shelton, who is a small business founder and former engineer in the defense sector.

Daggett did work with Boeing on the Reagan-era “Star Wars” defense project, and he has affiliated with work on aircraft biofuels made from wood waste.

We favor MacEwen slightly in this 35th-district match-up, one of three on the Nov. 6 ballot.

In the other House race, neither incumbent Republican Rep. Dan Griffey nor Democratic challenger James Thomas wowed us, but Thomas offers a better combination of interests in economic development and environmental protection that fit the district.

And in the Senate race, Tim Sheldon, a 29-year legislator from Potlatch, convinces us it is time for him to leave the Senate — or come clean with voters about which party he is affiliated with.

Unfortunately, Sheldon’s Democratic challenger, Irene Bowling, was not as impressive as she seemed two years ago when she took on Griffey and lost. We support neither.

The largely rural 35th district is centered in Mason County but snakes north to Bremerton and southeast to Thurston County and the south outskirts of Olympia.

LD 35 HOUSE Pos. 2 – Drew MacEwen

Dave Daggett, 61, is a relative newcomer to the district, although his family has had property in Mason County for generations. The Democrat talks about fixing our state’s upside down tax system, which relies on sales and business taxes that are passed on to consumers and weigh most heavily on those less well off.

MacEwen, 45, is more concerned about economic development. He said he wants to help workers get job training opportunities in high school and also expand apprenticeships and training at community colleges. Daggett agrees with the need for training.

Though MacEwen is hostile to a capital gains tax on nonwage earnings, he is trying to reform parts of the tax code that hit smaller, less profitable businesses the hardest.

By contrast, Daggett is open to taxing stock market windfalls for those earning more than $670,000 a year, which he calls the 1 percent. He wants to use that new revenue to cut property taxes, which went up this year as part of the bipartisan K-12 funding reforms adopted in 2017.

MacEwen has helped pass bills that, though not major, did change school testing requirements to make them less onerous. But he is the kind of pragmatic legislator who listens and looks for creative solutions, which is key in a swing district.

Daggett seems smart, thoughtful and someone others can also work with. But He should use this race as a chance to sharpen his grasp of state government, our tax system and how it all plays out in residents’ lives.

Until then, we recommend MacEwen.

35th District HOUSE Pos. 1 – James Thomas

Rep. Dan Griffey, 47, is a lieutenant firefighter from Allyn, and the Republican is completing his second two-year term.

He has cited several legislative victories as a result of working with Democrats — such as ending a property tax on senior centers and letting police officers administer medication for overdoses.

He also won passage of a bill letting marijuana stores, which cannot give away samples, hand out free donated lock boxes to customers so their products can’t be gotten into by children at home.

Griffey is still working on his top priority, repealing the statute of limitations for felony sex crimes. Another priority is spurring the local economy with changes to growth management laws, and he sees mental health funding as the new major challenge for lawmakers.

Democratic challenger James Thomas, 67, runs his own medical-equipment company in Shelton and chairs Mason County’s Economic Development Council. He has lived in the district since 2005.

His big focus is on education and helping workers get training and avoid student debt.

Thomas would be a good new voice in the 35th and earns a slight edge over Griffey because of his experience on the economy, his grasp of climate change risks and interest in protecting the environment. He is more open to changing the upside-down tax code and favors changes that could reduce the sales tax.

Griffey has never won our endorsement, but we recognize he has evolved considerably from his political start as a hard-edged Tea Party style candidate who is now trying to solve problems.

35th DISTRICT SENATE – Neither

For the second time in four years the Legislature’s longest-serving member, conservative Democratic Sen. Tim Sheldon, is opposed by Democrat Irene Bowling. Sheldon, 71, resides in Potlatch and knows the conservative pockets of the 35th district.

Bowling, 61, is a Democrat from Bremerton and an accomplished musician and longtime owner of a music-teaching business.

Sheldon has made a name for himself as a self-styled maverick. But let’s face it: That act is shop worn.

It’s time for Sheldon to declare himself a Republican — aligning himself with the GOP party he huddles with during legislative sessions. Or he should just call himself an Independent, which arguably he might be.

Although she came off as unprepared for the Legislature during her Editorial Board interview, Bowling hasn’t minced as many words about where she stands.

With Bowling we are more likely to get what we think we are getting — a modestly liberal Democrat who would lean toward progressive solutions on taxes and school funding.

Sheldon is very confident and well-spoken, and he’s been smart to push for sewer funding in Mason County, which is a form of infrastructure that can reduce pollution in Hood Canal and assist economic development.

But his ability to work local deals by aligning with Republicans — in a coalition against Democrats in the House and Senate — is about to shrink if Democrats paid their Senate majority as expected.

Electing Bowling would give 35th district residents a voice on rural interests in the Senate Democratic Caucus, which Sheldon stands apart from.

Sheldon is heavily supported by industry PACs and his record of opposing tax reforms reflects that special interest bias.

Since campaigning in 2014 against increasing taxes, including on gasoline, Sheldon voted for a steep increase in the state share of property tax, which led to a double tax on homeowners this year, and before that cast a vote in favor of a gas tax hike.

Ultimately, voters wanting more of the same should go with Sheldon. Those wanting something fresh should go with Bowling.