This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.
Our choices for 26th, 27th and 28th districts
Incumbency matters, but maybe never so much as when times are tough.
The next Legislature, up against a projected $3.2 billion budget shortfall, is not likely to suffer rookies gladly. It’s in Pierce County’s best interests to return experienced hands who can fight for its priorities.
The News Tribune editorial board is endorsing every sitting lawmaker who is seeking re-election in the legislative districts that represent the county’s most urban core. For the only open seat – a House position in the 26th District – we favor a Kitsap County commissioner from Port Orchard.
26th District: State Rep. Pat Lantz, D-Gig Harbor, is retiring after 12 years in the Legislature. Her decision has sparked a close race between two women from local government ranks. Of the two, Republican Jan Angel has the longer and broader record of public and community service.
Angel, a former business owner and real estate associate, has represented South Kitsap on the county commission since 2001. She also has served on the regional Economic Development District board and several other community and regional boards.
Her views on growth management – she thinks critical areas ordinances unduly restrict development – are a concern. But as a member of the minority party, Angel presents no real threat to environmental regulations.
Her Democratic opponent, Kim Abel, is a former Port Orchard mayor. She is a smart, capable candidate, but she cannot match Angel’s community ties and experience, assets Angel will need to draw on in Olympia.
In the district’s other House seat, Position 2, our enthusiastic endorsement goes to Democrat Larry Seaquist of Gig Harbor. The former captain of the battleship USS Iowa, Pentagon strategist and senior adviser to the director-general of UNESCO, he is one of the brightest lights to hit the local political scene in recent years.
Seaquist got right to work when he joined the Legislature last year, working to hold the state Department of Transportation accountable for its management of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge toll account. A fiscal conservative, his voice will be vital in the coming discussion over state finances.
His Republican challenger, Marlyn Jensen, is a real estate property manager and a sincere candidate, but is not nearly as prepared for public office as Seaquist.
27th District: Rep. Dennis Flannigan‘s roots in his Tacoma district run deep. A former Pierce County Councilman, he was instrumental in successful community organizing efforts before being elected to Position 1 in 2002.
This year, he faces opposition from a fellow Democrat, Jessica Smeall, who works for the YMCA of Tacoma-Pierce County and is running a low-profile campaign. She doesn’t make a case for unseating the incumbent.
Neither does Republican challenger William Chovil, who is vying for House Position 2. Rep. Jeannie Darneille has been a voice for poor and disenfranchised Washingtonians and deserves a return trip to Olympia.
The opposition is more formidable in the state Senate race where Republican Larry Faulk, who served in the state Senate in the 1960s, is taking on a 14-year veteran of the state Legislature, Sen. Debbie Regala.
Faulk is a serious, thoughtful candidate, but voters cannot disregard the groundbreaking work Regala has done over the past two years to address the causes of recidivism among criminals and ensure that Pierce County gets fewer felons released from state prisons. She has earned her re-election.
28th District: The incumbents have three credible challengers, but we recommend that voters return Republican Mike Carrell to the state Senate and Democrats Troy Kelley and Tami Green to the House.
Carrell, who lives in Lakewood, won’t win any personality prizes – not even from his own caucus. But he came through for his district this term by working with Democrat Regala to pass major legislation: prisoner re-entry reform that puts greater emphasis on preparing offenders to successfully integrate back into society. It includes an important "fair share" component that sends more ex-convicts back to the communities where they originally offended. He deserves a second Senate term.
Challenger Debi Srail of Fircrest, a teacher and union leader, did surprisingly well in the primary against Carrell, a five-term House veteran. We wish she had at least some civic involvement on her résumé outside of union and political activity. The best legislative candidates have paid their dues on local councils, boards, commissions and other forums of community leadership.
The House challengers, Republicans Dave Dooley of Lakewood and Denise McCluskey of University Place, do have that kind of involvement. Dooley, dean of students at Lakes High School, is a former University Place parks commissioner. McCluskey, a human resources professional, served on the University Place Planning Commission, the UP parks commission and the county Conservation Futures Board.
Both of them are viable alternatives to the Democratic incumbents. But we’re sticking with Kelley and Green.
Kelley, an attorney and owner of a document tracking company, brings a welcome voice of fiscal conservatism and small business perspective to the Democratic House majority. An Army reservist, the Tacoma resident is also strong on veterans issues. Voters should give him a second term.
Green, a nurse and union organizer who lives in Tacoma, was instrumental in getting state money for Lakewood to provide police service at Western State Hospital. She’s also worked on the Chambers Creek Park pedestrian bridge, sewer projects in Lakewood and DuPont, community college building projects and keeping Progress House out of WSH. She deserves a third term.