This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.
Three candidates with strong name recognition have the upper hand headed into the November elections for 29th Legislative District seats.
They also have our endorsement.
Longtime Democratic lawmakers Steve Kirby and Steve Conway want to return to the Legislature, with Conway wanting to trade up to a seat in the Senate.
Kirby, a former Tacoma City Councilman, is running for his sixth term in the state House. He is chairman of the House Insurance, Financial Services and Consumer Protection committee.
Kirby’s challenger, Republican Jesse Miller, owns a business managing rappers and is the former chair of the board at the Statewide Poverty Action Network.
She’s not a stranger to the legislative process – Miller has championed legislation to make it easier for felons to have their voting rights restored and to impose stiffer regulations on payday lenders.
But Kirby has a better sense of what it takes to get deals done. As chairman of the banking committee, he pushed through compromise legislation on payday lending that – while it didn’t satisfy Miller – offered good consumer protections.
Kirby argues convincingly that the district needs his experience given the tough budget fight ahead and the fact that his seatmate, Conway, is leaving to run for the Senate. We think Kirby’s right.
Conway, an officer for the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 81, has been a powerful presence in the House during his 17 years there.
He chairs the House Commerce and Labor Committee – often with too much deference to the labor side of the equation. We were disappointed that he blocked legislation aimed at reforming the state’s workers’ compensation system last session – a job that now might get done by citizen initiative.
But Conway has done well for his district, working doggedly to ensure that Pierce County didn’t remain a dumping group for ex-cons. It would take years for his politically unseasoned opponent, Republican Terry Harder, to develop similar clout.
Competing to replace Conway in the House are Democrat Connie Ladenburg and Republican Steven Cook.
Ladenburg, another former member of the Tacoma City Council and also co-founder of the Alliance for Youth of Pierce County, is a political fixture with strong connections at the local and state level. She is best suited to fill Conway’s shoes.
Cook, a former George, Wash., city councilman, can’t match Ladenburg’s strong record of public service and familiarity with the issues facing state lawmakers.