This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.
This is a Republican year, and the 28th Legislative District – which has a long history of sending Republicans to Olympia – has two incumbent Democrats on the ballot. The rest of the state is watching.
The race for Position 1 in the state House of Representatives pits Rep. Tami Green, a Lakewood Democrat, against Lakewood Republican Paul Wagemann. Both are candidates of intelligence and integrity.
Wagemann had a long career in military aviation and now works as a real estate developer; he’s also served on the Clover Park School Board since 2009. Green, a registered nurse, has served in the Legislature since 2004 and has risen to the leadership position of assistant floor leader.
This is a tough decision; both Wagemann and Green have flaws to match their strengths.
In Wagemann’s case, it’s a matter of temperament: He comes across as rigid in his approach to issues and may be inclined toward simple solutions to the fiendishly complex fiscal problems the Legislature now faces. His “no-way, no-how” stance on new taxes, for example, is a crowd-pleaser – but it categorically bars any degree of revenue expansion to avert what could be catastrophic reductions in assistance to the state’s most distressed citizens.
Green’s problem is her iron-plated fealty to the state’s public unions. The Legislature will face a multibillion-dollar budget shortfall when it convenes in January. No conceivable tax package could fill that hole, which means that the preservation of existing benefits for state workers would probably come at the expense of the mentally ill, the disabled, the poor and others who survive with the help of state support.
We’ll stick with Green, but when push comes to shove, she should not give higher priority to reasonably compensated public employees than to people who are barely making it through life.
The decision in Position 2 is tough because of the strengths of the candidates, state Rep. Troy Kelley and Steve O’Ban.
Compared to Green, Kelley – a Tacoma Democrat and business owner – has been considerably more willing to buck pressure from within his party. It has cost him the support of labor, which is a mark of distinction in this budget crisis. The state needs more of his fiscal prudence inside the Democratic caucus.
O’Ban, an attorney, is an engaging Tacoma Republican of obvious intelligence. He’s more culturally conservative than this largely moderate district, and he’s talking tax cuts when crucial services are already threatened, but he’d be an excellent choice for Republicans who prefer a lawmaker anchored securely on the right.
To read earlier endorsement editorials, go to www.thenewstribune.com/endorsements.