This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.
There’s no safer bet in this year’s election than on a Democrat winning in two Tacoma-area districts, the 27th and 29th.
For one thing, no Republicans will be on the ballot in two of the four races to be determined Nov. 6. And in the two races that do include a GOP candidate, the Republicans’ chances of prevailing in these majority Democratic districts are slim.
Of Washington’s 49 legislative districts, the 27th – which includes Tacoma’s North End – is the seventh most Democratic-leaning. One would have to live in some parts of Seattle to be in a bluer district.
• Two Democrats are facing off in what has turned out to be one of the more contentious races this year, for the state Senate seat being vacated by Debbie Regala.
State Rep. Jeannie Darneille casts her opponent as having conservative social values out of step with the district’s voters. Tort attorney Jack Connelly claims Darneille has been too soft on crime during her 12 years in the House.
Connelly is a good candidate, and might make a good legislator. But we are disappointed by the tone he has taken in his campaign.
Connelly, who has not held elected office, has poured close to $1 million of his own money into this race, mainly to fund negative television ads, mailers and robocalls. He has smashed state campaign spending records by a single candidate in a legislative race.
Darneille beat Connelly in the primary, 58 to 41 percent. If he wins the general election, it will be a testimony to the power of money and negative advertising. Voters should stick with the candidate who has capably served the 27th District for 12 years – Darneille.
• The House Position 1 race, pitting first-term incumbent Democratic Rep. Laurie Jinkins against Republican Steven T. Cook, is much more low-key. Cook, a mortgage loan officer and Lutheran pastor, seems to cheerfully accept his role as the GOP underdog. That’s wise, given Jinkins’ commanding victory in the primary: 74 to 26 percent.
Jinkins, an attorney and the director of organizational initiatives at the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, deserves voter support. She’s worked on child abuse and neglect in the state attorney general’s office and as assistant director of the state Department of Health. She’s knowledgeable about how state government works as well as how legislative directives can affect local government.
Voters should give her a second term.
• Two Democratic Tacoma City Council members square off in the race to fill Darneille’s House Position 2 seat: Hilltop activist and Fair Housing Center director Lauren Walker and Jake Fey, director of the Washington State University Extension Energy Program.
These are both smart, community-minded candidates, but we give the edge to Fey. We like his willingness to ask tough budget questions and not settle for vague answers. For instance, he voted against the Tacoma budget two years ago because he recognized that it failed to make the kind of cuts that could prevent the city from getting in deeper trouble – like it is now.
The House will need that kind of tough-mindedness. Walker’s main issues – health and human services – are capably addressed by others, including Jinkins and Darneille. What the Legislature needs is more economic expertise, and Fey has that.
• The 29th District is slightly redder than the 27th – it includes South Tacoma and parts of Parkland, Lakewood, Spanaway and Frederickson – yet consistently has sent Democrats to the Legislature in recent years.
The only seat being challenged this year is House Position 1, being vacated by Connie Ladenburg (she’s running for Pierce County Council). The front-runner, by virtue of his party affiliation if nothing else, is Democrat David Sawyer, a law clerk studying to be an attorney.
His opponent is Terry Harder, a Republican who says he’s more conservative than his party. That might win him some votes in the 29th, but not nearly enough to win. Sawyer is a smart, personable candidate, and his pro-labor positions put him more in sync with this union-dense district. He gets our endorsement.