In some ways, the two state Senate candidates from the 44th District are more alike than not.
Steve Hobbs, the Democratic incumbent, is a moderate. So is his challenger, Republican Dave Schmidt, whom Hobbs ousted from the seat four years ago. Both have backgrounds in the military; Hobbs serving in the Army Reserves and National Guard, and Schmidt in the latter. Both have taken votes in the Legislature that bucked their party’s leadership.
The swing district, which encompasses Lake Stevens, Snohomish, Mill Creek and parts of Everett and Marysville, could be served well by either.
Our endorsement goes to Hobbs because of the sharply independent streak he showed during his first four-year term, and the principled stands he took and stuck to despite heavy political pressure — particularly from his left.
Hobbs emerged as a significant leader of moderate Democrats in both chambers of the Legislature, forming a group of them into what came to be known as the Roadkill Caucus. (They were tired of winding up as legislative roadkill by opposing their caucus leaders as individuals.) These centrists provided leverage for sensible positions, like maintaining tax incentives that encourage private-sector hiring.
Hobbs also worked effectively with 44th District Republican Rep. Mike Hope, making progress on education funding reform (although plenty more work remains there) and a key highway improvement project at Frontier Village.
Hope, a Seattle police officer who lives in Lake Stevens, also deserves a second term. He showed his own share of leadership, taking charge of the effort to give judges more leeway to deny bail to certain dangerous defendants in the wake of last year’s Lakewood police murders. Voters will make the final decision this fall when they vote on ESHJR 4220. Hope’s opponent, Democrat John Boerger, announced his withdrawal from the race, but too late to have his name removed from the ballot.
In the other House race, we endorse the re-election of Democrat Hans Dunshee, though with some reservations.
Dunshee is extremely hard-working, and has served ably and fairly as chairman of the House Capital Budget Committee. He also played a constructive role in the effort to bring a state university branch campus to Snohomish County, which fell short due to the state budget crisis and the lack of local agreement on a site. His knowledge of the issue, and the clout that comes with his seniority, should be of benefit as the area’s quest for more four-year university opportunities continues.
However, at a time when dwindling revenues call for fresh thinking, Dunshee doesn’t offer much in the way of state government reform. He seems too wedded to old ways of funding, satisfied with the notion of slashing budgets for now, then restoring them when the economy recovers.
His challenger, Republican Bob McCaughan, seems too green and short on details to offer a credible alternative. Perhaps spending more time learning the fundamentals of, say, K-12 and higher education funding, will make him a better candidate someday. He argues that his naivete is actually a strength, allowing him to “go after things a skilled politician won’t.” Perhaps. But a little naivete goes a long way in Olympia, and McCaughan, for now, has too much.