Inslee’s focus belongs here

Jay Inslee’s decision to resign his 1st Congressional District seat to devote his full attention to the race for governor serves the best interests of Washington voters.

That’s not an endorsement of his candidacy. Far from it. The likely matchup between Democrat Inslee and Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna represents a pivotal moment in our state’s history, and a foundational debate over priorities that we hope most voters will follow closely before making up their minds.

The full-fledged debate Washington needs wasn’t as likely if one of the candidates was working a continent away.

So Inslee announced Saturday that he’ll resign his House seat effective next Tuesday. Having occurred after a key deadline, his decision won’t trigger a costly special election to replace him for the remainder of his term. Instead, the seat will remain empty until the November election is certified on Dec. 6. Inslee’s offices in Shoreline, Poulsbo and Washington, D.C., will remain open, and staff will continue to address constituent needs.

As to missing votes in the House, few if any crucial ones remain this year. This is a Congress that has given new meaning to dysfunction, anyway.

Now the likely gubernatorial finalists can engage in a robust campaign of ideas. The current budget battle in Olympia provides a meaningful template.

Most importantly, voters need to hear how the candidates favor strengthening education at all levels, and specifically how they would pay for it.

Both must put forth a workable plan for funding the state’s transportation infrastructure, including transit.

They must detail their priorities for addressing the state’s social service needs; especially how they would protect the most vulnerable citizens.

They also need to put forth a vision for state-employee compensation plans that are fair and sustainable for workers and taxpayers, and air their views about the state’s tax structure.

McKenna may be the GOP’s most viable candidate since the last Republican to occupy the governor’s mansion — John Spellman, who was elected to his only term way back in 1980, the same year Ronald Reagan first won the presidency. McKenna enjoys broad name familiarity, having won statewide office twice before. Inslee no doubt concluded that he couldn’t make up much of that gap without being here.

Now both candidates will be front and center for a campaign with the potential to be a major turning point in our state’s history.

That is as it should be.