Comment: Employers should study up now for general election

Races for the state Legislature will be consequential as state lawmakers address numerous issues.

By Kris Johnson / For The Herald

Summertime during an election year is a busy time, and not just for the candidates who are ringing doorbells, walking in parades and working the phones to rally support. It’s also a busy time for the Association of Washington Business.

For the last two months, our Government Affairs team has coordinated and hosted dozens of candidate interviews for state legislative races throughout Washington. It’s a lot of work, but it’s one of the most important activities we do every two years on behalf of employers.

That’s because even though news coverage tends to focus on national politics and the possibility of a “red wave” in Congress, what happens in Olympia is sometimes just as important — or even more important — for the people who own or manage a business here in Washington.

These candidate interviews, which include local business owners in every community, give employers a chance to hear directly from the candidates and determine for themselves which have the best understanding of the issues that matter to them.

And there are a lot of challenges facing employers right now, everything from spiraling inflation, persistent workforce challenges, ongoing supply chain disruption and concern over the possibility of a recession. Going into next year’s legislative session, it’s critically important that we elect candidates who understand what employers are facing and who are committed to being champions for the economy.

Our election process actually started back in May, before the candidate interviews, when we announced early endorsements of 45 incumbent legislative candidates. These are lawmakers who have an 80 percent or higher vote record with our association, demonstrating their consistent support for a strong private sector.

The process will conclude in September with another round of endorsements based on the outcome of the candidate interviews we conducted over the summer.

And sandwiched in between, AWB will host a debate between the candidates for secretary of state. The debate will stream live on AWB’s website at 11 a.m. Aug. 17 and will feature the top two candidates who emerge from the Aug. 2 primary election. Veteran political reporter Melissa Santos of Axios will serve as moderator.

Normally, this office wouldn’t be up for election now, but former Secretary of State Kim Wyman stepped down in November to take a job in the Biden administration. Gov. Jay Inslee appointed Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, to the position in December and Hobbs is now defending the seat in a special election that included a total of eight candidates on the primary ballot.

Hosting debates like this is nothing new for AWB. For 30-plus years, we have viewed our role as a convener of candidate debates — including governor, secretary of state, auditor, treasurer, public lands commissioner and superintendent of public instruction — as an important part of our mission to be a unifying voice economic prosperity throughout Washington.

Politics is messy and not always fun, especially during this era of increasing polarization. And now, heading into the dog days of summer, the November elections may not be top of mind for small employers and entrepreneurs who are focused on keeping their business going and, maybe, squeezing in a family trip before school starts.

But employers would be wise to use some of their time to get to know the candidates and become better informed on the issues that affect their bottom line. Next year’s legislative session will likely be especially challenging, and we need lawmakers who will be champions for the economy.

Kris Johnson is president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s chamber of commerce and manufacturers association. For more information on AWB’s election resources for employers, go to bit.ly/AWB2022election.

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