Experience should count in 1st District campaigns

Voters in the 1st Legislative District have a solid core of experienced lawmakers who deserve new terms in Olympia.

In the House of Representatives, Democratic incumbents Al O’Brien and Jeanne Edwards bring impressive skills and varied interests that combine into a good package for district residents.

In the race for House Position 1, O’Brien faces Eric Marrs, a hotel convention services manager with a longstanding interest in politics. Two decades ago, while still a college student, Marrs ran for a legislative seat as a Democrat. He says that as he matured, he became more conservative. Marrs is concerned about the size of government and a lack of leadership in the Legislature, leading to increasing numbers of initiatives.

O’Brien, however, is offering the kind of positive leadership that the Legislature needs. As he notes, the learning curve for new legislators is very steep but he has progressed well. Now in his fourth year as a legislator, O’Brien has involved himself heavily in capital construction issues and he served as co-chair of the Criminal Justice Committee. His background as a former Seattle police officer is a valuable addition to the Legislature. In addition, he brings a moderate, balanced perspective to the issues.

Edwards is seeking just her second term as the district’s Position 2 representative. Despite being a freshman, she was appointed a vice chair of the Transportation Committee. She knows transportation issues well from earlier service as a member of the Bothell City Council and board of Community Transit. Edwards also serves on the Health Care Committee, providing a voice that is knowledgeable about the needs of families and children on limited incomes. Her opponent is Andy Vanderhof, a first-time candidate who served as president of the Eastside Young Republicans in 1996.

In the Senate race, voters have the most difficult choice. Incumbent Democratic Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe is a narrow choice.

The opponent is a well-qualified, thoughtful candidate, Republican Leo Van Hollebeke. Van Hollebeke says he would be particularly interested in improving public education to keep families interested in their local schools. It exemplifies Van Hollebeke’s great potential for a cooperative, bipartisan approach that he served as Democratic U.S. Sen. Patty Murray’s campaign manager in 1988, when she was seeking a seat in the state Senate. He expresses concern that the Legislature is contributing to the number of initiatives by failing to keep in touch with public sentiment.

That’s a relevant issue, particularly because McAuliffe is chair of the Senate Education Committee. The three education-related initiatives on this year’s ballot should be a clear signal to McAuliffe that voters aren’t getting the results they expect out of the Legislature. The charter schools issue, in particular, could have been resolved in the Legislature rather than at the ballot box if she had led her committee to act on a bipartisan House proposal. McAuliffe, however, deserves credit for her vital and consistent support of higher academic standards and a long-term education reform process. She also follows well the transportation issues facing the district and the state.

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