Owen deserves new term as the lieutenant governor

The lieutenant governor’s job isn’t the most exciting in the state, but the incumbent has done a solid job in office.

Brad Owen deserves re-election to a second four year term.

The Democrat’s main opposition comes from Republican Mike Elliott, who is the mayor of the town of Rainier and a member of a number of Thurston County boards. Also on the ballot is Libertarian Ruth E. Bennett, who advocates that the Legislature use its constitutional authority to abolish the post in order to save $400,000 per year.

That suggestion has, at least, provoked some attention to the campaign. Considering the relatively small cost for the office, though, taxpayers receive their money’s worth. The lieutenant governor is available to serve as acting governor when the governor is out of state. In addition, the office holder presides over the state Senate and serves on a variety of state boards. And since the late Joel Pritchard took over the office in late 1980s, there has been a practice of the lieutenant governor devoting special efforts to one issue.

Owen has involved himself deeply in the worthy cause of encouraging young people to avoid illegal drug use. If he can be faulted in that regard, it’s for an instance in which he came to the edge of a technical violation of the state’s bizarrely stringent rules about public officials’ campaigning on initiatives. In 1998, he agreed to pay $7,000 to settle a complaint before the state Executive Ethics Board about his opposition to an earlier medical marijuana initiative. Owen admitted no wrongdoing, and according to a news account at the time, his questionable conduct involved not his responses to questions he received about the initiative but the fact that he sent copies of his responses to state legislators. No matter how that incident is viewed, it’s good to have a state official so dedicated to anti-drug messages.

In day-to-day matters, Owen has succeeded in restoring more decorum to the state Senate’s conduct and in serving as a fair arbiter of questions concerning parliamentary rules. In addition to anti-drug efforts, he has also devoted considerable attention to economic development.

Elliott also has the skills to provide good leadership in the office. He retired from a military career in 1991 after developing strong leadership skills, and has added experience in public office since. He’s a straightforward advocate for a number of conservative views, including charter schools, vouchers and gun-ownership rights.

There is good sense, though, in sticking with Owen for his low-key, capable handling of the lieutenant governor’s office.

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