State will continue to grow with Locke as governor

In his first term, Gary Locke has provided steady, responsible leadership. He is being challenged by a bright but largely untested opponent, talk show host and political commentator John Carlson.

The state will continue to grow if voters re-elect Gary Locke as governor. He’s the clear choice in this contest between two impressive candidates.

Locke is running strongly on his own record, and it is a record that merits pride. He has emphasized education, providing strong support in budget decisions for raising academic standards in grade schools and high schools. In his first term, the Democrat also fought for steady, cost-effective improvements in access to higher education, including expanded use of distance learning and the plans for a consortium of higher education institutions to offer degree classes in Snohomish County.

Locke has also provided well-balanced leadership on environmental protection and economic development. His deep understanding of the state’s budget from his days as a legislator has helped to keep Washington’s financial house in order.

Carlson, the Republican challenger, raises valid concerns that Locke should be taking to heart. Carlson also is a stronger candidate for governor than a lot of people may appreciate. In office, he would likely prove more of a consensus builder than expected by those who haven’t met him or followed him as he developed initiatives.

During the campaign, critics have expressed a strong, appropriate desire for improvements to the state’s transportation systems. Locke needs to realize this tone of impatience is widely shared. Carlson’s calls for streamlined, smaller state government make a good deal of sense. His concerns about elected officials delegating too many decisions to bureaucrats ought to hit home in the Legislature as well as in administrative offices.

Unfortunately, as articulate as Carlson is, there is no record of governmental leadership on which to judge how well he might perform as governor of the state. And, while Carlson’s ideas are attractive, Locke’s record is actually strong.

Locke’s style has its own extraordinarily impressive strengths, including those of honesty, character and consistency. Except on rare occasion, he doesn’t stand up and shout his demands for change. And the Legislature doesn’t jump when he calls — any more than it ever has for any governor. But Locke has worked quietly and resolutely on a variety of measures to get better results for the public. After several tries, for instance, he finally succeeded in requiring the testing of new teachers. He points proudly to greater use of contracting to private vendors for new services, even while he continues to argue for changes in state law that would open up existing services to competition.

More than anything, Locke has been a consistent, faithful supporter of public education. It is a long-range commitment that reflects his values and priorities. If the state wants to keep building for its future confidently, voters should give Gary Locke the strong vote of confidence he deserves.

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