Stevens, Dunshee, Loomis should grab 39th district

Voters in the 39th District have a full slate of contested races before them. With the Senate seat and the district’s two House of Representatives’ positions on the ballot, the district’s entire delegation in the Legislature is up for grabs.

In the two House races, incumbent Democrat Hans Dunshee and first-time Democratic candidate Liz Loomis deserve voter support.

In the House position 1 race, Republican Dan Kristiansen, who won a party primary contest, is challenging Dunshee. Kristiansen, with extensive business experience including 20 years at a small business, argues for lower taxes and reduced administrative costs in education. He also has pointed to a need for highway improvements within the district, which includes Snohomish, Arlington and Monroe. At the same time, he has expressed understanding for the role of transit in transportation solutions.

While Dunshee’s Democratic affiliation sits uneasily with some in the district, the incumbent is one of the genuinely outspoken and frank voices in the Legislature. After eight years in the House, Dunshee, always one to study issues carefully, also seems to have begun to appreciate the value of cooperation across party lines. During the past session, with a 49-49 split in the House, Dunshee often became an enthusiastic advocate for his colleagues’ bipartisan compromises and even a critic of Senate Democrats’ reluctance to follow suit. At the same time, Dunshee remains a passionate advocate for education and environmental protection.

Loomis brings enormous energy, drive and a sharp grasp of state issues to her campaign for the district’s other House seat, position 2. Loomis, who runs a small business in marketing, has served on the Snohomish City Council since 1995. Loomis has focused on a variety of issues, including the need for transit improvements, better schools and more programs for young people. Loomis has unusual drive, energy and understanding of the issues, making her an outstanding prospect for serving the district’s interests well in the Legislature.

Her Republican opponent, Kirk Pearson, is a life-long resident of the area with genuine depth of experience in the community. Most recently, he has served Congressman Jack Metcalf’s as a locally based special assistant. Pearson has been a consistent supporter of public education, including serving on the Monroe School Levy and Bond Committee. He has also stressed traffic improvements and addressing safety issues.

In the Senate race, Lakewood School Board member Fredda Smith, the Democratic nominee, is making her first run the Legislature. She is challenging incumbent Val Stevens. Smith, who has served on the school board during 11 years of real progress for a once-troubled district, exhibits impressive understanding and passion when discussing education in the state. Voters, however, should expect a broader interest in other state issues than we have seen so far from her.

Although there are good reasons to worry about Stevens’ sometimes radically conservative views, her service as a senator should not be underestimated. In the House of Representatives, she had failed to get a single piece of legislation enacted into law. But during her Senate campaign four years ago, she said that she hoped to be more effective in working with new colleagues in the Senate. In fact, Stevens has lived up to her promise, impressively.

The Republican has worked with senators of very differing viewpoints, including a liberal Seattle Democrat, to make improvements to the state’s social service policies. She is credited with hard work by colleagues. By at least one knowledgeable account, staff members and state administrators increasingly find her not just studying the issues carefully but actually listening to people who expected her to dismiss their views out of hand.

Look, Stevens has often come at issues with ideas that are not just conservative but tinged with a striking degree of suspicion. At various times, that approach has deeply wounded good people in law enforcement, in the gay community and in the hard-working ranks of the Department of Social and Health Services’ caseworkers. But it is also possible that her growth will lead her to open many more doors to others, at least partially.

As a whole, the district is likely to be better served by keeping Val Stevens in the Senate. She needs to continue improving her performance in Olympia but if the past four years are an indication, she is fully capable of even more impressive growth.

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