Probst, Stonier for 17th District positions

Both endorsed candidates are running against foes with self-inflicted flaws

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Claims by Tim Probst that he’s a fiscal conservative are confirmed by his actions. In his first term as state representative from the 17th Legislative District, he cut his office budget in half and refused to accept pay for the special session. That kind of economic austerity leads The Columbian to endorse him in the Nov. 2 election for the 17th’s state representative, Position 1.

For Position 2, The Columbian recommends Democrat Monica Stonier, whom we did not endorse in the primary but who has benefited from several blunders by her opponent during the campaign.

The admirable frugality shown by Probst in his first term was exemplified by his opposition to tax increases passed by fellow Democrats. Such an independent streak earned him no new friends in the Democrats’ caucus room.

Additionally, Probst has been ranked for two straight years as the Legislature’s most fiscally responsible lawmaker, according to the conservative Evergreen Freedom Foundation. He was the only legislator in the Southwest Washington delegation, including both parties, to post a perfect score on the EFF ratings chart. Such fiscal prudence makes Probst far and away the best choice in this race.

His GOP challenger, Brian Peck, claims in a TV ad that Probst voted “for the largest budget in state history, paid for with higher taxes.” That is false. Probst voted for a 2009-10 budget that included no tax increases, but twice he voted against the 2010-11 budget that did include tax increases.

Also to his discredit, Peck has repeatedly ensconced himself in the Public Disclosure Commission doghouse. He was told by the PDC to amend a financial report because he failed to disclose that he owns two businesses. “I made a mistake in the filing process,” he said. And he was reprimanded by the PDC for improper wording on yard signs. “I made a mistake on that, too.”

Probst is mistake-free, though, in flexing his expertise in job-generating and job-training areas. He is boldly independent and has an insight into the Legislature that is rare among first-term lawmakers.

Stonier’s opportunity for an open-seat race was created by the retirement of Democrat Deb Wallace, who endorsed Stonier. The Republican candidate, Paul Harris, was one of two Position 2 candidates endorsed by The Columbian in the primary. However, after that endorsement Harris was exposed in a Columbian story to be a license-plate cheat who had registered his truck in Oregon for two years while living in Washington. Even if that was “an oversight,” it’s a sign of mismanagement that essentially disqualifies Harris as an aspiring legislator. It also helps voters understand why he lost to Jim Dunn (2004) and Wallace (2006) in earlier bids for this job.

A deeper probe into Harris’ background shows he was fined by the state in 2004 for pollution violations when he was owner of a paint company that later went out of business. He also worked for a Portland paint company, then lost that job due to downsizing. During the campaign, he has claimed Stonier supports a state income tax, which is false, and that she opposes teacher accountability, another falsehood.

The Columbian did not endorse Stonier in the primary because we were — and remain — worried about her close ties to the teachers union. But she has campaigned effectively in her first run for public office, and any doubts voters might have about her are far outweighed by Harris’ proven flaws. And that makes Stonier clearly more fit for the Legislature.

Probst is a proven success. Stonier has potential that could flourish into effective service. In both cases, their opponents have resorted to dishonorable tactics that are beneath the dignity even of political campaigns. Voters in the 17th are encouraged to return Probst to Olympia and send Stonier there as a hopeful rookie.