49th District: Cleveland, Wylie, Moeller

draw endorsements

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No verdicts were rendered during the Aug. 7 primary in the 49th Legislative District because each of the three races had just two candidates. All advanced to the Nov. 6 election. But just because there were no decisions doesn't mean there were no clues.Across the board, each Democrat received about 56 percent of the primary votes. No surprise in the liberal-leaning district that includes Vancouver west of Interstate 205 and south of Felida. Primary voters favored newcomer Annette Cleveland for state senator and incumbents Sharon Wylie and Jim Moeller for state representatives, although those primary results have no impact on the upcoming election.

The Columbian agrees with that earlier consensus, with the standard reminder that endorsements are opinions, nothing more, designed to stimulate discussions rather than influence voters who are perfectly capable of making their own choices.

State senator: Two commendable candidates, each with strong roots in Clark County, have emerged in this important race to replace Craig Pridemore, who ran unsuccessfully for state auditor. Annette Cleveland is our choice to succeed Pridemore, largely because her background reflects a keen understanding of both the public and private sectors. We have concerns about her stances on spending and taxes, but she's the right fit for the 49th District.

When it comes to experience, Republican Eileen Qutub has the edge, having served in the Oregon Legislature as state representative and state senator in the late 1990s. Like her opponent, Qutub grew up in Clark County, but she faces an uphill battle in the mostly blue 49th.

Cleveland and Qutub differ on endorsements and issues predictably along party lines. They are running high-powered, dignified (to date) campaigns, and it's encouraging to see politics being played out on the policy level rather than through partisan bickering. Our choice is Cleveland, who has learned the intricacies of the legislative process through her work in health care services and experience in several political arenas before making her first bid for elective office.

State rep, Pos. 1: Sharon Wylie has found her stride as a studious and collaborative state representative since being appointed to the Legislature last year and later winning voter approval by 13 percentage points. Her rapidly acquired traction in Olympia comes as no surprise because -- like Qutub -- Wylie served two terms in the Oregon Legislature in the 1990s. Her recent legislative achievements have come in job creation, education and social services.

Wylie's opponent, Republican Debbie Peterson, brings many years of impassioned civic activism to this campaign, but she lacks Wylie's experience, not to mention Wylie's ability to work harmoniously with both conservatives and liberals.

State rep, Pos. 2: We have often criticized Jim Moeller for his ultra-liberal stances on taxes, public-employee unions and other issues. But there is no doubting his passion, commitment to hard work, eagerness to learn about multiple issues and willingness to be held accountable in contentious public arenas. Nor is there any doubt that Moeller knows how to appeal to his district's voters, previously as a Vancouver city councilor and since 2003 as a legislator.

Moeller's Republican opponent, Carolyn Crain, owns a refreshing appreciation for smaller government, but her message doesn't resonate in this district. She regularly attends city and county government meetings, but has shown scant interest in collaborative endeavors.