Attorney general: Dunn; Land commissioner: Goldmark; Lieutenant governor: Finkbeiner; Treasurer: McIntire

Our choices for attorney general, land commissioner, lieutenant governor, treasurer

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Relatively young lawyer. Rising rapidly in his political party, with a promising future, yet fairly independent in his views. Currently serving as King County councilor after defeating an incumbent. Interestingly, each of those qualities defines the two candidates for Washington attorney general: Republican Reagan Dunn and Democrat Bob Ferguson. Here's another similarity: Each is an excellent candidate for statewide office.The Columbian's endorsement goes to Dunn, son of the late Republican Congresswoman Jennifer Dunn, largely because of his advantage in experience, especially as a prosecutor at the federal level. Ferguson also has a glowing legal background, though not as extensive as Dunn's.

This race is important on two fronts. For the public, the attorney general's office is vital because it represents the state in all legal cases involving state interests, provides legal opinions to public officials, and upholds open-government principles, among other duties. The department has more than 1,100 employees and a two-year budget of about $229 million. Second, for Dunn and Ferguson, the race is crucial because this office often serves as a springboard to higher office. Gov. Chris Gregoire served as AG, as did former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton, and current AG Rob McKenna is running for governor.

We like the way both Dunn and Ferguson respect the neutrality that is key to this office. Each has drifted outside party doctrine, Republican Dunn as a supporter of abortion rights and gay marriage, and Democrat Ferguson as an advocate of reducing the King County Council from 13 districts to nine.

Reagan Dunn is the top choice in this race.

Commissioner of public lands — In 2008, Okanogan County rancher Peter Goldmark defeated incumbent Doug Sutherland for this post, and Goldmark has served well in his first term. More than a rancher, Goldmark boasts the knowledge gained from a Ph.D. in molecular biology, and the civic experience as former president of the Washington State University Board of Regents. Goldmark is a Democrat, but he's more devoted to protecting public acreage and waterways than following party platforms.

His Republican opponent, Tea Party favorite Clint Didier, ran for U.S. Senate in 2010, but gained only 12.7 percent of the vote and didn't make it out of the primary. Goldmark has the record and the wisdom that warrant a second term.

Lieutenant governor — Brad Owen has served reasonably well for 16 years in the post that has little influence other than presiding over the state Senate. But recently, he has incurred a couple of self-inflicted problems, including a run-in with the Public Disclosure Commission over filing of campaign finance reports, and a possible ethics violation for connecting his office to the running of a nonprofit organization.

His opponent, Republican Bill Finkbeiner, has been out of politics for six years but has strong support from both liberal and conservative groups. He has served in both chambers of the Legislature, representing both parties, and at one time was the state's youngest Senate majority leader. Finkbeiner has excellent reform ideas for the nonpartisan running of the Senate, and he's our recommendation for lieutenant governor.

State treasurer — Jim McIntire is one of the most independent and highly respected state officials. Republicans ran no opponent against him in the primary, but Republican Sharon Hanek qualified for the general election as a write-in, drawing 3.4 percent of the votes in the primary. That leaves us 96.6 percent certain that McIntire will serve just as solidly in a second term as the state's CFO.