As a longtime businessman, community leader, school board member, and now state representative, Paul Harris has served the 17th Legislative District well for many years. The Republican, who is seeking a third term in the Legislature, has earned strong consideration for advancing through the primary to the general election in the race for the district's Position 2 representative.
The race, however, includes two additional viable candidates in Democrat Richard McCluskey and Libertarian Chris Rockhold. Both challengers warrant consideration, but The Columbian recommends that Harris and McCluskey advance to the general election.
Ballots for the primary will be available Wednesday, and the primary election is Aug. 5. As always, recommendations are merely that — recommendations.
Harris is a strong conservative who boasts in his campaign materials, "I have supported legislation these past two sessions that would lower taxes, cut through the excessive, costly regulations and eliminate red tape, allowing our employers to invest and create jobs." He advocates for reforms to the state's education system and the Department of Transportation, and says Washington can meet its obligations for K-12 education funding without raising taxes. He also says an $8.7 billion tax break for Boeing, which the Legislature approved late last year during a special session, was "absolutely necessary."
Harris favors a training wage that is lower than the minimum wage, and emphasizes that "Education is the way to get out of a minimum-wage job. Get educated, get a skill."
McCluskey, who is making his first run at elected office, is a traditional liberal who advocates common responsibility for the common good. "As a society, I think it makes sense to pay for the things we all share," he said, noting that user fees are an excessively regressive form of taxation.
McCluskey says he would have supported the Columbia River Crossing as proposed, and he supports an increase to the minimum wage: "We don't have a full middle class right now." He says that providing tax breaks for corporations while having inadequate education funding is shameful, but adds that taxes should be raised only as a last resort. "The incumbent is all about no government," he said. "He's so proud of pushing the 'no' button. There is vital work that needs to be done to benefit Clark County, Washington state, my neighbors, friends, and family."
Rockhold, who said he has not decided which party he would caucus with, notes that one of the philosophies of Libertarianism is "personal responsibility and private property are paramount in a truly free society." He is well-versed on the issues and said his priorities would be to preserve liberty and to make government live within its means.
The race for Position 2 Representative in the 17th Legislative District has three strong candidates, and a voter's personal philosophy likely will determine how they cast their ballot. We recommend Paul Harris and Richard McCluskey.
Coming Sunday: Congressional representative, 3rd District