To the uninitiated, running for public office is an eye-opening experience. It can be difficult to express political beliefs in a clear, engaging manner; it can be difficult to answer challenges to those beliefs.
We mention this by way of introducing the contest for state representative, Position 1, from the 17th Legislative District. In meeting with the candidates, The Columbian’s Editorial Board found several who demonstrated the potential to be an effective representative, but none who have quite sharpened their message enough to reach that potential.
That being said, The Columbian recommends a vote for independent Democrat Sam Kim or Democrat Don Orange in the Aug. 2 primary that will determine which two candidates advance to the November general election. They are part of a crowded field that includes Republicans Vicki Kraft and Jerry Oliver, plus Democrats Joshua Egan and Rob Frisina.
As always, this is merely a recommendation. The Columbian trusts the ability of voters to study the candidates and the issues before casting an informed ballot. Such study is particularly important in this race, as we hope that one or more candidates can seize the reins of the contest and become an effective spokesperson for the constituents of the 17th District. They are hoping to replace Lynda Wilson, a one-term representative who is running for the district’s open state Senate seat.
Kim initially announced that he would run as a Republican, but he cited the GOP’s “ideological rigidity” and its support of Donald Trump for president as reasons he chose to file as an independent Democrat. He works as Clark County’s chief information officer and served 16 years on the board of Battle Ground Public Schools.
Kim is engaging and personable but would benefit from developing more depth to how he would address the issues facing the state. He favors building multiple bridges across the Columbia River and says he would have supported an Interstate 5 Bridge that has the capability to add light rail in the future; and he says he would protect the Second Amendment. His endorsements include the Washington State Labor Council, the Washington Federation of State Employees, and Clark County Chair Marc Boldt.
Orange is a Vancouver business owner who has been an outspoken opponent of a proposed oil terminal at the Port of Vancouver. On the issue of school funding, he recommends closing some corporate tax breaks: “You can’t drill holes like that and have working families fill in the difference.” He stresses his collaborative nature and says, “As a small-business owner, when I get my people involved in a decision we usually come up with a better decision.”
Kraft has experience in the private sector and works for the Freedom Foundation, an Olympia-based conservative think tank; she has endorsements from legislators Liz Pike and Lynda Wilson, among others. Oliver is a Port of Vancouver commissioner and is the board’s staunchest supporter of the oil terminal; he says “the state of Washington stifles small business through regulations and taxes.” Frisina bills himself as a strong progressive and is particularly concerned with protecting the environment. Egan is a Democratic precinct committee officer who supports mass transit and strong environmental protections.
The race to fill the open legislative seat in the 17th District presents voters with a variety of candidates possessing a wide range of views. For now, Kim and Orange appear to be the strongest candidates.