In assessing the race for state representative from the 18th Legislative District, Position 2, it is important for one to measure the effectiveness of the incumbent.
In so doing, it becomes clear that residents of the district — and voters in Southwest Washington as a whole — would be better served by Kathy Gillespie, an independent Democrat from Vancouver. The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends a vote for Gillespie in her race against Liz Pike, R-Camas. As always, this is merely a recommendation designed to foster discussion. The Columbian trusts the ability and the desire of voters to research the candidates and the issues before casting an informed ballot.
Such research will reveal that Pike has engaged in a politics of divisiveness that is damaging to the region. She is adept at repeating well-worn talking points that pander to voters but demonstrates little of the nuance necessary for finding solutions to complex issues. And she has a knack for embracing wedge issues that serve to divide the community rather than uniting it.
Most notable among these failings was when Pike agreed to become a write-in candidate last year for Clark County chair. While not actively campaigning for the office, she bought into a plan from the county’s Republican leadership to file as a write-in candidate when no Republicans advanced to the general election. This only enhanced the divisiveness of the campaign, rather than accepting what voters had approved in the primary election.
Another example can be found in Pike’s efforts to generate legislative support for a bistate commission between Washington and Oregon to explore solutions for the Interstate 5 Bridge. It is a worthy idea, but the fact that Pike was an intransigent critic of the now-dead Columbia River Crossing makes her the wrong person to lead that charge. Metaphorically, she has burned far too many bridges to take a leadership role in building one, and fellow legislators rejected her proposal for a commission.
And then there is Pike’s opposition to the state’s 2015 gas-tax hike, designed to raise $16 billion for transportation projects. Opposition to the plan was reasonable, but Pike failed to recognize that when you belong to the minority party in the House, sometimes you need to bite your tongue and work for the benefit of your constituents. Instead, the 18th District ended up with a paltry amount of money for local projects.
Each of these examples demonstrates Pike’s tone-deaf insistence upon embracing ideology at the expense of pragmatism. And that has harmed her constituents. Extremism can, indeed, be a vice.
Of course, when recommending that an incumbent should be replaced, it is essential to have a worthy challenger. Gillespie presents just such a candidate. Her experience of two terms on the board of Vancouver Public Schools will serve her well as the Legislature faces difficult school-funding questions, and her demeanor projects somebody who is willing to listen and consider the issues rather than rely upon demagoguery. Specifically, Gillespie supports examining corporate tax breaks and eliminating those that are ineffective to help fund K-12 schools.
“We have lost the idea that this region can fix problems,” Gillespie told the Editorial Board. That, as well as anything, articulates the choice facing voters in the 18th District. Gillespie will attack problems by developing alliances and considering the nuances of the issues — an approach that will better serve her constituents. The Columbian recommends Kathy Gillespie for state representative from the 18th District.