In Our View: Cleveland for Senate

Democrat deserves re-election based on work for constituents, focus on issues

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Based upon her work in the state Senate and the manner in which her views typically align with the left-leaning 49th Legislative District, it is easy for The Columbian’s Editorial Board to suggest that voters should return Democrat Annette Cleveland to Olympia.

Cleveland, a one-term senator, is running against Republican Lewis Gerhardt, who thus far has presented some thoughtful ideological positions but precious few specifics to indicate that he would be an effective voice for constituents.

As always, this is merely a recommendation designed to foster discussion. The Columbian trusts the ability and desire of voters to examine the issues and the candidates before making an informed decision.

Such an examination will reveal that Cleveland works diligently on behalf of constituents and that she rightly focuses upon the issues that are most pressing for the 49th District. With education funding and the state’s mandate to fully provide for K-12 schools promising to be the most pressing issue during next year’s legislative session, she supports a statewide capital-gains tax. The state is facing a bill estimated to be at least $3 billion for education, and Cleveland says, “I personally don’t see a way forward without new revenue,” before adding that a tax increase should be a last resort.

Cleveland was a supporter of the now-defunct Columbia River Crossing, and recognizes that a plan for reconstructing the Interstate 5 Bridge is probably the pre-eminent issue for her district. Her thoughtful and analytical demeanor will be crucial to finding a way forward on any bridge proposal. “While contentious politics got in the way, I still believe the I-5 Bridge replacement is the single most important need our community faces,” she writes in campaign materials. “I will not give up until together we can find a path forward for replacement of the antiquated interstate.”

Cleveland also boasts of helping to deliver state money for the Vancouver Waterfront project, for Daybreak Youth Services, and for updates to The Academy. Such pork-barrel politics often is decried by critics, but it fits in with her vision that government can help solve problems and build communities.

Gerhardt, who has declined to speak with The Columbian, comes across as more of a small-government ideologue. “In Washington State we need to focus on removing and reforming regulations that prevent citizens from pursuing their dreams,” he writes in campaign materials. On another occasion, he writes, “I will work to reduce the tax burden on the people of Washington State and will NOT vote for ANY tax increase.” Yet he includes no mention of education funding and what he would recommend as an alternative to tax increases. His writings about education policy can be boiled down to the statement that, “To keep hold of this culture, we must reject federal involvement in education.”

While reassessing regulations is an ongoing necessity and while opposition to proposed tax increases will resonate with many voters, Gerhardt’s pitch to the electorate demonstrates the differences between ideology and pragmatism. Cleveland’s experience in building coalitions and embracing the art of compromise are needed in Olympia.

In meeting with the Editorial Board, she said, “It’s more important than ever, in my opinion, that we elect people who have an understanding of the legislative process.” We agree. And that makes Annette Cleveland the best choice for senator from the 49th District.