During eight years in the Legislature, Rep. Paul Harris has been a thoughtful lawmaker who tempers his conservative beliefs with a welcome dose of pragmatism. The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends that the Republican be re-elected as representative from the 17th District, Position 2.
As always, this is merely a recommendation designed to generate discussion. We suggest that voters watch the editorial board interview with Harris and challenger Damion Jiles, a Democrat, before making an informed decision.
In studying the candidates, it is easy to see why Harris is an effective lawmaker and a strong representative for his constituents. He is firm in his beliefs but not strident, a reliable conservative who can engage with people of other ideologies and forge mutually beneficial solutions.
It is no surprise, therefore, that Harris was one of the leaders in helping lawmakers devise a solution to the McCleary mandate on school funding. While we can take issue with the fact the Legislature waited six years to create that solution — and we have taken issue with that editorially — Harris is the kind of leader we want working on difficult issues facing the state.
One of those issues likely will be the Interstate 5 Bridge and other transportation concerns in the metro area. Harris believes the I-5 Bridge should be the priority before additional bridges; he is opposed to the inclusion of light rail on a new bridge and prefers bus rapid transit. He opposes Initiative 1639, a gun-control measure on the November ballot, and turns the discussion to the importance of addressing mental health issues. And he opposes the carbon fee of Initiative 1631 but believes that human activity contributes to climate change.
Jiles is an articulate candidate who finds much common ground with Harris on the issues. He supports replacement of the I-5 Bridge but favors the inclusion of light rail. He also opposes Initiative 1639, saying, “Do I agree with gun control? Absolutely. However, I don’t believe in legislating the ownership of firearms away from the people.” And, at the time of the editorial board interview, he said he was still studying the carbon-fee initiative and wants Washington to be a “green state,” but added, “Is taxation the way to make that happen? I don’t think it is.”
Jiles also talks about improving the budgeting process — but he didn’t have specifics and did not know the amount of the state’s operating budget.
In the past, Jiles has been the subject of restraining orders sought by two different women and has been convicted of misdemeanor assault. Whether or not that should be taken into consideration is up to voters, but we believe it is worth mentioning in an attempt to provide a complete picture of the candidate. “I can’t speak for what voters should be concerned with,” Jiles told The Columbian. “It’s in my past. I’ve been really open about it.”
Regardless of how voters choose to weigh Jiles’ past, Harris is the superior candidate. He has a firm understanding of the issues facing his district and all of Washington, and he has the diplomatic skills necessary to generate solutions. Harris ranks replacing the Interstate 5 Bridge as the top priority for the Southwest Washington delegation — a delegation that, notably, has improved its collaboration in the past two years — and he lists mental health care and Western State Hospital as the No. 2 focus.
The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends Paul Harris for state representative from the 17th District, Position 2.