As the Legislature ponders unprecedented budget woes created by the coronavirus pandemic along with other pressing issues, experience and the relationships that come along with it will be essential. Because of that, The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends incumbent Ann Rivers in the race for state senator from the 18th District.
On the other hand, a vision for the future and an understanding of how current chaos will impact all Washingtonians also is important. Because of that, the board also recommends newcomer Rick Bell in the three-person contest.
As always, these are merely recommendations; The Columbian suggests that voters examine the candidates and the issues before casting an informed ballot in the primary. Ballots are scheduled to be mailed today and will be due Aug. 4 — either at a secure drop box or by mail. The top two vote-getters in the primary will advance to the November election.
Rivers, a Republican, has served two terms in the Senate. While the editorial board sometimes disagrees with her positions, her role as an active and outspoken legislator have made her an effective advocate for her constituents. She was co-chair of a task force that developed a legislative solution to school funding in the state, and she was a leader in scuttling the proposed Columbia River Crossing. While both solutions were imperfect, Rivers acted in what she thought were the best interests of the 18th District.
For dealing with a pending budget crunch, she presents a four-point plan that focuses on improving conditions for businesses and getting people back to work. During an interview with the editorial board and other candidates, she stressed that most of the deficit can be handled through spending cuts. She also said that tolls — user fees — on an eventual Interstate 5 Bridge replacement are a “bedrock conservative philosophy” and expressed a preference for a measured response to climate change by saying, “there are a lot of things we can do that are not a carbon tax, are not a carbon emission reduction.”
Climate change is one of many areas in which Bell disagrees with the incumbent. “It’s interesting the generational stakes as far as climate change,” he said, noting that young generations are the ones that will be impacted the most. “This is a slow-moving train wreck. There’s an entire economy out there for climate change.”
Bell, a Democrat, has experience in the health care field and has made that the focus of his campaign. “We must keep working hard to drive costs down while still protecting people with pre-existing conditions and ensuring everyone receives convenient, quality care,” he writes in the Voters’ Pamphlet. “COVID-19 has exposed gaps and unfairness in the health care system.”
Bell is thoughtful and articulate, but it not as well-versed on all the issues facing the region as some other candidates. We trust that he will continue to grow into the role.
The third candidate, Republican John Ley, is well-versed and is particularly passionate about transportation issues. He long has been an outspoken critic of plans for replacing the I-5 Bridge, stressing that a new bridge would have minimal impact without an expansion of lane capacity in Portland.
Ley promotes himself as a “true conservative,” but it is difficult to see him forging the coalitions that Rivers has developed in Olympia. Governance requires cooperation and consensus building.
Because of that, The Columbian’s Editorial Board believes Ann Rivers and Rick Bell are the best candidates for state senator from the 18th District.