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The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.

In Our View: Jay Inslee deserves third term as governor

The Columbian
Published: October 4, 2020, 6:03am

At a crucial time for our state — and our nation — Washington residents need a steady hand at the helm. Gov. Jay Inslee is a clear choice for election to a third term as governor and has earned the recommendation of The Columbian’s Editorial Board.

As always, this is merely a recommendation. The Columbian trusts that voters will examine the candidates and the issues before making an informed decision.

In making such an assessment, we suspect many residents will be disappointed they do not have a more difficult choice in this race. While Inslee’s two terms have been imperfect, his Republican challenger is not qualified for the position; Washington residents deserve a more robust competition.

As it stands, Inslee’s performance during the coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated that he is the right person to guide the state through the crisis. He quickly assessed the dangers of the pandemic, and he has acted decisively to manage the situation as well as could be hoped.

While some residents criticize Inslee’s shutdown of schools and businesses, those measures have been essential to slowing the spread of the virus. Washington ranks among the 10 states with the fewest COVID-19 cases per capita, a fact that in the long run will facilitate a swift economic recovery. “We have reduced our infections significantly because we were willing to confront it,” he told the editorial board during a remote interview.

The Columbian held separate interviews with Inslee and Republican challenger Loren Culp after the governor declined a joint interview. We wish that voters had an opportunity to see the candidates engage in a back-and-forth discussion, but Inslee’s qualifications stand out in any comparison with his challenger.

Culp is the chief of a one-person police department in Republic, a city of about 1,100 people in northeast Washington. He came to prominence in 2018 by declining to enforce Initiative 1639, a gun-control measure that passed with 59 percent of the statewide vote. Culp told the editorial board that he believes I-1639 in unconstitutional; but the rule of law leaves that decision to the courts, which thus far have upheld the measure. Culp’s rogue stance does not speak well of his ability or willingness to enforce laws passed by the public and the Legislature.

Culp is trying to build a grassroots campaign through strong criticism of Inslee’s coronavirus response and by holding in-person rallies that ignore COVID restrictions — demonstrating a disdain for expertise as well as the law.

With only one viable candidate in the race, Inslee can keep most of his attention on governing. There is much work to be done.

The latest projections for the state budget predict a $4.5 billion revenue shortfall between now and mid-2023; Inslee said he will propose a balanced budget in December, but we believe he has been remiss in not calling a special session of the Legislature. There also are lingering problems: A state employment department that has been lax in delivering unemployment checks but handed out billions in fraudulent claims; mismanagement of prisons; and a teetering mental-health system.

At the same time, Washington is routinely ranked as having one of the nation’s best economies, and Inslee has rightly given much attention to reducing carbon emissions and fighting climate change. It has been an imperfect tenure, but Inslee remains the best candidate to guide the state for the next four years.

The Columbian Editorial Board strongly recommends Jay Inslee be reelected as governor.