With next year’s Legislature facing daunting tasks caused by the coronavirus pandemic, experienced, reasonable leadership is a strong selling point for lawmakers seeking reelection. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, falls into that category; The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends that she remain in Olympia as senator from the 18th Legislative District.
Rivers is facing a worthy challenger in Democrat Rick Bell, but Rivers’ superior knowledge of the issues and longtime connection to her constituents gives her the edge in this race.
As always, this is merely a recommendation designed to foster discussion. With this editorial, The Columbian kicks off its recommendations for the Nov. 3 general election, examining the candidates and ballot measures in both statewide and local races before ballots are mailed out on Oct. 16. In each case, we expect that voters will study the contests before casting an informed ballot.
Rivers 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 district. 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.
Notably, Rivers has generated sharp opposition from both sides of the political spectrum — which actually reveals her strengths. While Democrats can be expected to find fault with the relatively moderate Republican, her own party also has found grounds for disagreement. A Republican running to the right of Rivers provided a strong challenge in the primary, and far-right factions of the local Republican Party have considered mounting a write-in campaign for the general election.
But Rivers continues to pursue a middle ground for solving the state’s problems — problems that are exacerbated by the pandemic and resulting economic shutdown.
“We can do it with cutting spending,” she said during an interview with the editorial board. “If we took the action that Gov. Gregoire took, where she declared an economic crisis and said we had to put off the increases to state employee pay, then we can get ourselves out of this. I don’t support a proposed income tax, I don’t support a proposed capital gains income tax. Those are as regressive as every other tax.”
Regarding proposed carbon reductions, she said: “I think our biggest challenge with climate change is we’re already one of the lowest emitting states. There are lot of things we can do that are not a carbon tax, are not a carbon emission reduction.”
Bell, who works in health care technology, said big businesses will survive the pandemic. “There’s going to be a fight,” he said of the Legislature. “And I know where my priorities are. I will always put people first. If we recklessly cut into social services and programs that help people, that could have lasting and deeper social impacts that are more costly in the long run either way.”
About climate change, he said, “It’s interesting, the generational stakes as far as climate change. This is a slow-moving train wreck; it’s a deeper and more dangerous threat than probably our species has ever faced.”
Bell articulates a forward-thinking vision for the state, but Rivers demonstrates a deeper understanding of the complexities of the issues. Because of that, The Columbian recommends Ann Rivers for state senator from the 18th Legislative District.