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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: Denny Heck for state’s lieutenant governor

The Columbian
Published: September 22, 2020, 6:03am

With two experienced, engaging candidates on the ballot, Washington voters cannot go wrong in choosing their next lieutenant governor. Although both candidates are capable of effectively filling the position, The Columbian Editorial Board recommends a vote for Denny Heck.

As always, this is merely a recommendation. The Columbian suggests that voters study the candidates and the issues before casting an informed ballot.

Part of that homework should include examining the duties of the lieutenant governor. The state’s second-in-command fills in if the governor is out of the state or incapacitated, and presides over the Senate when the Legislature is in session. In both situations, the lieutenant governor plays a role in developing and promoting policy. Cyrus Habib, the current lieutenant governor, is not seeking reelection.

Heck, a Vancouver native, has impressive qualifications. He has served as congressional representative from Washington’s 10th District since 2013, but announced last year that he would not seek reelection. Previously, he spent eight years in the state House of Representatives.

During an interview with the editorial board, Heck stressed the need for the Legislature to begin work on the state’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, adding that he will emphasize infrastructure during that process. The pandemic, he said, is “something that does contain, within its seeds, opportunities.”

He was a strong supporter of the Columbia River Crossing proposal to replace the Interstate 5 Bridge, and said the demise of that plan demonstrated the need for bistate cooperation and the need for consensus-building in Clark County. “If you have a large transportation package come before you and you’re trying to figure out how to get the votes … and the community’s not together on it? It is absolutely a perfect excuse not to produce,” he said.

Heck is facing fellow Democrat Marko Liias, a 39-year-old state senator from Snohomish County who has served six years in the Senate after six years in the House.

Liias suggests a more active role in promoting a progressive agenda and points out his generational differences with the 68-year-old Heck. He advocates for strong efforts to combat climate change and supports statewide single-payer health care along with changes to the state’s tax code. “I think there is a moment for change, and there is a moment to pivot toward the future. I think there’s also a measure of urgency that I bring. I think it’s time to push harder and push farther.”

For example, regarding the I-5 Bridge, Liias is more concerned with results than finding consensus. “If we’re going to keep Boeing, if we’re going to keep these global companies here, we need world-class infrastructure. Let the naysayers be the naysayers — they’re always going to be there.”

Republican voters might be disappointed to find two Democrats on the ballot. With a field of 11 candidates in the primary, Heck advanced with 25 percent of the vote and Liias received 19 percent. But we hope that Republicans will not overlook this race on the ballot; state executives formulate policy that affects all Washingtonians, regardless of which party they prefer.

Heck points to his track record as a bipartisan deal-maker and says, “You don’t demonize people just because you disagree with them, and you don’t personalize things.”

Although both candidates are capable, The Columbian recommends Denny Heck for lieutenant governor.