Voters in the 17th Legislative District have two strong choices — a Republican and a Democrat — on a four-person ballot for state representative Position 2. The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends Paul Harris and Joe Kear in the primary election that will send two finalists to the general election.
This is merely a recommendation. The Columbian encourages voters to examine the candidates and the issues before casting an informed ballot.
Harris, a Republican, is well-known to voters. He has represented the district since 2011 and routinely has won reelection by wide margins. He is a traditional Republican who favors low taxes, law and order and conservative values but still is able to find common ground with Democrats on important issues.
He has helped lead legislative efforts to raise the minimum age for the purchase of tobacco and vaping products; require the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine for school attendance; and stand against tax increases.
Most important, Harris has used common sense as his governing principle. He is not afraid to buck party orthodoxy in favor of legislation that benefits all Washingtonians.
Harris frequently demonstrates his ability to see competing sides of an issue and stake out a pragmatic stance. When the Legislature passed a massive transportation package this year, he said: “I didn’t vote for the transportation package because I didn’t like the funding mechanism used, and I still don’t, but I do need a bridge. I’m glad to get a further study and further work on the I-5 Bridge.”
Regarding a current surplus in the state coffers, Harris told the Editorial Board: “We need to put some money into the rainy day fund, and we need to give some money back (to taxpayers).” He advocates for cuts to the state business and occupation tax.
Harris also expresses dismay about homelessness and petty crime. “We cannot allow a little bit of lawlessness,” he says. “It creeps and creeps and creeps. We need to clean up our community.”
Regarding the issue of abortion being left to the states, Harris notes that Washington voters are strongly in favor of keeping the procedure legal: “We wouldn’t even approach that. We need safe, legal, but limited abortions.”
In contrast to Harris, Kear supports progressive policies and believes state government should spend its surplus on pressing issues. “For too long, we have relied on subsidies and tax breaks for large corporations,” he told the Editorial Board. “We need to invest in working families.” He supports additional spending on broadband, universal health care, public education and police reform.
A longtime activist who boasts of support for LGBTQ rights and women’s rights, Kear also has extensive experience advocating for labor unions.
“Living in a rural area on 50 forested acres, I understand issues facing the rural parts of our district,” he writes on his website. “With my union background, I know the importance of local jobs and opportunities for our whole district and our future.”
Two other candidates are on the primary ballot. Earl Bowerman is a former chair of the Clark County Republican Party who declined an invitation to meet with the Editorial Board. Justin Forsman is running for his fourth different office in the past four years and has not proven to be a viable candidate.
Fortunately, voters have two strong candidates who can advance to the general election. The Columbian Editorial Board recommends Paul Harris and Joe Kear in the race for 17th District representative Position 2.