Among a field of four candidates for representative for Position 1 from the 17th Legislative District, Republican Kevin Waters and Democrat Terri Niles stand out. The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends a vote for one of them in the Aug. 2 primary election.
As always, this is merely a recommendation. With four candidates and no incumbent in the race — and with a new districting map bringing many new voters into the 17th — voters will need to study the candidates and the issues before casting an informed ballot. The top two vote-getters in the primary will advance to the November general election for the seat currently held by Vicki Kraft.
In Waters, voters will find a lifelong Southwest Washington resident who has experience as a small-business owner. He is executive director of the Skamania Economic Development Council.
Waters is an old-school Republican, a pro-business candidate who understands the inner workings of the economy and the policies that help it grow.
When asked about the prospects for a new Interstate 5 Bridge, he told the Editorial Board, “We have to do this bridge first, before we build a third bridge, and I do support a third bridge.” Most important, he then clearly and succinctly provided real-world examples of how congestion on the I-5 Bridge has impacted his businesses and how it hampers the regional economy. It was a pragmatic answer that avoided the enmity that often pervades discussions about the bridge.
Waters focuses on issues that impact the daily lives of Southwest Washington residents, rather than engaging in the culture wars common to the modern Republican Party. “I’m not a social warrior,” he quipped.
Still, it should be mentioned that Waters said he would support a statewide ban on abortion. That is highly unlikely to become an issue in Washington, but the question was asked to glean some insight into the candidates’ philosophy.
Niles, who works as a nurse, also takes a pragmatic view of governing. She stresses the need to “invest in our communities,” adding that “investing in schools is always our top priority.” She supports Washington’s red-flag law regarding gun possession and would not support a statewide ban on abortion. She says that when taxpayers “see positive value” for their taxes, they are more likely to support public policies.
Regarding an I-5 Bridge, Niles supports the inclusion of light rail. “We need to prepare for the future,” she said.
Two additional candidates are on the ballot: Anthony Ho and Hannah Joy. During an interview with the Editorial Board, neither demonstrated the nuanced insight into complex issues that was shown by the other candidates. Ho, for example, refused to say that guns are a common thread in mass shootings — a rather simple connection that should not be ignored.
Joy supports school vouchers, which would have taxpayers pay for students to attend private schools. She claims critical race theory is intertwined with public education: “You can deny it, but it is.” And she tried to dance around a question about whether she would support a statewide ban on abortion.
The Editorial Board prefers the directness of Waters and Niles. It is easy to determine where they stand on the issues; even if you disagree with them, they would effectively represent their constituents without a hidden agenda.
The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends Kevin Waters and Terri Niles for representative for Position 1 from the 17th Legislative District.