For more than a decade, Paul Harris has represented the 17th Legislative District in a thoughtful and pragmatic manner. The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends that Harris be reelected as the district’s representative for Position 2.
As always, this is merely a recommendation. The editorial board expects that voters in the 17th District will study the candidates and the issues before casting an informed ballot.
Following redistricting this year, the 17th District now includes all of Skamania County, along with east Clark County. Voters who are new to the district will find that Harris is a strong conservative but is not beholden to party dogma. He is a traditional Republican who favors low taxes, law and order and conservative values; but most important, he is able to find common ground with Democrats on many issues while working to improve the lives of Washington residents.
For example, Harris has helped lead legislative efforts to raise the minimum age for the purchase of tobacco and vaping products, along with efforts to require the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine for school attendance. He has been lauded for promoting public health while still adhering to conservative values.
That is because Harris uses common sense as his governing principle, allowing him to avoid distractions such as claims of election fraud that have become orthodoxy for many modern Republicans.
Regarding the issue of abortion being left to the states, for example, Harris pragmatically notes that Washington voters are strongly in favor of keeping the procedure legal. “We wouldn’t even approach that,” he told the editorial board. “We need safe, legal, but limited abortions.”
In another example, he said of a massive transportation package that passed the Legislature this year: “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.”
Harris is capable of seeing competing sides of an issue and voting for the good of Washingtonians. When considering a surplus of state revenue, he said, “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.
Joe Kear, a Democrat who advanced to the general election, also is a worthy candidate. In contrast with Harris, he believes the state should invest surplus funds in government programs.
“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. We can put more into helping with housing, we’re very lacking in mental health, and we can put money into community policing.”
Kear boasts of his support for LGBTQ rights and women’s rights, and he has extensive experience as an advocate for labor unions. On his campaign website, he writes: “Living in a rural area on 50 forested acres, I understand issues facing the rural parts of our district. With my union background, I know the importance of local jobs and opportunities for our whole district and our future.”
But Kear also told the editorial board: “I am running as a Democrat because being a member of the majority party is the only way to get things done.”
For a decade, Harris has disproved that theory. The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends a vote for Paul Harris as representative from the 17th District.