Voters in the reconfigured 17th Legislative District must choose between two strong political newcomers in the race for state representative, Position 1. The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends a vote for Republican Kevin Waters while noting that Democrat Terri Niles also warrants consideration.
As always, this is merely a recommendation. With no incumbent in the race — and with redistricting bringing many new residents into the 17th — voters will need to study the candidates and the issues before casting an informed ballot. Waters and Niles advanced out of a four-person primary race in the contest to succeed Rep. Vicki Kraft, who did not seek reelection.
In Waters, voters will find a lifelong Southwest Washington resident who has experience as a small-business owner and is executive director of the Skamania Economic Development Council. He is a former Port of Skamania commissioner. Waters is an old-school Republican, a pro-business candidate who understands the inner workings of the economy and the policies that help that economy grow.
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 told the editorial board.
That focus will benefit the people of Southwest Washington, including the rural areas Waters is familiar with. When asked about the prospects for a new Interstate 5 Bridge, Waters said, “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. Notably, the bridge’s proximity to the Port of Portland makes it the most important economic artery in the region.
Waters’ answer was pragmatic and avoided the enmity that often pervades discussions about the bridge.
Given Waters’ avoidance of culture wars, it should be mentioned that 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 also has experience that would be beneficial in Olympia, with 20 years as an intensive-care nurse and five years in nursing administration. She served last year on the Clark County Charter Review Commission.
Niles stresses the need to “invest in our communities,” and says “investing in schools is always our top priority.” She opposes cutting taxes out of concern that it would result in reduced revenue for state programs and adds that when taxpayers “see positive value” they are more likely to support public policies.
Niles strongly supports abortion rights; favors the inclusion of light rail on the I-5 Bridge while saying, “We need to prepare for the future”; and favors gun regulations that have been implemented, such as red-flag laws and limited magazine capacities.
Waters and Niles have contrasting views about the role of government, but both are thoughtful and worthy candidates. The editorial board believes, however, that Waters’ broad experience in business and business development — along with his roots in rural Skamania County — give him a superior understanding of the needs of the 17th Legislative District.
The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends a vote for Kevin Waters as state representative.