Rice Vs. Waldo A Good Match

SUNDAY, SEPT. 15, 1996

Today, Washington’s next governor is hidden in a cloud of dust. Fifteen - count ‘em - 15 candidates are galloping in circles around the state’s dazed voters. After Tuesday’s primary election, two finalists will emerge.

Who’s best equipped to lead our diverse state? Who can rein in the runaway bureaucracy and taxes? Who has the judgment and skill to reorder the state’s priorities and continue, in a leaner form, its vital services? Who can reform public schools? Open university doors? Who can redesign welfare? Transform the hostile business climate? Put arrogant regulators in their place?

On the Democratic side, we endorse Seattle’s deservedly popular mayor, Norm Rice.

On the Republican side, we endorse Jim Waldo, a sharp Tacoma lawyer who has cultivated Eastern Washington support and mediated solutions to some of the state’s most difficult disputes.

During his six years as mayor, Rice successfully tackled several major priorities. A $500 million revitalization program, funded mostly with private dollars, saved downtown Seattle. Crime prevention and neighborhood mobilization initiatives helped lower the city’s crime rate. New programs address social decay and faltering schools. The growth rate in city spending slowed, in response to Rice’s consolidations and efficiency moves.

We do acknowledge that Rice’s vision for state government is low on specifics, and that his urban-liberal ideology is foreign to needs and values of Eastern Washington. But his track record and administrative skill far outshine those of his Democratic foes.

Waldo, meanwhile, is living proof that fame too often ignores the good people who deserve it. He’s a behind-the-scenes problem-solver who has cared about public policy with deeds as well as words ever since he first volunteered, as a high school kid, to campaign for an up-and-comer named Daniel J. Evans.

By profession, Waldo’s a lawyer. He became a specialist in mediation after realizing litigation can be ruinous even for those who win it. As a mediator Waldo has solved tough controversies. For example, he negotiated state forest management policies that satisfied timber and environmental interests alike, averting on state lands the paralysis that prevails in federal forests.

By avocation, Waldo pursues politics, managing successful statewide campaigns for such senior statesmen as U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton. As a longtime trustee, he helped make Western Washington University a magnet.

When he chose to run for governor Waldo made a concerted effort to build a base east of the mountains, and now boasts a big, broad organization of Spokane business people. That counts for a lot. For too many governors, Eastern Washington has been an afterthought.

Waldo’s policy proposals are exactly on target. As an outsider with broad credibility, he’d have a shot at implementing them. He wants to reorganize the social-service bureaucracy; deregulate schools so teachers can teach and regain their authority; change the bad attitude of state regulatory agencies; slash the overgrown state bureaucracy; roll back the business and occupation tax; make access to higher education a top budget priority; end prison luxuries.

Two others in the Republican field deserve mention. Dale Foreman, a wealthy Harvard lawyer with an ethical cloud over his head, claims to care for Eastern Washington - but when he had a chance to show it in the Legislature, Foreman voted to spend tax money on a Seattle baseball stadium and refused to fund a few small but well-justified needs in Spokane. Ellen Craswell, a principled religious conservative, has attracted many devout followers but proposes simplistic, ridiculously deep cuts in services vital to public safety, education and health. Democrats hope she wins because they likely could trounce her in November. Not so with a reasoned business conservative like Waldo.

A governor should be skilled at leadership and problem-solving. Those are rare talents. Rice and Waldo have them.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: Primary endorsements

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = John Webster For the editorial board

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