In the August primary election for House Position 2 in the 6th Legislative District, we endorsed Shelly O’Quinn, who articulated a fresh pragmatism that is needed to break through the hidebound partisanship prevalent in Olympia.
Voters disagreed, setting up a replay from two years ago, when Democrat John Driscoll eked out a victory to unseat Republican John Ahern.
Of the two, Driscoll has demonstrated a more centrist course. He established his independence by bucking Democratic leadership, most notably with his dissenting vote on the budget.
Some people have surmised that he said no only to protect his political standing in a district that has historically elected Republicans.
But, as he said in 2008, “I don’t want to look at any tax increases. I want to look first at how do we use our resources we have right now.”
This will be the chief task of any lawmaker who heads off to Olympia in January, because the undeniable truth is that government needs to be shrunk. Revenues are way down. The purpose and priorities of state government need to be rescaled to place the budget on a sustainable long-term path.
That difficult task can be made easier if both parties are willing to come to the table and reach thoughtful compromises. Driscoll is more apt to do that than Ahern, who spent eight years in Olympia drawing doctrinaire lines in the sand. In light of the ideological roughing-up his campaign inflicted upon O’Quinn, it doesn’t appear as if he’s changed.
Ahern’s focus has generally been on crime and punishment and he deserves credit for toughening the state’s drunken driving laws. But criminal justice is an area that will have to share in the cuts, and the state can ill afford more tough-on-crime legislation.
His accomplishments in other areas are scant. When it comes to education, health care and taxation, he falls back on generalities and slogans.
On social issues, we disagree with Ahern’s rigid conservatism and still cringe at a couple of embarrassing public episodes that highlighted his opposition to gay marriage and abortion rights. Driscoll strikes a more moderate tone on social issues.
Driscoll is the health administrator for Project Access, which is a commendable program that connects the uninsured with health services. Health care is a vital economic driver in Spokane, so his knowledge on that issue is a plus.
In 2008, we endorsed Driscoll, and we see no reason to change our minds this time.