Washington state’s U.S. Senate race, one of the tightest and most keenly watched in the nation, is no simple question of partisan loyalty.
We would love to see a U.S. Senate with the philosophical vision Republican challenger Dino Rossi has described during his campaign: smaller government, a more reasonable approach to regulation, less spending, a stronger commitment to economic policies that promote investment and jobs.
There might be movement in that direction. Republicans are expected to narrow the numbers gap in the Senate if not seize the majority.
But the Senate is composed of individual senators, who represent their separate states and the voters who live there. And even a leaner, more efficiently focused federal government will have work to do, and Congress must decide where and how that work gets done.
With her 18 years of seniority, Sen. Patty Murray would be better positioned than Rossi to make sure her constituents are treated fairly in that process.
Thus, Washington state’s voters face a dilemma. They can’t have both Rossi’s authentic fiscal conservatism and Murray’s effective constituent representation.
The verdict on three-term incumbent Murray is mixed. Her allegiance to organized labor is cozier than we’d like, often to the disadvantage of a vibrant economy. A prime example is her backing of the card-check plan that would deprive workers of secret ballots in workplace representation elections.
However, when Spokane and Eastern Washington have sound reasons for seeking federal assistance, this community’s well-organized local champions will want to partner with an effective advocate in the Senate, one who can stand up against other states’ effective advocates.
Who will fight for the North Spokane Corridor, Fairchild Air Force Base, the Spokane University District, the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Hanford cleanup and the graduate medical education that’s critical to a four-year medical school here? What about individual residents stymied by a mix-up over a veteran’s pension or a Social Security check or a missing tax refund?
While the macro debate about fiscal policy and political ideology goes on, as it must, the micro discussions that determine equitable apportionment of federal resources will still be a legitimate obligation of Congress. In that latter role, we commend Murray for having been more attentive to Spokane and Eastern Washington than her Puget Sound-oriented predecessors.
Out of necessity, the current economic constriction, coupled with a closer partisan balance of power, will force Murray and the Senate to follow a more conservative path. We see no comparable circumstance that would compensate for the limitations posed by Rossi’s junior status.
Not every endorsement can be unqualified and resounding, but we believe, on balance, that Murray would be a better choice for Washington state.