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Editorial: O’Quinn the best choice for county commission

Shelly O’Quinn had to think fast about running for the Spokane County Commission because Mark Richard decided late that he would not seek re-election. She has thrived as the director of education and workforce development for Greater Spokane Incorporated. But buoyed by family support, her extensive contacts in the community, and the lessons learned from a 2010 run for the Legislature, she decided she could make a bigger difference as a county commissioner.

Voters have an easier choice because she is clearly the best candidate.

O’Quinn, a Republican, was defeated for a 6th District House seat by longtime lawmaker John Ahern. He is supporting her in this race, as are all the incumbent commissioners. Her appeal is that she prefers to work in a bipartisan manner, noting that she wishes the office itself were nonpartisan. A comment she made two years ago captures why she has the potential to be an effective leader: “You can either choose to sit back and decide you’re not going to play the game, or you can figure out how to play it effectively.”

That’s a refreshing attitude, particularly when so many other politicians consider a reflexive “no” to be a badge of honor.

As a candidate for the Legislature, O’Quinn was pretty well-versed on the issues two years ago. As a county commission candidate, she knows them cold. Her 2010 loss could be the community’s gain because she’s now better equipped for this job.

Her ideas on economic development and government efficiency would put the region in a better position to lure and retain employers. She notes that Caterpillar might not have located in the county had government declined to change a building height restriction. She – and we – would like to see that kind of flexibility and common sense become routine.

O’Quinn won’t be a pushover on budget matters, noting that while she is supportive of Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich (and vice versa), she believes he has yet to make a convincing case for a sales tax increase.

Republican Rob Chase is the county treasurer, winning that office two years ago. Chase’s political views skew libertarian, and he’s a leader of the Ron Paul faction of the local GOP. As county treasurer, he’s taken a thoughtful approach and retained key employees. He likes the job and says the workforce is the best he’s been around.

However, as a commissioner, we’d be concerned Chase would put his libertarian views ahead of the pragmatic decision-making that keeps the county moving forward. Collaboration and compromise, not ideology, must be foremost. Chase would appear to be better suited to the more technical task of treasurer.

Daryl Romeyn, a Democrat, is coming off a drubbing against U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers in 2010. On a range of issues, he still needs to study up before launching a serious candidacy. It’s not enough to “ask the hard questions.” He needs to decide whether he truly wants to be an elected official. If so, he needs to build a public service resume and remain engaged in civic matters. He could start by lowering his sights on which races to enter.

For Republicans or Democrats, O’Quinn is the clear choice in this race. She would be a positive addition to the county commission.

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