The solidly Republican 4th Legislative District in Spokane Valley can pick one from among three in that party to fill the Position 1 House seat in the Aug. 5 primary. The Spokesman-Review recommends two that should be advanced to the November general election.
Diana Wilhite and Bob McCaslin were passed over for the position in January, when the Spokane County commissioners selected Leonard Christian to fill out the term of Larry Crouse, who retired.
Although Christian deserves credit for jumping into an already rolling legislative session, Wilhite or McCaslin can bring more to next year’s assembly, which will have tough education, transportation and pension issues to resolve.
Wilhite’s extensive resume defies summarization. The high points are the co-founding in 1980 of Northwest Business Printing & Promotional Products, her service as one of Spokane Valley’s first City Council members, and its mayor from 2005 to 2007, and leadership in many community groups like United Way of Spokane County.
She has been the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce volunteer and citizen of the year.
Wilhite wants regulators to be educators first, enforcers second, and there should be a private alternative to Washington state’s monopolistic workers’ compensation system. The former member of the Spokane Regional Transportation Council says the state Department of Transportation needs reform, and the state may need to go to design-build contracts on major projects to control cost overruns.
Like McCaslin and Christian, she does not think completion of the North Spokane Corridor starts with a gas tax increase.
McCaslin also wants reforms first. His long-term alternative to a gas tax is a state takeover of federal lands that could be better managed to produce revenue for schools. Even if this were possible, it could not happen in time to get Washington’s transportation system the help it needs now.
After 30-plus years as a kindergarten teacher in California and the Central Valley School District, the soft-spoken McCaslin has a first-hand perspective on inadequate state funding for education. Still, he says, the Washington Supreme Court is out of bounds trying to impose spending.
The introduction of the controversial Common Core standards has worked well at the kindergarten level, he says, but may work less well in higher grades, where students should be taught more about the U.S. Constitution.
Christian, a Realtor and former U.S. Air Force mechanic, says the state should focus more education dollars on community colleges.
Employers who need workers with the kinds of skills two-year colleges teach, also should have more predictable work-comp rates, he says.
As a late-entry freshman, Christian’s lone legislative achievement was prime sponsorship of a bill that will require the Office of Management and Budget to destroy information used to create population estimates.
These three are prototypical small government, no-new-taxes conservatives. Wilhite’s experience and practicality, and McCaslin’s deep affinity for 4th District values, make them the choices for November.