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Editorial: Vehrs for legislative District 6

The populist, anti-establishment fervor that has swept through Great Britain and the U.S. presidential races has also divided the Republican Party and set up an interesting race to replace Rep. Kevin Parker in the 6th Legislative District, Position 1.

It may also cost the Republicans that seat in the statehouse.

Parker is endorsing first-time candidate Ian Field, a 26-year-old press secretary for U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers. He is four years removed from being the editor of the student newspaper at Walla Walla University. Since then, he has worked for and campaigned for the congresswoman.

Field, a Republican, is enthusiastic but not ready to be a legislator. When asked about the various revenue challenges the state has faced and currently faces, his response was nearly always “efficiency.” Transportation? Against the recent gas tax increase that will finance the completion of the North-South freeway. Basic education funding? No new revenue. Where to find the money for both? Cut waste; be more efficient.

The Legislature cut the budget mightily over two bienniums in response to the Great Recession. It cut services it admitted it needed, such as money for mental health, which ended up landing the state in court. The “waste, fraud and abuse” solution won’t generate the revenue needed. But it’s just about the only solution Field offered.

Republican Mike Volz, Spokane County’s deputy treasurer, has a wealth of experience in that role. He appears to have done a fine job. But legislating is different. It means policy and politics, and our concern is that Volz is sympathetic to the populist wave that led to Brexit, Donald Trump’s ascent and the about-face by many Republicans on free trade.

Spokane Treasurer Rob Chase, who is campaigning for Volz, is an outspoken opponent of the Trans Pacific Partnership and other international trade pacts. Free trade is vital to Washington, which is the most trade-dependent state in the union.

Lynnette Vehrs, a Democrat, is making her first run for office after a long career as a registered nurse. She was director of professional development at the Washington State University College of Nursing, leaving that position in 2014. Her passion is health care, and her chief goal is universal coverage. She is on the board of the Washington State Nurses Association and has worked on health care policy.

She was a psychiatric nurse, which is an area of expertise the Legislature could use as it tries to solve the thorny staffing issues at the state’s mental hospitals. She wisely connects health care policy to educating children and says Legislature must complete the task on fully funding basic education.

Vehrs has broad labor union support, and we suspect she would take some votes on business issues that we’d oppose. In a relatively conservative district, she won’t survive as lockstep liberal, so our hope is that she gravitates to the center.

Nonetheless, she is the most pragmatic, knowledgable candidate and gets our endorsement.

To respond to this editorial online, go to www.spokesman.com and click on “Opinion.”

Editorial was corrected to note that Vehrs left the WSU position in 2014.

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