In the primary races for lieutenant governor and lands commissioner, the editorial board selected candidates who didn’t advance to the general election. The following are our reassessments in those contests.
Lt. Governor: State Sen. Cyrus Habib, D-Bellevue, finished first in a crowded field, collecting a mere 22 percent of the vote. Marty McClendon, a Gig Harbor Republican, finished a close second.
Habib is a second-term legislator with a compelling life story and impressive resume. At age 8, he lost his eyesight to cancer, and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University, a master’s degree from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar and a law degree from Yale. He teaches legislative procedure at Seattle University.
McClendon attended the University of Washington and is a real estate agent, pastor and talk show host. This would be McClendon’s first public office. He ran unsuccessfully for state Senate in 2010 and Congress in 2014. Unlike most Republicans running for statewide office in a liberal-leaning state, McClendon is an unabashed conservative. Given his inexperience, he would have a lot to learn about legislative protocol, procedures and rules.
Habib has the edge in knowledge and experience, but we’re concerned he may create legislative storms, rather than calm them. He drew fire from departing Lt. Gov. Brad Owen for running as an activist.
Nonetheless, Habib is clearly more qualified and gets our endorsement.
State Lands Commissioner: Former Naval Commander Steve McLaughlin, a Republican from Kitsap County, finished first in a primary field jammed with Democrats. Hilary Franz, a Bainbridge Island Democrat, took second.
McLaughlin is a relative unknown, but he demonstrates knowledge and passion about land management issues. He got caught in the Malheur Wildlife Refuge controversy, when he signed a letter in support of two Oregon ranchers who were jailed before the Bundys and others arrived. He did not support the takeover and has disassociated himself from others who did.
McLaughlin wants to make management decisions at the Department of Natural Resources that would help rural areas. He thinks more of the timber that’s been set aside can be harvested, which would help struggling economies, raise more money for school construction and remove fuels from future wildfires. He has the support of timber companies, including Vaagen Bros. of Stevens County.
Franz is an environmental attorney and was recently executive director of Futurewise. She is the favored candidate of conservationists. She emphasizes that she has focused on negotiation rather than litigation to settle land-use disputes. Both candidates want to thin forests where needed to stave off wildfires. Franz would like to diversify funding by tapping wind and solar opportunities.
Both candidates are qualified, but McLaughlin has the common touch that is a better fit for the position.