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Opinion >  Editorial

Editorial: Wilhite’s experience tops McCaslin’s name recognition

The Spokesman-Review

Spokane Valley has another all-Republican contest, with Diana Wilhite and Bob McCaslin squaring off for the 4th District, Position 1 legislative seat. In keeping with the core conservative values of the district, the winner will be a frugal spender who isn’t apt to vote for new taxes of any kind.

Neither candidate sees the need for new operating budget revenue. Neither one has voiced support for an increase in the gasoline tax as a way to finance transportation projects, including the completion of the North Spokane Corridor.

So in a race where the candidates are generally like-minded on so many issues, the focus turns to experience and knowledge. Diana Wilhite has a clear advantage. From the time she moved to the Valley more than 30 years ago, she’s been actively engaged in civic life. Her resume is brimming with involvement in public and private sector organizations. She served on the Spokane Valley City Council and eventually rose to the position of mayor. She has been the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce volunteer and citizen of the year.

She was once the campaign manager for Bob McCaslin’s father, who served in the Legislature for many years.

This is the younger McCaslin’s first run for office. He won the most votes in the primary – no doubt benefiting from the name recognition of his father. But he is a political newcomer. He doesn’t have the depth of knowledge or the experience of his opponent. He says he would work closely with other 4th District lawmakers, such as Sen. Mike Padden and Rep. Matt Shea.

McCaslin’s association with Shea, whom his father swore off, shows up on some fringe issues, such as the state taking over federal lands. This is a long-shot idea popular in Idaho. Politicians reluctant to raise revenue through traditional means hold out hope that money can be raised from federal lands.

McCaslin says a takeover could eventually be a source of transportation revenue, but the state needs money now. Even Idaho proponents have begun to rein in their expectations. The legal arguments are not on their side.

McCaslin’s website also raises the specter of gun confiscation, but that’s not a realistic fear.

The Legislature cannot afford to get bogged down in distractions like these. In the next biennium, it faces enormous challenges of funding basic education without gutting higher education and essential services.

Wilhite is conservative, but she won’t be sucked into fringe causes that stand no chance of gaining traction in Olympia. She is more apt to collaborate with colleagues and work on ways to sort out differences. She can tap her considerable business experience to help make the state more competitive. She supports the reform agenda sought last session by the Senate Majority Coalition, such as a private alternative to the state’s workers’ compensation system.

McCaslin has the name, but Wilhite has the experience. She deserves to be sent to the Legislature.

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