Brad Owen is not seeking re-election after nearly 20 years as lieutenant governor, and 11 people are looking to replace him. The four candidates who have raised at least $100,000 appear to be the leading candidates, and we have focused on them.
The lieutenant governor fills in when the governor is out of state or otherwise unavailable, but mostly the job entails presiding over the state Senate and settling procedural disputes. The lieutenant governor also directs the Legislative Committee on Economic Development and International Relations.
To hear some candidates, the fate of the state’s economy rests on the outcome of this race. But it’s a much more modest position than that – and should remain so.
Sen. Steve Hobbs, a Lake Stevens Democrat, and Sen. Karen Fraser, an Olympia Democrat, would appear to be the two candidates who would run the office in the traditional manner. And that’s fine by us. The state doesn’t need a controversial figure. It needs a steady hand who has the respect of legislators.
Hobbs is a major in the Washington Army National Guard and served in Kosovo and Iraq. He is a calm leader who could settle disputes fairly. His centrist political outlook is also appealing. As the leading Democrat on the Senate Transportation Committee, he played a key role in forging a transportation package the state sorely needed. Hobbs has a record of leadership and impartiality, and he has the most balanced support, with labor and business backing. He has earned our endorsement.
Karen Fraser is a longtime legislator, former mayor of Lacey and was a Thurston County commissioner. She is concerned other candidates would be too partisan. We share that concern. She also wants to be the first woman to be lieutenant governor and believes it’s important for more women to be in statewide leadership positions. She is to the left of Hobbs politically, but she has the demeanor and respect of her colleagues.
Phillip Yin, a Bellevue Republican, has a broadcasting and investment background. He has never held a political office. Yin is brash – some would say cocky – and says he could boost the state’s economy as the lieutenant governor. He has accused two opponents of lying about their backgrounds without going into specifics. This is precisely the kind of theatrics the state needs to avoid as it heads into a crucial session. Quite simply, Yin would not have the respect of legislators.
Cyrus Habib, a Democratic senator from Bellevue, has raised the most money and, perhaps, the most eyebrows. He wants the office to take a more activist role, and many observers worry he will play partisan politics. Lt. Gov. Owen issued a blistering public denunciation of Habib’s candidacy, and we share his concern.
Habib has said he would formally register his disapproval if he believed an education funding bill didn’t meet constitutional muster. This would introduce unnecessary controversy to an already ticklish situation. Voters would be wise to be wary.
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