Central Spokane’s 3rd Legislative District encompasses some of the poorest neighborhoods in Washington. Its residents need representatives in the state House who have the skill, experience and influence to navigate the policy and budget processes on their behalf. Fortunately, voters will find two such leaders on the Nov. 6 ballot: incumbents Marcus Riccelli and Timm Ormsby.
Both men are rarities in Olympia – Democrats from Eastern Washington – and they are strongly favored to win in their solid blue district against opponents they defeated by wide margins in the primaries. Although they could be stronger on many business issues, they both have records of working effectively to promote economic opportunity. Both listen intently to the needs of Spokane and, in particular, their district.
Riccelli, who is seeking his fourth term, was born and raised in Spokane and has looked out for his constituents beyond his legislative duties. He is program director of the Community Health Association of Spokane and is active in numerous community groups.
As majority whip, Riccelli is well-positioned to ensure this region’s priorities are known in Olympia. He is also well-connected from his days as Eastern Washington director for Sen. Maria Cantwell and as a senior policy adviser for Lisa Brown when she served as majority leader in the state Senate.
Riccelli’s accomplishments include helping secure the Washington State University medical school in Spokane and promoting its residency program. He has been a consistent champion of transportation improvements. He has also repeatedly shown a willingness and ability to work with Republicans, most recently on efforts to expand the Spokane County Commission from three members to five.
Riccelli is opposed by Tom Taylor, a recent graduate of Washington State University who hopes to get into the rental property business with his wife. He is a Republican but has eschewed party politics and has accepted no money for his campaign.
Taylor’s candidacy stems in part from Riccelli’s response to Taylor’s claim that he and others were victims of racial profiling by the Washington state Attorney General’s Office. Taylor, who is white, says Riccelli dismissed an informal complaint he made. Taylor, however, has yet to provide the public with specifics about how he was allegedly victimized. Riccelli later raised Taylor’s ire again when he was blocked from Riccelli’s page for comments about a transgender child of someone who had posted on the page. The block was lifted after Taylor declared he was running. Neither incident bolsters his candidacy.
Ormsby also is a Spokane native who knows the challenges facing his district’s impoverished neighborhoods. As chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Ormsby holds valuable influence over budget decisions important to the city and the region. In his 15 years in the House, he has been a vocal advocate of improving career and technical education as paths to employment, and he has been a protector of funding for vital mental health services and social services. He also played important roles in expanding the Spokane campus of Washington State University and landing a second medical school.
Republicans have historically had a difficult time finding a strong candidate in the 3rd District, but Ormsby’s opponent this year – retired Marine Lt. Col. Dave Lucas – is an exception. After moving to Spokane five years ago, he helped launch a pizza restaurant but soon became a full-time volunteer, serving in leadership roles with Spokane Veterans Affairs and the Inland Northwest Boy Scout Council, among others. Lucas is an earnest and well-informed candidate, but he faces an uphill battle against an accomplished incumbent in a Democratic district.
Lucas has declined to make an issue of a DUI charge filed against Ormsby after a one-car crash in Olympia in February. Ormsby, who later pleaded guilty to a downgraded charge of reckless driving, publicly apologized and said he has quit drinking because of the incident. His contrition seems sincere, and – judging from the primary results – voters appear willing to give him a chance to redeem himself.
Marcus Riccelli and Timm Ormsby have repeatedly shown their commitment to the 3rd District and have earned a return to Olympia.
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