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Opinion >  Editorial

Editorial: Choose three incumbents and one challenger in down-ticket statewide races

With Election Day rapidly approaching, we offer recommendations in four races for statewide offices that often don’t get the attention they deserve: superintendent of public instruction, auditor, treasurer and commissioner of public lands. Three incumbents deserve reelection. One does not.

Superintendent of Public Instruction: Maia Espinoza

Washington’s schools have been mired in status quo thinking for too long. Challenger Maia Espinoza would change that.

Espinoza is a former teacher who served on an Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction data task force. She has made innovation and technology centerpieces of her campaign.

Washington needs fresh thinking if it’s to solve the ongoing crisis in education. Dumping money on the problem without requiring innovation and accountability won’t fix things. Every student needs a computer and broadband to succeed, especially during the pandemic. With the right tools and instructions, schools can get kids solving problems collaboratively and moving ahead at their own speed. Modern systems let self-learners go and help teachers focus on students who need help most.

Espinoza’s campaign promises align with that vision. Whether she can deliver it will depend on many factors, not least cooperation from the Legislature.

Incumbent Chris Reykdal, meanwhile, has been a caretaker, not an innovator. He oversaw schools much as his predecessors did. While that hasn’t resulted in backsliding, it also hasn’t moved the needle forward much.

Though superintendent of public instruction is a nonpartisan office, Espinoza is mostly backed by Republicans and Reykdal by Democrats.

The biggest knock against Espinoza is her strident opposition to the statewide sex education requirement. It’s a nonissue, though, because voters will decide the fate of that law on the November ballot, not the new superintendent.

State Auditor: Pat McCarthy

Pat McCarthy is wrapping up her first term, and she’s earned a second. Under her leadership, the state’s auditors have kept careful watch on government spending at all levels. She also has improved transparency by making audits and other reports more easily available to the public online. Those things combined have improved credibility at a department that lacked it for years when her predecessor faced federal theft and fraud charges.

McCarthy, a Democrat, has much more experience than her Republican opponent, Chris Leyba. McCarthy has held several elected offices, including a previous stint as Pierce County auditor. Leyba has never held office and points to a career in law enforcement as qualifications for this job.

McCarthy spent her first four years as state auditor reminding voters what the office is capable of when managed well. Let her continue that work for four more years.

State Treasurer: Duane Davidson

This race asks whether voters want a certified public accountant to manage the state’s finances and investments or a former lawmaker who will work with legislators on policy. We believe the former should prevail, and that means a vote for incumbent Duane Davidson.

Davidson, a Republican, has more than a decade of experience as an elected treasurer – four years in his current office and a dozen as Benton County treasurer. During his first term at the state job, he managed state funds well. He’s stayed out of partisan politics.

His opponent, Democrat Mike Pellicciotti, brings no experience as an accountant. That’s not a disqualifier for the job, but it just doesn’t hold up against Davidson’s experience and demonstrated success as treasurer.

Commissioner of Public Lands: Hilary Franz

This race comes down to wildfires and the fact that incumbent Hilary Franz has made fighting them the defining success of her first term.

There are some things not to like about Franz. Transparency hasn’t been great at the office since she took over, she often comes off as hostile to private property rights, and she’s an environmental attorney who lacks her opponent’s expertise in natural resource management. But there’s no arguing with her success the past four years. She has built up resources to fight wildfires, secured agreements to make fighting fires more effective and proposed steps to reduce future fire risk.

Her opponent, Kuehl Pederson has a great résumé, but it’s not enough to recommend supplanting Franz.

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