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Opinion >  Editorial

Editorial: Re-elect the incumbents in the 6th Legislative District

UPDATED: Tue., Oct. 20, 2020

Looking to cement their majority in the Legislature, Democrats are spending big in 6th Legislative District races. The Democratic candidates for Positions 1 and 2 have raised more than $350,000 combined this year, more than double what the Republican incumbents have raised.

Yet the Democratic candidates do not align as well with the district as their Republican opponents. We recommend voters stick with Reps. Mike Volz and Jenny Graham.

The 6th District covers communities mostly west and south of Spokane. It includes Airway Heights, Medical Lake and Cheney.

District 6, Position 1: Mike Volz

Republican Rep. Mike Volz asks voters to return him to Olympia for a third term. They should oblige him.

There are a couple of ways to look at his performance over the past four years.

In many situations, he’s been a reliably conservative voice.

For example, he tries to hold the line on taxes. He doesn’t succeed because Democrats hold a majority in the Legislature, but he makes the case. When it comes to the looming pandemic-induced budget shortfall, he points to rapid growth in state spending over the past decade as a huge part of the state’s fiscal challenges. He’s right.

His opponent, Democrat Zach Zappone, goes the opposite direction. He believes that more Washingtonians need to pay “their fair share” in taxes, whatever that means, and he hopes the Congress will bail out the state budget, something it hasn’t yet been willing to do.

Volz also is a solid pro-business legislator. He recognizes the need to expand economic opportunity throughout Eastern Washington and the danger that burdensome taxes and regulations pose.

The other way to look at Volz’s performance is as a commonsense lawmaker able to work across the aisle. He was a co-sponsor on the bipartisan bill to increase the Spokane County Commission to five commissioners and has collaborated with Democrats from the region on funding for capital projects.

Not that we agree with Volz on everything. He is a bit too cavalier about masks and other measures to fight the pandemic. He also opposes requiring sex education in schools. But those things are mostly out of his and the Legislature’s control now.

Zappone comes to the race with no political experience and an agenda out of line with most of the district. Volz is the clear choice in this race.

Position 2: Jenny Graham

Republican Rep. Jenny Graham narrowly won election in 2018, and she faces a tough challenger this year in Democratic attorney Tom McGarry. Despite some recent embarrassing behavior, Graham is the better candidate to represent the district.

She is passionate about a few things, not least criminal justice. At a time when Puget Sound lawmakers seem intent on rolling back punishments and reducing the power of law enforcement, she provides avaluable counterpoint in the debate. She’s not against all reforms, but hers would be a much slower and cautious approach than many others.

Graham also has been a strong proponent for small businesses and policies that support economic growth in this part of the state. That includes opposing tax increases.

McGarry portrays himself as a moderate alternative, but much of his campaign seems focused on pointing out that he isn’t Graham.

Not that he doesn’t have fair criticisms of the incumbent. Graham did herself no favors over the past couple of years outside the Capitol. Facebook flagged a post she shared as untrue. She later left a profane, borderline threatening voicemail for an Inlander reporter.

Those aren’t disqualifying offenses, but they might give voters pause. If voters do re-elect her, they should carefully watch whether Graham has learned anything from the negative coverage of her bad behavior. If it continues, two more years might be all she deserves.

Those distractions aside, though, Graham would represent the politics of the district better than her opponent. Voters should give her a second term on probation.

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