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Opinion >  Editorial

Editorial: Our picks for Washington state lieutenant governor, secretary of state

UPDATED: Thu., Oct. 22, 2020

Two statewide races on the Nov. 3 ballot have less visibility than the governor’s race but still carry the potential for significant impact on Washington. A longtime Democratic politician and a Republican incumbent have shown they deserve voters’ support for lieutenant governor and secretary of state, respectively.

Lieutenant governor: Denny Heck

The office of lieutenant governor is so obscure that incumbent Cyrus Habib relocated to California to begin training as a Jesuit priest, and almost no one noticed for weeks.

In electing Habib’s successor, Washingtonians should choose someone who has more respect for the electorate and is prepared to handle the most critical part of the job: taking over as governor, either temporarily if the governor is out of state or incapacitated, or if the governor resigns or dies in office.

Congressman Heck is that person, especially for the Inland Northwest. Heck has ties to Eastern Washington, where much of his extended family lives. His wife, Paula Fruci Heck, is a Spokane native. In the recent debate co-hosted by The Spokesman-Review and the League of Women Voters, it was clear that Heck has the better grasp of rural issues. He is by far the more moderate of the two candidates on the ballot, both of whom are Democrats from the West Side of the state. The single-party race is thanks to Washington’s primary election system, in which the top vote-getters advance to the general election regardless of party.

He also would be more collaborative. When Heck announced that he would retire from Congress, he bemoaned the decline of civic discourse in our society. “Civility is out. Compromise is out. All or nothing is in,” he noted in a letter to constituents.

The lieutenant governor presides over the Washington Senate and chairs the committee that chooses which bills will advance to a floor vote. Heck’s opponent, Sen. Marko Liias of Lynnwood, portrays the fact that Heck hasn’t served in the Senate as a weakness.

If that is a weakness, Heck’s broad experience and track record overcome it, earning him the endorsement of Washington’s recent governors. Heck served five terms in the state House before becoming Gov. Booth Gardner’s chief of staff. His commitment to government transparency shows in his co-founding and serving as CEO of TVW, the statewide public affairs TV network. Since 2013 he has represented the Olympia region in Congress, where he worked to address the nation’s housing shortage.

Former Bothell Mayor Joshua Freed, a Republican, is running as a write-in candidate. As such, he has virtually no chance of being elected statewide.

Voters should support Heck.

Secretary of state: Kim Wyman

This has been a challenging year for Secretary of State Wyman and other elections officials throughout the country. Wyman has responded effectively, including spurring county officials to get ballots and voter guides out to Washingtonians earlier than usual. One step, extraordinary in its simplicity, was allowing ballots mailed within 15 days of the election to be sent by first-class mail, which costs more but may arrive sooner.

Although the secretary of state has a wide range of responsibilities, the election role is best-known. That work should be conducted in a nonpartisan manner, as Wyman has done, despite what you might hear from partisan attacks by her challenger, Democratic Rep. Gael Tarleton of Seattle. While Tarleton and others have called on Wyman to denounce President Donald Trump’s attacks on vote-by-mail nationally, Wyman has focused on doing her job, striving to assure the public that mail voting is safe and secure. Wyman’s bipartisan endorsers include former Oregon Secretary of State Phil Keisling, a Democrat who was the architect of that state’s vote-by-mail system.

The secretary of state is also Washington’s chief corporations officer, supervisor of state archives and second in the line of succession – behind the lieutenant governor – to the office of governor.

Tarleton has a solid resume, including in 1996 becoming the first U.S. businesswoman to address a joint session of the Russian parliament. But she lacks Wyman’s hands-on experience with elections.

Wyman has provided solid, steady leadership since 2013. Tarleton has not made the case for replacing her.

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