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Opinion >  Editorial

Editorial: Voters should step out from under Shea’s shadow in the 4th

UPDATED: Tue., Sept. 22, 2020

Matt Shea isn’t on the ballot this year, but his shadow hangs over the races in the 4th Legislative District. Shea is the disgraced former state representative who resigned this year after a scathing investigation all but accused him of treason. Yet in some corners of the district, people hang onto his most outlandish and belligerent ideas. It’s time for moderate, sensible voters to make a clean break from them.

Spokane Valley anchors the 4th District, which also includes Liberty Lake and most of the land between U.S. 2 and the border, north to Mt. Spokane State Park.

Voters should choose legislators who not only understand Eastern Washington values but also will work collaboratively in Olympia to accomplish goals that serve the region and the state. They also, it should go without saying, ought to avoid candidates who would embarrass the district.

We therefore recommend incumbent Mike Padden for Senate, Lori Feagan for representative Position 1 and Lance Gurel for representative Position 4.

Senate: Mike Padden

Both candidates in this race have history in local politics. For most of the past 40 years, incumbent Padden has been a state representative, district court judge or state senator. His opponent, John Roskelley, was a Spokane County Commissioner for a decade around the turn of the century.

Voters should send Padden back for another term. In some ways, he has been a bright spot in Shea’s shadow. Padden is an old-school Republican who gets things done and can work across the partisan aisle. He has been especially strong on criminal justice issues and has made sure that when lawmakers divvy up the pot of state spending they don’t forget the 4th District.

Roskelley makes the smart promise to work on keeping property taxes under control. If only he were equally concerned about business taxes. While he mouths concern about restraining state spending, he also proposes increasing the amount of taxes businesses pay. That could hamstring small businesses trying to recover from the pandemic-induced recession.

Most telling of the candidates’ relative support is that Padden has raised more than $88,000 for his campaign while Roskelley has raised less than $5,000. The primary results were similarly lopsided.

A year will come when it’s time to send someone new to the senate, but this isn’t it. Reelect Padden.

Representative Position 1: Lori Feagan

Shea’s former seat is up for grabs, and voters shouldn’t return someone cut from his mold to Olympia. Instead, they should choose Feagan, a self-proclaimed moderate Democrat who is fiscally conservative but progressive on social issues. That’s a good fit for the libertarian-minded district.

Feagan is a nurse practitioner who will bring welcome expertise and focus to the health care needs of the state and the district. She has a refreshing broad-mindedness that recognizes the importance of listening to and serving all of the districts’ residents.

Her opponent, Republican Bob McCaslin, is a quasi-incumbent. He currently represents Position 2 but chose to run for this seat instead.

McCaslin has Shea-esque baggage. He supports distracting proposals such as Eastern Washington breaking away to form a new state called “Liberty.” He also has been a roadblock on transportation funding solutions, which helps neither the district nor the state.

Feagan isn’t just the better candidate, she’d be a solid voice of moderation in a Democrat-controlled Legislature.

Representative Position 2: Lance Gurel

Democrat Gurel isn’t the most exciting candidate. He has no experience in elected office and offers only generalities about supporting small businesses, funding transportation, improving mental health and investing in early childhood education. He hasn’t even raised much money for the race. Despite all that, he’s still a better choice than Republican Rob Chase.

To his credit, Chase served ably as Spokane County Treasurer for eight years. In that role, he made valuable reforms. To his great discredit, however, he’s been one of Shea’s staunchest supporters. Chase is running as a “Trump Republican” and has endorsed the breakaway state of “Liberty” as well as revamping the state’s currency in a break from the dollar.

The district will be better served by Gurel, however bland he might be on paper, than by a fringe candidate like Chase. Chase would at best be a distraction in Olympia and at worst would be an embarrassment who costs the region credibility and support among lawmakers.

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