Geographically, the 26th Legislative District and Pierce County Council District 7 have a lot in common. But their differences could decide what promise to be some close races on the Nov. 4 ballot.
Both districts include Gig Harbor, the Key Peninsula and Fox Island. But the 26th also has a chunk of Kitsap County that’s tended to skew the swing legislative district slightly more Republican some years. As for the County Council’s District 7, redistricting has made it more Democratic now that it takes in a bigger slice of Tacoma - including much of its liberal North End.
How those geographical differences will play out in November is anyone’s guess, but the August primary suggests a few things: Incumbent state Sen. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, is probably pretty safe, the two House seats are too close to call and the Pierce County Council race could be the squeaker of the election.
Angel, a former Kitsap County commissioner, served in the state House since 2009 before winning a special election to the state Senate in 2013. In August she won 57 percent of the primary votes compared to the 43 percent of her Democratic opponent, retired educator Judy Arbogast of Ollala.
Arbogast is a thoughtful candidate, but her public policy background is limited to her work as a teachers union president. She doesn’t have the depth of experience at the ground level that Angel has from her years on the county commission and in the House. Voters should give Angel a full term in the Senate.
The News Tribune editorial board endorsed Nathan Schlicher of Gig Harbor over Angel in last year’s special election for state Senate, but he lost to the better-known Angel. Now he’s running for her old House Position 1 seat, and voters would be wise to give it to him.
Schlicher, an emergency room doctor who also has a law degree, was arguably one of the Legislature’s more effective newcomers during his brief appointment to the Senate, prime sponsoring several bills pertinent to 26th District concerns. The House badly needs his expertise on health care issues.
His opponent, Republican Jesse Young of Gig Harbor, was appointed to the seat in January. He’s a smart go-getter with an inspiring personal story, and as a tech consultant fills an important niche in the House. But Schlicher would be more effective for the district in the Democratic-controlled House.
In the House Position 2 race, incumbent and retired naval officer Democrat Larry Seaquist of Gig Harbor is being challenged by Republican Michelle Caldier, a Port Orchard dentist.
Caldier is an energetic candidate who did very well against Seaquist in the primary (getting 49.1 percent of the vote to his 50.9 percent). She’s an impressive newcomer to public life, but her civic experience is limited to lobbying on a dental issue. She can’t match Seaquist’s depth of knowledge on district issues and higher education. Voters should give the respected legislator another term.
In the County Council race, Gig Harbor business owner and Democrat Derek Young poses a strong challenge to the incumbent councilman, Republican Stan Flemming.
We rarely – almost never – do dual endorsements. In this case, though, both candidates are so qualified that The News Tribune’s editorial board remains deadlocked between the two after extended discussion.
Both have impressive credentials. Young has spent 16 years on the Gig Harbor City Council; he owns a graphic design business. Flemming has served four years on the County Council in addition to 14 years on the University Place Council and a term as a legislator. A physician, Flemming is a retired Army reserve brigadier general.
Young has the deeper personal connection to the Peninsula. Flemming, a longtime University Place resident, changed his residence to Gig Harbor last year to remain in District 7 after its boundaries changed. He now rents an apartment there.
Young has served well on the Gig Harbor council. Flemming has done the same on the County Council and in his past elected positions. We'd have to flip a coin to break the tie: Either would be a fine choice.
Read more endorsement editorials at www.thenewstribune.com/endorsements.