Voters on the northern periphery of Pierce County in the shadow of Mount Rainier have a tough choice to make this year for an open legislative seat. Rural-suburban residents on the southern edge of the county, meanwhile, will see two proven incumbents on the Aug. 2 primary ballot and would do well to stick with both.
In House District 31, choosing a Republican for the Position 2 seat could almost come down to a coin toss. Pablo Monroy of Bonney Lake and Morgan Irwin of Enumclaw both aim to replace Rep. Chris Hurst, who’s stepping down after seven terms. Monroy and Irwin both have strong qualities.
Monroy, an openly gay Mexican-American, would give Olympia Republicans more diversity and a fresh perspective. His military experience — he served in the Navy and is now a sergeant in the National Guard — in addition to his co-ownership of a small Tacoma brewery, give him a wide-ranging résumé and make him hard to pigeonhole.
If not for Irwin, Monroy would win our primary election endorsement. Irwin, a local product who serves on the Enumclaw City Council, grew up on his family’s cattle ranch and knows the district well. He majored in agribusiness and economics at Washington State University and worked in the financial sector before joining the Seattle Police Department, where he’s an officer.
Irwin’s depth of knowledge and articulation of a straightforward agenda — education, transportation and public safety — put him a bit ahead of Monroy in this conservative-leaning district. The third Republican candidate is Phil Fortunato, a self-employed businessman who served a House term in the late ’90s.
Lane Walthers is the only Democrat running for District 31, and he likes to emphasize the word “independent.” Walthers’ history as a long-time resident and firefighter in East Pierce County has given him a front row seat to traffic, safety and other concerns. He’d be a solid choice for voters squarely in the Hurst camp.
Meanwhile, on the mountain’s doorstep at the southern end of the county, voters in the 2nd Legislative District should adhere to the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
The Senate primary pits a pair of familiar foes from Eatonville. Republican incumbent Randi Becker unseated Democratic stalwart Marilyn Rasmussen in 2008. Now Rasmussen is back, citing the Supreme Court mandate to fully fund public schools as her reason for emerging from retirement.
Rasmussen’s 22 years of legislative experience make her the leading choice for Dems. But if you can shelve party affiliation, there’s no question Becker deserves re-election in this thin field. She chairs the Senate Health Care Committee and has pushed for better health care access for her geographically isolated constituents.
Democrat Tamborine Borrelli, inspired by the ethos of Bernie Sanders, is also making some noise. Enthusiastic but new to politics, Borrelli might consider running for a local office first so she can gain some experience.
For House Position 2, voters should give a third term to J.T. Wilcox of Yelm. Wilcox, who holds influence as House majority floor leader, is a proven ambassador for the district. The former chief financial officer at Wilcox Family Farms shrewdly characterizes his constituents as “rural by choice” and knows they put a premium on privacy and minimal regulations.
Nathaniel Downes of Graham and Derek Maynes of Puyallup are the two Democrat challengers. Downes has done some homework on problems facing District 2, such as transportation and health care. Maynes mostly preaches the need for regime change, with few specifics. Downes seems a slightly better alternative for hardcore Dems.