The Tacoma Narrows marks a clear break from the mainland Puget Sound region not only by geography, but also by ideology. Few places vote more solidly blue than the urban Tacoma-area 27th and 29th legislative districts. A short trip west across the Narrows bridge, however, leads to the heart of a traditional swing district, the 26th, which pumps with increasingly red blood.
This year, the 26th district –— spanning Gig Harbor and the Key Peninsula all the way north to Bremerton — offers the most interesting state House race among the three districts.
Rep. Jesse Young is trying to stave off a comeback by Larry Seaquist, a former legislator and fellow Gig Harbor resident. Two others join them on the August primary election ballot: Bill Scheidler and Alec Matias, both of Port Orchard. Young and Scheidler are Republicans; Seaquist and Matias are Democrats.
We support Young and Seaquist in the primary and anticipate a vigorous general election battle once Seaquist’s campaign is fully mobilized. The retired Navy captain was late hoisting his flag for the House race; Seaquist had planned to run for state school superintendent until May, when House Speaker Frank Chopp persuaded him to file for the Legislature instead.
Seaquist, a hard-working former House Higher Education Committee chairman, doesn’t spout vague bromides about reforming public schools; he lays out detailed ideas above and beyond meeting the McCleary Supreme Court directive for full school funding. His education smarts alone qualify him for the fifth term that eluded him in 2014, when he lost to Michelle Caldier in a bitterly close contest. (Caldier is unopposed in the primary for Position 2 this year.)
Young, a tech-industry consultant, has shown a bright mind in his first full term after being appointed to the House in early 2014. A jobs-first Republican with bread-and-butter sensibilities, Young helped lead the charge this year as state officials suspended a bridge toll increase for the first time in four years. He gets creativity points for wanting to manage federal lands to generate revenue for schools, but he doesn’t get reality points for touting that as his primary McCleary funding fix.
Scheidler and Matias are the lesser lights in District 26. Scheidler is narrowly focused on an anti-corruption crusade, while Matias has an anti-establishment agenda but minimal experience outside some animal-rights lobbying.
Across the bridge to the east lies District 27, which comprises a broad swath of urban Tacoma. Sen. Jeannie Darneille has been a good match for this liberal bastion for 16 years. We only wish Darneille faced more pressure to defend her record, like she did four years ago in her first bid for Senate. That’s when she overcame deep-pocket opposition from fellow Democrat Jack Connelly — he of the record-setting self-funded campaign surpassing $1 million.
This time, Darneille’s Democratic challenger is Martin Cline, a hospital worker and Army reservist. Cline has reported raising no money and is running a stealth campaign. Republican Greg Taylor will likely advance to November. An earnest technology consultant with a libertarian bent, Taylor is a political neophyte who’s raised $1,100.
In the slightly-lighter-shade-of-blue 29th district, Rep. David Sawyer, a law clerk studying to be an attorney, makes a good case for a third term.
Sawyer wants to resolve K-12 school funding inequities, but not at the expense of the social safety net. Sawyer’s passionate advocacy for affordable housing plays well in a lower-income district covering South Tacoma and parts of Parkland, Lakewood, Spanaway and Frederickson. The other Democrat in the race, Branden Durst, has statehouse experience — he served three-plus terms in the Idaho Legislature before resigning 2 1/2 years ago and moving west — but Durst’s roots in the 29th district are shallow.
We like Rick Thomas, a moderate Republican, to advance to the general election against Sawyer. Though lacking a political résumé, Thomas exudes leadership and poise under pressure — traits one would expect from a former JBLM 1st Special Forces Group commander.