Like a thunderhead shrouding the Puyallup and Green River valleys, Sen. Pam Roach overshadows the race to represent District 2 on the Pierce County Council. But that underestimates the irrepressible force of her persona. Roach holds sway over other offices in the North Pierce-South King frontiers, too.
For more than a year, since the maverick Republican changed her address from unincorporated King County to Sumner and started plotting a run in Pierce County, the political air has hung humid with suspense.
How would the volatile chemistry of the seven-member council be affected by Roach’s presence? How would the mother-son relationship with Councilman (and would-be County Executive) Dan Roach play out?
Which House candidate in Roach’s legislative district would receive her blessing? (Answer: Phil Fortunato.) Which would be targeted for her bullying? (Answer: Pablo Monroy.)
And the doozy: Would Roach, the state’s longest-serving senator, give up her safe District 31 seat and if so, when? Let’s call this the $153,000 question — the combined salary if Roach were to hold both offices at once.
Her answer is wholly unsatisfying. She vaguely pledges a “smooth transition” sometime after the 2017 legislative session. (Her Senate term doesn’t officially end until January 2019.)
This, more than anything, is why Carolyn Edmonds wins our sole endorsement to represent the north-central part of Pierce County. Our custom is to pick one candidate from each party to advance in the primary election, and Roach is the only Republican running for District 2. This marks the rare case when custom should be broken.
Edmonds is a real estate agent who lives in the neck of the district that takes in Northeast Tacoma and the Port of Tacoma. She distinguishes herself with a record of professionalism and fair play.
Edmonds’ mix of public and private work includes 1 ½ terms in the state House and one on the King County Council, both when she lived in Shoreline. She lost the latter in 2005 when the council shrunk from 13 to 9 members. Lately, she’s gained grassroots perspective as co-chair of the Northeast Tacoma Neighborhood Association.
Pat Jenkins is the other Democrat in the primary. The weekly newspaperman and former Puyallup School Board member speaks convincingly of his “deep, abiding love” for the communities in the district. He would preserve the Puyallup voice on the council now carried by the term-limited Joyce McDonald. But Jenkins can’t match Edmonds’ depth on issues or range of experience.
Edmonds also recently represented District 2 on the county Charter Review Commission. It was there she stood for the greater good, as well as her own political interests, by getting behind a proposal to limit county officials to one salaried public office. The commission sent the amendment to the November ballot, though Edmonds properly abstained from the vote.
If this forces Roach’s hand to resign her Senate seat, all the better. She can’t meet her own standards for effectiveness holding two posts simultaneously. She can’t be two places at once, can’t learn the ropes of a new job and a $900 million county budget while being engaged in the Legislature during a budget year that promises to drag deep into next spring.
Roach’s legendary combativeness and strong-arm tactics also should give voters pause. Her overbearing conduct has gotten her kicked out of the Republican caucus, admonished by the lieutenant governor and recently subjected her to reported FBI inquiries.
The 49-member Senate can survive Roach, but her behavior could prove toxic to the small-group dynamics of the County Council.
The seven-term senator has her virtues. She’s a workhorse at ground-level constituent services. She’s strong on public safety, port competitiveness and open government. Among diehard anti-tax Republicans in the district, Roach always has and always will earn big support.
But we can’t endorse her.