Our primary picks in 2nd and 31st legislative districts

Today we wrap up our legislative endorsements for the Aug. 5 primary with a visit to the 2nd and 31st districts. The tour includes a faux Democrat, a Marijuana candidate and an outbreak of Independents in the 31st.

The following endorsements apply only to the primary election:

• In the 2nd Legislative District – Graham, Orting, Yelm and Eatonville – Position 1 offers a bipartisan bye. Republican Graham Hunt and Democrat Hartman are the only two in the race; their showdown won’t come until the fall.

The race for Position 2 is part of the Libertarian Party’s effort to resuscitate itself in Washington.

The party was devastated by the state’s adoption of the current top-two primary, which squeezed the smaller political parties off the November ballot. Its leaders are seeking a comeback; they are running candidates in selected races around the state. The party’s secretary, former Republican Steven Nielson of Orting, is challenging Republican incumbent J.T. Wilcox of Yelm for Position 1.

Wilcox has become a strong lawmaker and Republican leader; he deservedly faces no challenge from within his party. There’s no Democrat in the race, so we’re tempted to endorse Nielson, if only to steer non-Republicans away from a “Marijuana Party” candidate whose platform is constructed of cannabis stems.

Nielson, though, effectively opposes the completion of state Route 167 from Puyallup to Interstate 5 and the Port of Tacoma.

He says he likes the idea –who doesn’t, in theory? – but he also says the state Department of Transportation could pay for the $1 billion-plus project with existing revenue – i.e., without additional gas or other taxes.

That might be true in a Libertarian utopia with a minimalist government and fewer environmental regulations. In the actual Washington, Nielson’s anti-tax absolutism would make him another opponent of the region’s most important transportation priority and other major highway improvements.

• The race for the Senate seat in the 31st District – Sumner, Bonney Lake, Enumclaw, Buckley and Auburn – features a “prefers Democrat” with no discernable affinity to the real Democratic Party.

Lynda Messner, previously known as Lynda Dabson, has challenged Barack Obama’s American citizenship, called for his impeachment and expressed other views that make her anything but an authentic Democrat.

It’s important to keep Messner off the November ballot. Normally, we endorse one Republican per primary race. In this case, we’re endorsing both incumbent Republican Sen. Pam Roach of Auburn and her Republican challenger, Rep. Cathy Dahlquist of Enumclaw. A run-off between these two will be a contest of viable candidates; a run-off that includes Messner would not be. The other competitive primary race in the 31st, for House Position 1, offers a straightforward choice:

Mike Sando, an Enumclaw teacher and City Council member, is an undisputed Democrat. Jonathon Dunn, an “Independent Dem,” would caucus with the Democrats. We like Sando; he’s the most seasoned, experienced and proven. Drew Stokesbary, an Auburn attorney, is a Republican with strong credentials.

“Independent” seems to be a brand that sells well in the 31st. In Position 1, incumbent Rep. Christopher Hurst, an “Independent Democrat,” faces Phil Fortunato, an “Independent Republican.” Their race will be decided in November.

For more endorsement editorials, go to www.thenewstribune.com/endorsements.