Our choices in 30th District and school board races

Republican Teri Hickel is a candidate for House Position 2 in the 30th Legislative District
Republican Teri Hickel is a candidate for House Position 2 in the 30th Legislative District

A key race on the Nov. 3 ballot is taking place in the 30th Legislative District, which is centered in Federal Way and includes a chunk of north Pierce County.

If local voters aren’t aware of the race’s import, state political leaders certainly are. They’ve been putting staff power and financial resources into backing either Democrat Carol Gregory or Republican Teri Hickel for House Position 2, the seat Gregory was appointed to in January by Gov. Jay Inslee after the death of Democratic Rep. Roger Freeman. The winner will finish out the one-year unexpired term.

Depending on how the election goes, it potentially could have a big impact on the power dynamics of the House in the next session. If Hickel wins, the Democrats’ margin of control in the House would fall from 51-47 to 50-48. They would have to compromise more in order to get bills passed and would be more open to working across the aisle and with the Senate Republican majority.

That would be a good thing, and it’s why we give Hickel the edge in this race. Although both candidates are top-notch, Hickel is a better fit with this swing district’s voters, who tend to prefer centrists of either party. Hickel is a pro-choice, pro-business Republican while Gregory is a pro-labor liberal Democrat.

Gregory – a former president of the Washington Education Association and executive director of a worker-assistance nonprofit, Burst for Prosperity – is more likely to toe her party’s line than buck leadership or the teachers union. And it was disappointing that she didn’t support the $16 billion transportation package that greatly benefits the 30th. A better fit for her is the Federal Way School Board, to which she was elected in 2013.

Hickel was executive director of the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce’s Advancing Leadership program for 15 years and has worked to pass school levy campaigns. She shows potential for being a leader in Olympia.

In other races:

Franklin Pierce School Board

The Parkland-area school district has one board position on the Nov. 3 ballot. Doug Carlson was appointed to the District 1 seat in 2013 and now seeks a first full term.

We think voters should give it to him, despite his committing the cardinal political sin of failing to submit a voters pamphlet statement – an oversight, he says.

His opponent, Melanie Morgan, is a community organizer and volunteer who has been active in her children’s schools. Morgan, who is African American, makes a good case for the need to diversify the board, given how diverse the district has become in recent years.

But we think Carlson is the better choice. A longtime coach and operations manager of Pierce College’s Health Education Center, he has been active in the district, chairing its 2010 levy campaign. His experience will be needed as the district seeks to pass a badly needed bond measure next year that would rebuild five elementary schools and enable Franklin Pierce to offer all-day kindergarten.

Puyallup School Board

Two board incumbents are up for re-election, Dane Looker and Pat Jenkins.

Neither Looker nor his opponent, Derek Maynes, chose to meet with The News Tribune for endorsement purposes. Looker, a former pro football player with deep roots in the community, reportedly has been a solid member of the school board. Voters should give him a second term.

In the other race, Jenkins has an impressive challenger in Michael Keaton, a retired F-16 pilot and instructor who is now a senior manager with a defense contractor. Although we like Jenkins, editor of a community newspaper, we give Keaton a slight edge for the new energy he could bring to the board. But voters can’t go wrong with either candidate.