KING County’s 47th Legislative District is one of those suburban “swing districts” with go-both-ways political tendencies. No surprise, then, that it has produced a pair of legislative leaders who are voices of moderation within their respective parties.
The district, which runs from Auburn to Covington, has both sides covered. Republican Joe Fain is the majority floor leader in the Senate, and Democrat Pat Sullivan is the majority leader in the House. Both are on the Nov. 4 ballot, Fain seeking a second term in the Senate and Sullivan seeking a sixth term in the House, for the district’s Position 2.
Both earn The Times’ recommendation for the way in which they reflect the ideal of problem-solving centrism. Though they play on different teams, each has the flexibility, independence and general smarts the Legislature needs to deal with enormous problems — mainly, the Supreme Court McCleary order requiring a multibillion-dollar increase in spending for the K-12 schools.
Political newcomer Chris Barringer, a Democrat, is the force of moderation in the race for the House Position 1, compared with two-term state Rep. Mark Hargrove, R-Covington. Barringer, chief of staff in the King County Sheriff’s Office, is no partisan ideologue — he worked as an aide for Metropolitan King County Council member Reagan Dunn, a prominent Republican. Barringer seems more likely than Hargrove to stake out a fiscally conservative yet not irresponsible position.
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Hargrove has pledged to vote against raising the tax burden. That prevents him from compromising on two issues where thoughtful compromise is needed. On school funding, he won’t be able to negotiate as his colleagues can. And he says he would vote for a transportation package only if it doesn’t include a gas-tax increase — a puzzling and unworkable idea unlikely to provide the funding needed for road construction.
Fain, Sullivan and Barringer say they would vote yes on transportation should a deal be reached.
Democrats Sullivan and Barringer disappoint on one issue: They insist they haven’t made up their minds about Initiative 1351. The budget-busting class-size measure from the politically powerful Washington Education Association is the single biggest threat to the state’s financial stability. Fain, meanwhile, rightly shudders.
As a central player in the Democratic majority, Sullivan also shares responsibility for his party’s opposition to needed reforms in education, workers’ compensation and other areas at the behest of its biggest contributors.
But Sullivan has shown a streak of independence, for instance opposing the state teachers union by sponsoring a bill to include student test scores in teacher evaluations. The bill could have saved $40 million in federal funds for classroom education. Sullivan is a sober, thoughtful and knowledgeable voice within his caucus who will help steer his caucus to reasonable positions.
Fain has a clearheaded understanding of the state’s financial challenges. In just four years he has become a key player in the Majority Coalition Caucus, the largely Republican team that controls the Senate. Fain can claim much credit for helping forge the bipartisan compromise last session that brought the Real Hope Act to the floor, the measure that provides college tuition aid to the children of those who have settled in this country illegally. Like Sullivan, he opposed the union on the teacher-evaluation bill.
Fain likes to joke that it is easy to represent a swing district — no matter which way he votes, half the populace will disagree. “So I get to do what I think is right.” Just the right kind of spirit for the 47th.
Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Jonathan Martin, Erik Smith, Thanh Tan, Robert J. Vickers, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).