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During eight years in the state Senate, Lake Stevens Democrat Steve Hobbs has demonstrated a deep streak of independence, and a willingness to work with members of the opposing party. But standing in the middle can be lonely sometimes — especially during election season.

As Hobbs seeks a third term, 44th Legislative District voters should recognize the key role he has played in the Legislature these last few years. A leader among Democratic centrists, Hobbs earns the Times’ recommendation for the thoughtful problem-solving he has brought to the Senate. If only the statehouse had more like him.

The 44th District in suburban and rural Snohomish County is a “swing district” that might favor either party. Hobbs’ approach might be right for middle-of-the-road voters, but it rankles the labor and progressive groups that support Democratic campaigns. They spent big in an effort to unseat Hobbs in the 2010 primary, as he was challenged from right and left. How the interest groups will play this year is unclear as Hobbs faces a challenge from former Snohomish County Republican Chairman Jim Kellett. Hobbs eked out only a narrow lead in the primary.

In office, the senator has been effective. He and fellow members of the “Roadkill Caucus,” all moderate Democrats, insisted on financial reforms and blocked major tax increases in the middle of a recession. They forced Democratic leaders to negotiate with Republicans, forging a more balanced result than either party could have accomplished on its own.

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Hobbs’ vote this year against a bill linking teacher evaluations to student test scores was a disappointment. But that is outweighed by other important work he has done — like negotiating unemployment insurance and workers compensation reform measures, and in trying to broker a deal this year on a stalled transportation package.

In this era of polarized politics, Hobbs demonstrates there is room for a self-described “raging moderate,” in a way that reflects the finest traditions of the Legislature.

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).

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