STATE Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, the longtime lawmaker best known for her fiery temper, faces a sharp and seasoned opponent this year from within her own party. Cathy Dahlquist is the easy choice for the 31st District Senate seat.

Dahlquist, R-Enumclaw, has distinguished herself during two terms in the state House as a leader on K-12 education. Well-respected in House GOP ranks, Dahlquist is an advocate for reform who has battled for higher standards and, at times, challenged both the state teachers’ union and the leadership of her own party.

The Legislature’s longest-serving Republican after 24 years, Roach is truly a standout personality. This is not necessarily a good thing. The good she has done on public-records issues and her work for constituents have been overshadowed by the way she deals with people. Fellow Republicans have admonished her for berating staff, banished her from the caucus room and suggested she get counseling for anger management.

Roach’s team allowed her back in the caucus room when it formed a bipartisan governing coalition in the Senate, because every vote counted. But this uneasy truce has distracted coalition leaders from their effort to bring balance to the statehouse. They have expended extraordinary time and effort keeping the senator happy, lest resentments cause her to bolt.

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Roach says she voted against a critically important teacher-evaluation bill this year because she was angered by her leadership’s push for the Dream Act. She refused in an editorial board meeting to say whether she supports the Washington Education Association’s costly Initiative 1351, which would require the hiring of thousands of additional teachers, even in upper grades where benefits of lower class size are unclear. Dahlquist takes the responsible position on these issues: yes for reform, no on the WEA’s unfunded mandate.

A third contender, Lynda Messner, cannot be taken seriously either as a candidate or as a Democrat. Facebook postings questioning President Obama’s birth certificate give credence to political speculation that she is a ringer trying to siphon votes from Dahlquist.

Voters should see through the tactic and send Dahlquist to the upper chamber.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Erik Smith, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).