The Seattle Times editorial board offers context but no endorsement in the state lieutenant governor’s race.

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WHILE Washington’s lieutenant governor position is a fairly low-profile job, it includes the distinctly important role of calling balls and strikes on the state Senate floor.

The lieutenant governor is president of the Senate and, as such, presides over floor debate and votes, makes rulings on disagreements and keeps order in what has been a body narrowly controlled by Republicans. This elected official leads the state when the governor is away and chairs a legislative committee on economic development and international relations.

Brad Owen, who has held the job for 20 years, is retiring. His tenure has been marked by a shrewd fairness and humble commitment to the institution.

Ideally, Owen’s successor would emulate his fair, firm and friendly approach. This editorial board previously recommended voters elect Sen. Steve Hobbs, a moderate Democrat from Lake Stevens. But in an 11-way race, Hobbs was not one of the top-two finishers. Also left behind was Sen. Karen Fraser, D-Olympia, another strong candidate.

What’s left are two candidates who are not suited to the job. Republican Marty McClendon is a conservative pastor and talk-radio-show host who has never been in the state Legislature and would have to begin his political education from scratch.

Sen. Cyrus Habib, D-Bellevue, has been a legislator for three years but campaigned in the primary in a disturbingly, highly partisan way, making promises he cannot keep. He suggested he would declare unconstitutional those laws he felt contradicted previous court rulings. He said he wouldn’t sign a Senate bill on education if he didn’t believe it fulfilled the Supreme Court’s McCleary rulings.

Owen, a fellow Democrat who intended to stay out of the race, wrote a letter dismantling much of Habib’s campaign rhetoric.

For these reasons, the editorial board is offering no recommendation in this race.

With Washington a blue state, the Democrat, Habib, is likely to win. If he does, he should rebuild trust by toning down the partisanship and managing the Senate in a thoughtful, fair manner.