Voters in Washington’s 10th Congressional District, which encompasses South Puget Sound cities from Puyallup to Olympia, have enjoyed a long streak of excellent Congressional representation. Since the district’s creation in 2012, U.S. Rep. Denny Heck has served well as a centrist Democrat, fighting hard for regional environmental interests, small-business opportunities, and military and veterans’ causes.

Heck’s announced political retirement in 2019 — which he later reversed to run for lieutenant governor — opened up the congressional seat. A crowd of 19 candidates emerged for the Aug. 4 primary ballot, and several are well qualified. 

Among this field, Democrat Marilyn Strickland stands out as especially worthy. Her record as a successful city leader and, more recently, head of Seattle’s chamber of commerce gives her the broad experience necessary to address the diverse needs of South Sound communities. As the child of a Black father and Korean mother, she knows well the importance of equity across society.

A cheat sheet for the Aug. 4, 2020, primary election: The Seattle Times editorial board’s recommendations

As Tacoma’s former two-term mayor and a City Council member before that, Strickland provided strong leadership and an ability to forge city-building bonds within Tacoma and far beyond. She was an effective champion for infrastructure and investment. She convinced skeptical city voters to approve the city’s first successful road-improvement ballot measure in 47 years and helped accelerate the revival of Tacoma’s downtown via commercial projects including a 304-room Marriott high-rise. And she crafted a path toward a phased-in minimum wage increase that Tacoma’s voters approved.

Strickland’s cultivation of fresh foreign investors into Tacoma showed a business-leadership acumen that earned her post-mayoral role directing the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce in 2018. There, she represented 2,200 companies, large and small, that employ more than 700,000 workers. Her think-big ambitions for connection-building extend into other arenas as well. In an interview, she said she wants to help America return to global cooperation on climate change by rejoining the Paris Agreement.


America will need pragmatic problem-solvers to recover from COVID-19, the resultant economic crisis and the cultural clashes that have coursed nationwide. Strickland’s résumé matches well for the 10th District’s need for strong federal advocacy. Joint Base Lewis-McChord sprawls through the middle of the district, linking regional interests with military and veteran needs. Interstate 5 traffic and consequences of Amtrak’s 2017 derailment remain longstanding issues. Western State Hospital’s struggles include a troubled relationship with regulators and the loss of funding in 2018. 

Strickland has shown she is well-equipped to fight for these needs in Congress. Among other candidates, Kristine Reeves, the former Federal Way state representative and state commerce department military director, also has strong credentials and deep insights on governance.

Like Strickland, Reeves, who was the first Black woman elected to the Washington Legislature in 18 years, has a compelling personal story. Reeves served just three years as a lawmaker, but showed wisdom when she bucked party leadership to oppose shielding legislative records from public access. (Another congressional candidate with a Legislature background, state Rep. Beth Doglio, voted for that bill, which was vetoed).

Reeves, however, cannot match Strickland’s record of accomplishment. The choice is clear. It’s time to send Strickland to Congress.