In the Legislature since 2008, first in the House and since 2014 in the Senate, Marko Liias has ably represented the 21st Legislative District, which stretches along Puget Sound from Edmonds to Mukilteo.

His worthy challenger, Republican Janelle Cass, served in the Air Force as a bioenvironmental engineer, is a small-business owner and serves the community on the Edmonds Tree Board and on the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce board of directors. Nevertheless, the incumbent remains the better choice for voters because of his legislative experience, despite recent actions that give the editorial board pause.

Seattle Times editorial board endorsements: Nov. 8, 2022, general election

As chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, Liias deserves credit for helping pass the $17 billion “Move Ahead Washington” transportation package, a much-needed infrastructure investment in the state’s bridges, roads and transit. In doing so, however, Liias and his fellow Democrats breached tradition and developed the legislation without Republican input. It was disappointing. This can either be a troubling sign of things to come or a one-time lapse. We urge the incumbent to work to ensure it’s the latter.

Liias also apologized for what he called “disrespectful and inappropriate” comments he made about Oregon Gov. Kate Brown after she wrote an Op-Ed opposing a proposed tax on Washington fuel exports. Speaking with a conservative radio host in February, the incumbent said “the fact that she dares say a word is just a joke,” and that Brown was “living in fantasyland.”

When asked about the incident, Liias was less than contrite.

“I promise you that in the next four years, I’ll probably get upset at least once. But I think the key is to recognize when you’ve gone too far, and to say it out loud,” he said. We urge him to think before he speaks and save himself future apologies.

If reelected, Liias said he will focus on bringing down the cost of living for Washingtonians, as health care, child care, housing and other necessities become more expensive. On public safety, while he disagrees with critics who blame police accountability measures for the rise in crime, he believes longer term action is needed to address the problem, including through community policing and regional training academies.

Advertising

Regarding the state Supreme Court’s Blake decision, which ruled the felony drug possession law unconstitutional, Liias said the Legislature’s two-year solution hasn’t worked. He doesn’t support felony charges for low-level users, but having zero accountability is not an option.

“We need to have a system that is getting people help and giving them a carrot and a stick, giving them a pathway to getting help with the threat of some consequence, if they don’t,” he said.

The incumbent seemed to draw the right lesson from the pushback from cities over lawmakers’ top-down approach to housing, saying that the answer is that everyone who is part of the discussion, including builders, should be part of the solution. On education, Liias said more needs to be done to properly fund special ed and that the Legislature can’t allow levy inequality to creep back into the system. He’s right about that and should persuade his colleagues.

Cass is a smart and worthy challenger, and should continue to pursue public office, but she cannot match the incumbent’s experience with the district.

Marko Liias is the stronger choice.