A strong democracy needs moderate lawmakers like Sens. Steve Litzow and Mark Mullet to bridge the ideological divide.

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STANDING in the middle of the road is a dangerous practice — literally and figuratively. Political moderates weather criticism from vested interests on the left and right even as they often act as a bridge across the ideological divide.

Too often, voters retreat to party affiliation, especially in hyperpartisan elections like this one. In the last presidential election, just 6 percent of congressional districts nationwide voted for one party in the presidential race and another party in selecting a House member.

This year, voters in a few key Puget Sound districts should make the middle a little less of a lonely place.

The Times recommends:

Steve Litzow

Steve Litzow

41st Legislative District Senate seat

Strengths: Effective leader; has much-needed experience for education funding solutions

Litzow already is a key player. He chairs the Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee in the Senate, where his party currently holds the majority. He’s used this perch to advance early childhood programs and education reforms, increase education funding and fund charter schools. ..."

In the 41st Legislative District (Mercer Island, Bellevue and Newcastle), moderate Republican Sen. Steve Litzow voted with Democratic leadership 92 percent of the time in the 2016 session. Yet an attack ad, funded mostly by labor-funded PACs, only tells voters he voted with Republican leadership in 95 percent of votes, seeking to cast him as a party-first ideologue.

The facts say otherwise. On social issues, Litzow supports abortion rights and is generally liberal, which reflects the center-left politics of the 41st District. When his own party tried to roll back protections for transgender students, Litzow cast a deciding vote to kill the legislation.

As chair of the Senate Education Committee, Litzow has been a champion for expanding early childhood education and has helped push through more funding and smart, outcome-focused reforms of the K-12 system, including of charter schools.

The Times recommends:

Mark Mullet

Mark Mullet

5th Legislative District, Senate

Strengths: Mullet is the kind of nondogmatic Democrat Washington needs to help hammer out a compromise on funding basic education.

An independent thinker, he has shown he can work across the aisle to find solutions to complicated problems. Mullet should be re-elected."

Similarly, Sen. Mark Mullet, a moderate Democrat from Issaquah, is having his voting record misconstrued. Mullet’s 5th Legislative District (Issaquah and Snoqualmie) is a swing district, prone to electing Democrats and Republicans.

Mullet reflected his constituents’ moderate tendencies in voting with Republican leadership 93 percent of the time and Democratic leadership 96 percent of the time for final-passage votes on bills in 2016. He is rated by NARAL Pro-Choice Washington as supporting abortion rights and has strong lifetime ratings from business and agriculture groups.

That’s not the typical mix for a Democrat; neither is Litzow’s left-leaning record on social issues and right-leaning record on fiscal matters. Those records show them to be thoughtful, independent-minded lawmakers with the political courage to buck their own leadership.

In an era of identity politics — when lawmakers reflexively retreat to their party’s core constituencies — moderates are an increasingly rare and valuable commodity. Voters should keep the few that we have.