Monday’s start of candidate filing week for state and federal office-seekers officially launches the intensely charged 2020 election season.
Although candidates from all parts of Washington’s political spectrum have been raising funds and corralling supporters for months, these filings will determine the field for the August top-two primary and November’s general election.
As much as any time in memory, Washington needs candidates who are highly qualified to carry out good governance. The stresses on budgets and infrastructure from the pandemic and the resulting economic crisis create immediate and complicated needs that every level of government must address. The estimate that Washington’s state revenues could be $7 billion short of expectations through 2023 is the tip of a menacing iceberg.
Now add that to preexisting challenges facing the state.
Washington’s largest employer, Boeing, is fighting a downward spiral set off by bad management decisions. Even before the downturn, Initiative 976 was set to cripple the state’s ability to address longstanding transportation shortcomings if a court challenge fails.
Megaproject bridges to West Seattle and Oregon require highly expensive replacements. Housing shortages and homelessness remain deep problems throughout the region. Wildfires have become an annual hazard, both for forest areas and air quality everywhere. Education funding remains inequitable and unstable. And mental-health infrastructure continues to fall short of even passable standards.
This laundry list of unsolved problems — in a state recently prosperous — will be daunting for whomever voters send into state offices and Congress. With a plummeting economy and a likely long-term public-health problem added, Washington has an urgent need for enlightened leaders with foresight, not extremist ideologues.
Voters must be wary of any office-seeker who claims answers are easy and governance is simple. And only Washingtonians who are independent thinkers and already prepared to take on some of the hardest questions of public service should put themselves forward. Civic experience — whether in local office or in other community leadership — will be an invaluable asset in triaging the areas of need where government can help.
In recent years, the Legislature — like Seattle’s city council — has added lawmakers who prioritize building “movements” ahead of truly solving problems. This is no time to bring in more figures who make government a sideshow. Next week, citizens with the skill set and proven ability to help craft solutions must strongly consider the deep need for good public service.
Those who can truly help should assess if filing for office — online — can help Washington to better days.