Two Eatonville area residents are squaring off in the state Senate race in the 2nd Legislative District, which stretches from the rural areas southeast of Lacey into eastern Pierce County. They are one-term incumbent Randi Becker, a Republican, and Democratic challenger Bruce Lachney.
The voters in this sprawling district would be well-served to elect Lachney, a newcomer to state politics, but someone who has a long history of serving his community in a variety of meaningful ways.
Leaders in the state Democratic Party sought out Lachney, 52, to take on Becker, and it’s easy to see why they consider him the right candidate to buck the odds in this Republican-leaning district.
His life experiences make him well-suited for what he sees as another opportunity at civic service.
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A trustee at Clover Park Technical College and former Eatonville School Board director, Lachney wants to boost the number of school days students spend learning in a typical year. Lengthening the school year would cost the state more money, but Lachney believes a thorough reform of the state tax code, which dates back to 1935 — could put the state on more solid financial ground to fund public education.
He’s not ready to commit to a specific tax plan, but some combination of repealed tax exemptions and new taxes less volatile than the state sales tax and business and occupation tax are reform measures he’s willing to pursue.
Lachney’s career includes a six-year stint in the Marine Corps and 22 years as a Delta Airlines pilot. He has leadership qualities and an understanding of military issues that mesh well with the large population of active and retired military personnel in his district.
Rural land use issues are not foreign to Lachney. He’s served on the Pierce County Planning Commission and is actively engaged in his family’s Eatonville area farm, a 94-acre spread that produces cranberries for Ocean Spray, cattle, hay, timber and rhubarb.
While Lachney’s bold political reform ideas will meet some resistance in Olympia, the budget crisis facing this state is so deep and broad, it requires politicians with vision and intellect. Lachney fits the bill.
In many respects, Becker has served her district well in her first term as a state senator, and reflects the political views of the majority of voters in the largely conservative district. She is not fiercely partisan and is willing to work across the aisle on issues of concern in her district, including transportation and regulatory reform to encourage job creation. Her career in real estate and health care administration have helped her find a legislative niche in Olympia.
But Becker seems destined to be a follower, not a leader, in the state Legislature. If she has a passion for politics, it is somewhat masked by an aura of ambivalence on key issues facing this state, including tax reform, health care and setting social service priorities.
Voters in the 2nd Legislative District should not hesitate to send Bruce Lachney to Olympia.