This isn’t a legislative election year, so the pent-up furies of Olympia politics are funneling through an off-year race in a single district — the 26th, where voters will determine the successor to former state Sen. Derek Kilmer.
The Democratic incumbent, Sen. Nathan Schlicher, was appointed to the seat in January and now must defend it. We think he deserves to hang on to it, but he’s got a formidable challenger in Republican state Rep. Jan Angel.
The 26th District — which includes the Gig Harbor and Key peninsulas, as well as Port Orchard and part of Bremerton — has never before attracted so much attention.
This is likely to be the most expensive legislative race in state history; Angel and Schlicher have been drawing money from, respectively, conservative and liberal organizations across the state and nation.
The intensity comes from the fact that Democrats could win back the state Senate if they can hold the 26th and later pick up another seat or two. That would give them undivided control of state government. For precisely the same reason, Republicans want to grab the 26th Senate seat to tighten their narrow grip on the chamber.
That’s a war for the party strategists. In the here and now, Schlicher’s election would simply preserve a status quo in which Republicans command the Senate with the help of two disaffected Democrats.
For obvious reasons, devout Republicans will want to vote for Angel, a former Kitsap County commissioner with a long career in small business. A thoroughgoing conservative, she’s been an energetic champion of the private sector.
We think Schlicher brings more to the Legislature.
He has a rare command of health care policy, for good reason: He’s an emergency room physician. His academic accomplishments are stunning. He entered Pacific Lutheran University at age 14, graduated at 17, and earned a law degree at 19 before going to medical school.
The single most pressing issue facing the South Sound is the completion of state Route 167, a project that would link Puyallup to Interstate 5 and the Port of Tacoma. This would expand industries, create tens of thousands of jobs and preserve the international competitiveness of the Port of Tacoma.
Schlicher seems more likely than Angel to approve the taxes and fees needed to make this critical investment in the region’s future.
Schlicher is already one of the smartest and most capable lawmakers in Olympia. Now only 30, his potential is enormous, and he would well serve the 26th.
To read earlier endorsement editorials, go online towww.thenewstribune.com/endorsements