Voters in the 2nd Legislative District of rural Pierce and Thurston counties should have an easy time choosing J.T. Wilcox of McKenna to represent them in the state House of Representatives. He has no serious opponent.
District 2 represents portions of southeast Thurston and Pierce counties, including the towns of McKenna, Rainier, Roy, Orting, Graham, Yelm and the City of Eatonville.
Wilcox, 49, a farmer and business management consultant, won 68.5 percent of the vote in this month’s primary for position No. 2 compared to just 21.05 percent for his general election opponent, libertarian Steven Nielson. Nielson did not respond to a request to meet with The Olympian’s editorial board.
In his first two terms, Wilcox has proven himself to be a thoughtful, articulate voice who represents his district well and has earned steadily increasing leadership roles within his Republican Party. He serves as the House Republican floor leader and sits on the critical “tax and spend” committees -- as the assistant ranking Republican on the Appropriations Committee, and on the Finance Committee.
Wilcox was first elected in 2011, defeating 16-year veteran Tom Campbell, who had a history of switching back and forth between the Democrat and Republican parties. Wilcox suffers no such confusion about party loyalty or his vision for the state.
He opposes government’s intrusive role into the private sector and small business, views he acquired while working in the family business, Wilcox Farms, from the age of 5 and on his way up to become its chief financial officer.
In concert with the Republican caucus position, he won’t vote for a transportation revenue package until reforms are made in the state Department of Transportation. That’s a short-sighted view, which punishes everyone who uses Washington’s crowded and sometimes unsafe roads and bridges.
Wilcox is particularly concerned about WSDOT’s transparency and wants supervision by some other board or group than the governor’s office. This is a valid concern, particularly in light of recent problems at Washington State Ferries.
On education, Wilcox favors the levy swap proposal touted by Democrat Ross Hunter, which is a revenue-neutral shift of state property taxes for local levies. It’s an idea that has some bipartisan support. A levy swap addresses the goal of flattening out basic education funding between rich and poor districts, but it raises no new revenue for K-12 schools.
Wilcox says he is open to new taxes to fund the state’s court-ordered liabilities on schools, mental health programs and removing culverts that block salmon spawning grounds. We’re worried that “openness” might be little more than lip service. But Wilcox will get a chance to walk that talk while facing the tough fiscal realities of the next legislative session.
The legislator has a reputation for keeping his word. If people trust you, he says, you can get things done.
Wilcox has earned a third term in the Legislature, which he calls the best job he’s ever had. Voters should re-elect him.