Two Republicans are in a rematch in the Legislative 16th District race for state representative, pitting a respected and experienced incumbent against a determined opponent.
Maureen Walsh of College Place has served in her position since 2005. She owns a restaurant in Walla Walla and knows her district, which includes Columbia and Walla Walla counties and parts of Benton and Franklin counties.
Her opponent, Mary Ruth Edwards, is from Prosser. She is a former Marine and an elementary school teacher and ran against Walsh in 2012.
We admire Edwards’ tenacity. It is never easy running for office and we appreciate those who put in their time and effort to give voters a choice.
That said, Walsh should return to Olympia.
She has been in the political system long enough to know how it operates and has an ability to work well across the aisle. She is a devoted public servant who listens to her constituents and does a good job representing her district.
Walsh is on three committees — Early Learning and Human Services, Technology and Economic Development and Higher Education.
This legislative session is going to focus heavily on how the Legislature can meet the demands of the Washington State Supreme Court’s McCleary decision. The Legislature is constitutionally bound to fully fund basic education in this state, but has not done so, according to the court ruling.
The ramifications of this decision will be tough to wrangle, and it will be imperative to have experienced legislators on the job. Walsh is passionate about early childhood education and is concerned money from those programs could be in jeopardy as the Legislature looks for ways to better fund K-12 education.
Early learning programs help children who may be behind when they start school to get the help they need so they can succeed with their peers. Usually these programs save thousands of dollars later, but they fall outside of basic K-12 funding.
That means legislators could be tempted to raid money from early childhood education in order to meet the financial obligations required by the McCleary ruling.
On the other end of the spectrum is higher education. Walsh’s involvement in this committee will be invaluable as Washington State University proposes its own medical school and the University of Washington wants money to expand its existing medical school program. Higher education funding also needs to be protected, just like early education.
Walsh is in a good position to do that.
Being a school teacher, Edwards could bring a knowledgeable perspective to these discussions on education. However, her understanding of the political machine in Olympia will take time.
Walsh is a known player and that’s what we need right now to get things done.