When you get two attorneys in a room together, it can be a challenge.
Such was the case when we met recently with 8th Legislative District candidates Sharon Brown and Doug McKinley, both lawyers.
Brown, a Republican and former Kennewick City Council member, is the incumbent and has strong backing from powerful and well-connected constituents in the district. McKinley, a Democrat, fully acknowledges that because of Brown’s support base, fund-raising and party affiliation, she is likely to win.
He’s not wrong. Democrats historically face an uphill battle in our largely Republican district. That’s the nature of partisan elections.
As a Democrat, many of McKinley’s talking points are obviously in opposition to the beliefs of a large portion of the district’s constituents.
He believes that folks should be taxed proportionately in order to pay their fair share. That way the wealthiest would pay the most and the poor would be relieved of some tax burden.
He also believes the state’s minimum wage should be raised, a tough sell to many business owners in our community, as wages already continue to escalate by state mandate. McKinley cares deeply about social issues and wants to make sure those who need assistance are cared for and programs are sufficiently funded.
McKinley is a likeable guy, well-versed in the issues and passionate about making a Washington a great place for all to live. Which is something we’d all like to see. But the majority of his beliefs don’t represent the majority of the voters here.
Many see Brown as someone who will mature into a powerhouse of state politics. And that may be true. But in Brown, we often face a dilemma. We have yet to see her shine as brightly as expected.
Brown says she wants to get the Tri-Cities a bigger slice of the budget pie, but gave no specifics.
Brown’s priorities are inline with her district: to create and protect local jobs, fight higher taxes, support Hanford and the diversification of businesses, and maximize resources for education.
Those are all good things. And we think Brown deserves a shot to prove herself more fully in accomplishing those goals.
Unfortunately, this will be a tough time for any lawmaker to triumph for their community. The top challenge in the upcoming session will be the fallout of the McCLeary decision, which is expected to wreak havoc on the budget. In 2012, the State Supreme Court ruled in McCleary v. Washington that the state is not amply funding basic education under the state Constitution. Now lawmakers must determine the definition of adequate funding and find the money to carry it out. That could mean big cuts for other programs and will be a challenge for all to balance their priorities with the court order.
Brown will have to make difficult choices, as will all her colleagues in Olympia. She has the skill set to do just that and we want to see her rise to the occasion. With Brown’s experience and enthusiastic support system, we have high expectations for her next term in office.