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Where's the local support?

Editorial for April 9, 2009

Since the mid-1980s, the 15th Legislative District -- which includes all of Klickitat County, all of Skamania County, and parts of Yakima County and Clark County -- has been represented exclusively by politicians from Yakima County.

For many years, the district's three representatives in the Washington Legislature have been State Sen. Jim Honeyford (R.-Sunnyside) and State Reps. Bruce Chandler (R.-Granger) and Dan Newhouse (R.-Sunnyside) -- all from Yakima County.

These representatives have been doing a solid job overall, but bringing some balance to our legislative contingent would be beneficial to the district. New perspectives are helpful.

In February, a vacancy came open in the 15th District when Rep. Newhouse was selected by Gov. Christine Gregoire to be director of the Department of Agriculture. With that vacancy came an opportunity to lessen the domination of Yakima County in the district's representation.

Commissioners from the four counties within the district gathered on March 30 to vote for Newhouse's replacement. The Republican precinct committee officers (PCOs) named Jake Anderson of White Salmon as their preferred choice among the three candidates they forwarded for consideration.

But the 12 commissioners ended up voting 8-4 for David Taylor ... of Yakima County.

The breakdown in the vote was interesting: All three of Skamania County's Commissioners went for Anderson, along with one from Clark County. Naturally, all three Yakima County Commissioners went for Taylor, as did two Clark County Commissioners. That essentially gave the Klickitat County Board of Commissioners the balance of power in this decision. Yet all three of them -- David Saunter, Rex Johnston, Ray Thayer -- turned their backs on a qualified local guy and voted for the Yakima County candidate.

Where is the support for the "home team"?

The commissioners apparently went for Taylor because he is "more experienced." Well, that goes back to an old issue: How is someone going to get experience if no one gives him a chance?

We have nothing against Taylor. He may prove to be a fine representative. And no one suggests that the Klickitat County Commissioners should blindly support the local candidate if he is not worthy of the appointment. Yet by all accounts, Anderson is a well-spoken and enthusiastic candidate. He has a solid business background in agriculture and in forest products, industries that are key to the 15th District. Further, he has been elected to two terms as secretary of the Klickitat County Republicans.

Sure, Anderson is young -- 26 -- but again, that youthfulness could benefit our district. A fresh outlook on the issues is not a bad thing, is it?

Unfortunately, it looks like Taylor was selected at least in part because of blatantly political considerations: Taylor was seen as having a better chance of holding the seat for the Republicans in the November election because he's from a more populous county and may be able to more readily raise campaign funds.

Before taking the vote, many of the commissioners' questions to the three finalists dealt with their ability to be elected in the fall. That may be fine for partisan politics, but how is focusing on electability truly in the best interest of Klickitat County?

If Anderson was bypassed because he might lose in November, that was wrongheaded. We see no good reason for our commissioners to deny Anderson a chance to serve the district for a few months and allow him to gain some valuable experience. And, frankly, Yakima County already has more than enough representation.

As the support Anderson received from the party's PCOs demonstrated, Anderson deserved the opportunity to serve as the district's state representative. It was a surprise and a real disappointment that all three of our commissioners decided to back yet another Yakima County candidate instead.



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