We are less than a week away from election day, and the Gig Harbor and Key peninsulas have had an earful this time around. A good portion of the back-and-forth has been focused on the Peninsula School District’s Proposition 1, the four-year, $50 million capital levy we endorsed earlier this month. The rest of the campaigning has been for the highly publicized state Senate race between Sen. Nathan Schlicher, D-Gig Harbor, and Rep. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard.
While Angel — a strong conservative who focuses on small businesses, property rights and veterans’ affairs — would make a fine Senator, we think Schlicher’s background in health care is an essential fit, particularly as the federal Affordable Health Care Act is rolled out and adjustments need to be made at the state level.
Schlicher, who was appointed to the seat in January after Derek Kilmer was elected to Congress, must now defend the seat. And his willingness to do so was one of the reasons he was chosen by a joint panel of Pierce County Council members and Kitsap County Commissioners. Another candidate who was pushed forward from local precinct committee officers wavered and was noncommittal about running this fall.
Not so for Schlicher, who works as an emergency room physician at St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma. He also has University of Washington law degree, which he pursued before he doctoral degree once he was told he was too young to enter medical school. He’ll turn 31 next month.
Schlicher immediately jumped in to fill roles on the Senate’s Health Care, Trade & Economic Development and Transportation committees. He prime-sponsored more than a dozen bills, including ones that dealt with the state ferry system, tolling on the Narrows bridge, levies for metropolitan parks districts and health care initiatives. In fact, Angel was a prime sponsor on a handful of companion bills in the House, particularly when the subject had a direct impact on our 26th Legislative District. His broad knowledge serves him well, and his responsible work ethic pushes him to educate himself on issues with which he might not be familiar.
Angel, who scored a nine-point win in the primary in August — a margin that was larger in her home Kitsap County — is a three-term representative who has been in the House since 2009. She’s currently the ranking minority member of the Community Development Housing & Tribal Affairs Committee, and she also sits on the House’s Health Care & Wellness and Transportation committees.
This particular race has drawn a lot of attention and money from out-of-state interests on both sides. It’s gotten so nasty that Angel declared last week that she needed to speak to constituents, rather than the media, to clarify misleading information about some of her votes.
It should come as no surprise that both sides of the aisle and, most notably, Political Action Committees that claim they’re not endorsed by any particular candidate, push information that attempts to skew public perception during a campaign. It’s turned a competitive race between two good candidates into a war of who can sling mud the farthest.
Voters will do their best to sort out the nonsense if they understand the truth is somewhere in between, that votes may appear on a bill with a title that doesn’t tell the whole story, and that many concepts often are included in legislation. That’s how bills die when they otherwise appear to be good, commonsense laws.
The power struggle in the Legislature — and the reason why a potential state record has been spent in this race — is because the Senate is controlled by the minority Republican party through the Majority Coalition Caucus, which includes two Democrats. The 26th is a swing district, and Republicans hope they can pick up another seat with Angel.
We’d prefer that Angel stay in the House, where she’s picked up hard-earned seniority, and where she can continue to be an effective voice for our region.
Schlicher has done more than enough to retain his seat in the Senate, and his expertise in medical policy is something unique to either chamber. We could use his voice in state government.