Oct. 12 Daily News editorial
Washington State Sen. Dan Swecker, R-Rochester, may be a new face to his thousands of new 20th District constituents in Cowlitz County, but his name and his style are quite familiar in Olympia.
Over the course of 18 years, Swecker's gone from being a mid-term appointee to the vice chair of the Senate's Republican caucus. He's the ranking Republican on an important committee (Government Operations) and has a hard-won reputation as someone with a feel and a talent for assembling alliances and achieving bi-partisan compromises.
He's a decorated Vietnam War veteran who was philosophically well-matched to the former 20th District and may be just as well-matched to the redrawn version, which could be just as reliably conservative as its predecessor.
"Lewis County is still the heart of the district," Swecker told The Daily News' Editorial Board, "and, in Lewis County, if you're not a Republican, you're not going to be elected."
His opponent on the November ballot is John Braun, a 45-year-old Centralia business owner who's seeking public office for the first time, also as Republican. Swecker, 65, has just about every high-profile endorsement while Braun has few.
"That's how we knew it would be," Braun said, "but you win elections with votes and not endorsements."
Which should make our endorsement an easy call, right?
We didn't find it that way at all.
We've met with several "outsiders" attempting to unseat legislative incumbents this fall and Braun struck us as better-informed and better-prepared than just about any of them, probably a necessity for anyone attempting to jump into politics at this advanced level.
His core agenda is Washington's business climate, which he feels is non-competitive with other states and in need of immediate improvement. He's singled out the high costs to business owners of workman's compensation and unemployment insurance and the complexities involved in computing the state's Business & Occupancy tax as three areas where he hopes to make progress in a first term.
We're OK with that list, as is ... Dan Swecker.
"Whether or not we agree on these issues isn't the point," Braun countered. "Dan may recognize the problems, but he's not leading. I will lead. You can't fix something if you don't try."
We liked Braun's confidence and enthusiasm. In contrast, Swecker told us that years of relative safety in a reliably Republican district had made him "a little lazy" and that the challenge of selling himself and his vision to new constituents in Castle Rock, Kalama, Woodland and other points south of the Lewis County line might have been "just what I needed."
Both oppose legalization of marijuana and favor repeal of Washington's same-sex marriage law. Both favor Initiative 1185, which mandates a two-thirds majority in both Legislative houses for a tax increase. Swecker has a long record of conservatism on social issues.
Who, then, is the choice? The veteran pol who doesn't need a map to navigate the Halls of Power or the well-spoken transplanted Ohioan whose expanding company is a regional business success story?
Swecker remains the practical, pragmatic choice. His seniority and knowledge make him a resource for district residents in Olympia that Braun might not be able to duplicate — even if given two full terms.
The differences, primarily in approach and emphasis, between the two didn't strike us as significant enough to warrant a change. Our call is for Swecker in the 20th.