Sept. 25 Daily News editorial
Washington Sen. Brian Hatfield easily rattles off stories about the inner workings of the State Legislature, his second home. Hatfield started working as a political aide when he was 21 and was first elected to the House of Representatives six years later. By now, the 46-year-old Democrat's resume includes 10 years in the House and another six in the Senate, separated by two years working for the lieutenant governor.
Hatfield's resume qualifies him as a career politician. However, despite assertions by his Republican opponent, Rick Winsman, we think that Hatfield has stayed in touch with his constituents and shows no sign of the arrogance that years in office can bring.
Hatfield has our full and unqualified endorsement.
The 19th District, which includes Longview, Kelso, all of Wahkiakum and Pacific counties and parts of Grays Harbor County, has been reliably Democratic for decades.
But Democrats in these parts are considerably more middle-of-the-road than the Puget Sound liberals who lead the party in the Legislature. Hatfield is a founder of the "Roadkill Caucus," a centrist group that risks being run over by the left and right fringes and includes both Democrats and Republicans.
Winsman has said that Hatfield's support of same-sex marriage is an example of elected representatives going to Olympia and losing touch with the people they represent. It remains to be seen if voters will uphold the gay marriage law, but we think Hatfield is very much in touch with the voters on most issues, even if it distances him from the more liberal leaders of his party in Olympia.
One example is the measure sponsored by Hatfield that allows decades-old incinerators and boilers at pulp mills to qualify as renewable energy. The bill, which benefits local mills, was signed into law earlier this year.
Hatfield, who quipped that he's more "brown" than "green" on environmental issues, is opposed to a region-wide "programmatic" review of all proposed coal export facilities in the Northwest.
Hatfield's views on fiscal issues are more in synch with what we'd expect from a Democrat. He doesn't support Initiative 1185, which would reinstate the two-thirds majority approval or a vote of the people to raise taxes. Hatfield thinks the measure in unconstitutional, and it's possible the Supreme Court may agree with him. In any case, Hatfield argued that tax increases may be needed if the state wants world-class universities and transportation infrastructure, or to comply with the state Supreme Court's ruling earlier this year that the legislature isn't meeting its constitutional obligation to pay for basic public education.
Hatfield's endorsements show a wide range of support, from the abortion rights group NARAL to the NRA. He's one of six Democrats running for the state House or Senate endorsed by the Association of Washington Business, which favors Republicans in 33 races and notably declined to endorse Winsman, the former director of the Kelso-Longview Chamber of Commerce.
Though Winsman has a full resume of business and civic activities, he's never been elected to city or county office. He's running as a "moderate," which positions him very close to Hatfield on many major issues, seldom the best strategy for an outsider attempting to oust a long-term incumbent.
On coal, he favors the wider-ranging review and promotes the unlikely idea that Millennium Bulk Terminals may eventually be persuaded to yield its lease on its proposed terminal site to a "greener" alternative tenant.
Faced with a choice between two self-defined moderates, we'll take the one who's been earning re-election from 19th District voters for the best part of 19 years.