Editorial: McDermott and Fitzgibbon would serve Vashon well

Few elected officials have the ability to affect the civic lives of Islanders more than the man or woman who holds the District 8 seat on the King County Council.

The county is our most immediate layer of government. It provides funding for police officers and prosecutors, road repairs and bus service, public health and parks. And while complaining about the county is a sport on Vashon, many of us turn to it for one service or another nearly every day.

That’s why it’s imperative that we elect someone who understands Vashon and can advocate effectively for us. For years, we’ve been lucky in that regard, with Dow Constantine — a politician with strong ties to the Island — serving as our representative on the council. We stand to be lucky again, if district voters elect Joe McDermott to complete Constantine’s unexpired term.

McDermott, a state senator since 2007 and a member of the House for seven years before that, is a veteran politician and policymaker. He’s smart, levelheaded, warm and thoughtful. Politically, he’s liberal; he supports far-reaching tax reform, strong environmental protections and an extension of civil rights protections to transgendered people. He’s also strong on Vashon issues and speaks easily on any number of Island matters — from the Dockton Road seawall debate to the future of the Glacier Northwest site.

At a forum Friday night, the other three candidates for the open seat sounded either ignorant about county government in general or Vashon issues in particular. When asked where he would cut if budget problems persisted, Shawn McEvoy, arguably the second strongest candidate after McDermott, said he’d consider axing the county’s new ferry district.

An honest answer, perhaps, but not the person we want representing us on the council, when advocacy for the financially precarious district will be essential.

McDermott will be able to make his way through the politically complex terrain of King County — and we believe he’ll do so with Vashon’s best interests in mind.

In the race for the 34th District House seat being vacated by Islander Sharon Nelson, the choice is not quite as obvious. Three strong Democrats are vying for the spot — all of whom are progressive on a number of important statewide and Vashon issues.

But after Friday night’s forum, we came away particularly impressed by Joe Fitzgibbon, a young man Islander Ivan Weiss recently described as a legislative prodigy. We could see why.

At the forum, he comported himself with considerable grace and ease, sounding just the right note on issues ranging from waste within the Washington State Ferries system to the Legislature’s proposed clean water act, which would raise a portion of the voter-approved hazardous substance tax to fund stormwater pollution cleanup projects across the state.

Fitzgibbon is 23; should he win, he’d likely be the youngest lawmaker in Olympia. But his youth hardly seems a liability when it comes to political smarts. Indeed, it could be seen as an asset when one considers that the decisions of today’s elected leaders will ultimately have a greater effect not on those of us who are over 50 but on our youngest citizens.

We believe that a vote for Fitzgibbon would be an investment in our future.

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