Our Voice: State Senate: Sharon Brown

October 20, 2013 

Voters have their first chance to elect someone to fill the 8th Legislative District seat since Jerome Delvin resigned to become a Benton County commissioner earlier this year.

In an odd twist, the Benton County commissioners are the ones who appoint the person to fill a vacated seat in the Legislature. The commissioners opted for then-mayor pro-tem of Kennewick, Sharon Brown.

Brown, an attorney for a Hanford subcontractor, took to the work quickly and is proud to have had six bills signed into law in her first months in the Senate. Her opponent, Richland City Councilman Phillip Lemley, points out that freshmen legislators often get help getting a few bills under their belt from the veterans in their party. She denies getting any special assistance, but we're still impressed with Brown's effectiveness in Olympia.

Lemley is running for the seat because he wanted to ensure Brown had competition. Lemley, who is retired from a long career with Bechtel, has lived in Richland for 12 years and has become ingrained in the community, serving on city boards and volunteering his time with a variety of civic and charitable organizations.

Lemley certainly is earnest in his desire to serve and do his part to make our community better. He's willing to put in the time and do the work, but he's no match for Brown, who received almost 60 percent of the vote in the primary against Lemley and another candidate.

Brown is smart and well-connected and has a long list of supporters with plenty of clout. She served the city of Kennewick well and now is serving our legislative district with the same determination and commitment. We think she likely has a long career in politics ahead of her if she wants it.

But Brown has made some missteps in the Senate and we've criticized her for them, most notably for legislation she proposed that would have made it legal for business owners to discriminate against customers based on the shop owner's religious beliefs. The bill was born because of the ongoing case of a Richland flower shop owner who refused to sell two men flowers for their wedding.

While we want our lawmakers to work to help their constituents, this was not an appropriate venue for that. Brown made a poor choice with the bill, which thankfully did not pass. She concedes the bill could have been more tightly worded but seems comfortable with its intent. She expects to see similar legislation in the next session.

Lemley unequivocally opposes any legislation that would make discrimination legal.

Brown and Lemley say they would work to build relationships with Democrats. Brown is proud of the fact that she was able to have an energy committee hearing held in the Tri-Cities, bringing lawmakers to the people instead of the people having to drive to Olympia. Lemley would like to travel the state and see what problems other communities have so he can work with lawmakers who represent other areas to create mutually beneficial solutions.

We fully expect Brown to win the election and she should. We'd like to see her develop as a lawmaker and sincerely work to build relationships with all manner of her peers in Olympia to help get things done for our state and community.

The Herald editorial board recommends Sharon Brown for state Senate.

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