We wish we didn't have to attach an asterisk to our support for Lt. Gov. Brad Owen's re-election.
But recent revelations that he blurred the lines between his office and his charitable work for the nonprofit he created, Strategies for Youth, gave us pause.
The missteps center on three troubling issues -- the organization paid Owen's wife a total of $25,000 for work she did during the course of a few years, paid for a $33,000 truck the Owen family drove for personal use, and an office staffer conducted fund-raising activities for the charity while on the state's clock.
It's regrettable to see anything taint Owen's otherwise stellar record, but these transgressions don't outweigh the outstanding service he's provided to the people of Washington during 16 years in office.
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We're confident that going forward, Owen will draw a much brighter line that will ensure his conduct remains above reproach.
Despite straying into some gray areas, we admire Owen's efforts to make Strategies for Youth successful.
The constitutional duties of the lieutenant governor's office -- presiding over the state Senate and filling in whenever the governor is absent from the state -- don't add up to a full-time job.
That Owen opted to spend much of his free time to fight school bullying and help keep kids off drugs speaks to his strength of character.
In addition to his efforts on behalf of Washington youth, Owen has been a tireless promoter of international trade. With 40 percent of jobs in the state tied to trade, it's difficult to imagine a better way for him to spend the months when the Legislature isn't in session.
Trade is especially important to the Mid-Columbia. The value of agricultural products exported overseas now is at $11.4 billion a year, according to the Washington Council on International Trade.
Owen's extracurricular activities have left him vulnerable to criticism -- some of it justified -- but Washington residents have benefited as a result.
Owen carries out his primary duty, presiding over the Senate, with nonpartisan efficiency. It's a crucial role, requiring extensive knowledge of parliamentary protocol and an unquestioned sense of fairness. Owen has demonstrated both qualities during his tenure.
His opponent, former Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Finkbeiner, would be a capable leader, if elected. His experience as a legislator has prepared him to effectively run the Senate.
But Owen has redefined the office to address a broader array of issues important to Washington residents. He deserves another term.
The Tri-City Herald editorial board recommends Brad Owen for lieutenant governor.