There are two state House seats up for grabs in the 16th Legislative District, and we recommend Democrat Rebecca Francik, a longtime Pasco public servant, fill one of them.
Political newcomer Everett Maroon, a Democrat from Walla Walla, should fill the other.
This district is particularly diverse, covering Columbia and Walla Walla counties, southern Benton County – including Prosser, Benton City and Finley – and the city of Pasco.
Francik v Rude
When Rep. Terry Nealey, R-Dayton, announced he would not seek a fifth term, Francik said many people encouraged her to run.
Anyone who spends just five minutes with her can tell she is a force, with a vast understanding of many issues. Her depth is impressive.
Francik and her husband have lived in Pasco since 1983 and raised seven children. She grew up on a farm, so she understands challenges facing agriculture. She also is a school librarian, and education is a priority for her.
In addition, she served on the Pasco City Council for 21 years, and the city exploded under her watch. She understands budgets and public records, and she knows how to make big decisions.
Francik has participated on state commissions that focused on infrastructure throughout the state. She also has a unique perspective of the disconnect that can happen between state and city government, such as when a government mandate comes without funding.
In 2016, Francik ran unsuccessfully for the House seat left open when Republican Maureen Walsh of Walla Walla moved to the Senate. Back then, we also recommended voters choose Francik.
Her opponent in this race is Republican Skyler Rude, who was born, raised and educated in Walla Walla. He worked in the telecommunications and insurance industries before becoming the legislative assistant to Walsh in 2015.
Rude’s experience in Olympia is where he shines. He already knows the inner workings of the Legislature and has got contacts.
He is bright, congenial and has impressive endorsements from Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman and Republican State Treasure Duane Davidson.
But even he admits that Francik would probably make connections in the Legislature quickly.
Interviewing the two together was a joy. They are both friendly, positive people who, as moderates, got along well.
Francik was our pick when she ran for the House in 2016, and she’s our pick again.
Jenkin v Maroon
State Rep. Bill Jenkin, R-Prosser, defeated Francik two years ago for his House seat and is just finishing up his first term.
He is a solid lawmaker, but we were wowed by his opponent, Everett Maroon.
Maroon is the executive director of Blue Mountain Heart to Heart, a nonprofit focused on offering support for people with HIV/AIDS and improving our response to the opioid crisis in the region. The organization is helping run the needle exchange program now being offered in Pasco.
Maroon’s knowledge and experience with the challenges surrounding health care, mental illness, substance abuse and health insurance would be invaluable in the Legislature.
Jenkin is a devoted public servant who has a long history of volunteering for his community. He brought the Boys and Girls Club to Prosser and served on the Prosser School Board.
His background in business is a plus. He operated the Edward Jones investment office in Prosser for many years and owns a winery.
While it is difficult for freshman legislators to find huge success, Jenkin was selected to serve on the newly formed Washington Tourism Marketing Authority Board of Directors. That is commendable.
But we were disappointed with his response to the Legislature’s decision last spring to exempt itself from the state Public Records Act.
Jenkin called it an “ah-ha moment,” but we wish he could have seen through party pressure to vote in favor of a bill that caused so much public outrage and was later vetoed by the governor.
While Jenkin’s business sense is helpful, we think health care and mental illness likely will be the toughest issues facing the Legislature in the near term. Maroon’s experience in this arena is needed.
The Tri-City Herald recommends Democrats Rebecca Francik and Everett Maroon for the House in Legislative District 16.