Democrats have often conceded vast areas of Eastern Washington without a fight, not a particularly promising trend for the future of our two-party system.
The 15th Legislative District has proved an exception, fielding some interesting Democrats in the last couple of elections.
But as much as we appreciate the diversity these challenger bring to their races, we're sticking with the incumbents.
Chandler vs. Spencer
Paul Spencer is an old-school Eastern Washington Democrat, the kind of politician voters on this side of the Cascade curtain used to send to Olympia regularly.
He's moderate, with ties to agriculture, forestry, tourism and small business -- major pieces of the 15th District's economic base.
He has a history of public service, with credits that include helping found the Skamania County Economic Development Council, which has been key in selling the Columbia Gorge as a tourist destination.
One plank in his platform -- replacing the state sales tax and the business and occupation tax with a progressive income-tax system -- is certain to alienate many of the district's voters.
But the biggest obstacle to Spencer's winning the race is his opponent.
He's running against longtime incumbent Bruce Chandler, whose proven track record in the Legislature makes him the better candidate.
Spencer argues that Eastern Washington's farmers and rural residents need a voice in the Democratic caucus. It's a good point, but Chandler has shown he can work across the aisle to advance the district's interests.
Chandler's work on water and other agricultural issues are prime examples of his leadership. His effectiveness was apparent last session, when he co-sponsored legislation that resulted in faster processing of water rights applications.
His committee assignments -- Agriculture and Natural Resources, Commerce and Labor and Ways and Means -- are all of vital importance to the 15th District.
The state is facing an unprecedented fiscal crisis, with every new revenue forecast delivering another round of terrible news. The projected deficit for the upcoming 2011-13 budget is around $4.5 billion, but that continues to an upwardly mobile target.
Chandler's conservative credentials and five terms in the state House are a needed asset in this economic climate.
Taylor vs. Silva
Occasionally, we have a difficult time making a recommendation because both candidates are so well qualified. This is not one of those occasions.
In the 15th District, Position 2 the choice is difficult because neither of the candidates seems especially well qualified.
Both men have a history or civic service and working with the public on various boards. We don't fault them there.
David Taylor is the incumbent. He's a cattleman and was appointed to the Legislature in 2009, when Dan Newhouse was named state director of agriculture.
His Democratic opponent, Tom Silva, has a chemical engineering degree and is retired from that field.
Silva's platform is not unfamiliar to us. He wants to restore the economy by creating jobs and improve education to make our youth academically competitive and reduce gang activity.
Without a specific plan, though, they are little more than good intentions.
Taylor, on the other hand, has a little legislative experience. He has some specific ideas of how to reduce the gang problem by relaxing the child labor laws and giving younger kids a chance to work.
His ideas for education reform include devising different graduation requirements for kids, depending on if they're headed for higher education or the workplace.
He also wants local schools and governments to have more control and the federal government to have less.
Some of Taylor's ideas are better than others, but it's encouraging to see a novice legislator bring specific ideas to the table.
His idea of environmental policy is disturbing, however. His concept of property rights fails to recognize society's interest in clean air and water.
We would have liked Silva better if he had some specific ideas to address what we all know are the problems.
We would have liked Taylor more if he were a little closer to the political center, especially on environmental issues.
As we said, it's a close call.
All told, though, we are recommending Taylor with a less-than-enthusiastic nod. We would love to see some of his ideas pan out in the Legislature and hope that as he serves he becomes a little more seasoned and effective.
In the 15th Legislative District, the Herald editorial board recommends Brad Chandler for state representative, position 1, and David Taylor for position 2.