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Editorial: Smith well suited for job

The Republican Party did a good job in finding a fully qualified replacement for State Rep. Chris Strow, who resigned in December.

In picking Norma Smith to fill out Strow’s term, the GOP leaders gave us someone who is ready to step in with minimal training and represent the people of the 10th Legislative District from the opening gavel of the 2008 Legislative Session which begins Jan. 14 in Olympia.

The county commissioners from the three 10th District counties met last night, after this newspaper’s press time, to make the decision on the appointment final. We can only assume they did the logical and right thing and made it official that Smith is our new representative.

This is no time for amateurs. Smith, a Clinton resident, is well versed in local, regional and national politics. She was elected to the South Whidbey School Board and later served her congressional district as an aide to the late Congressman Jack Metcalf. Later, she ran two good but ultimately failed campaigns for office. She lost to Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen for State Senate and to Rep. Rick Larsen for U.S. Congress. But she made a favorable impression along the way and showed she knows the issues.

First on the agenda for our new state representative is the Washington State Ferry System and its virtual abandonment of Whidbey Island’s Keystone to Port Townsend route. With the Steel Electric car ferries pulled from the route in November, there has been only foot-ferry service since then. And even that has been sporadic due to the tidal conditions and weather for which the route is notorious.

The state needs to return a car ferry to the route pronto, and quickly adopt and fund a long-term solution.

Just as important are the continuing issues of education and the state’s unfair tax structure. Smith’s school board background will serve her well on the education front, and as a Republican she worries about taxes being too high on the small businesses that are the backbone of the economy in the 10th District. Republicans are a minority in Olympia, so Smith will have to be persuasive to get much accomplished. But is she makes an ally of Sen. Haugen, a Democrat, her influence can extend beyond her freshman status.

And of course there are the “unfunded mandates,” which are orders from the state that local jurisdictions have to carry out and pay for. With a plethora of new regulations to protect Puget Sound coming down from Olympia, it’s critical that funding come with them or some cities such as Oak Harbor could run into serious financial difficulties.

Smith will have a full plate when she gets to Olympia, but she has a track record that shows she can handle it.

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