Lt. Gov. Brad Owen has done an adequate job for 16 years.
But we believe new leadership is needed in that office. State government, particularly the Legislature, has been somewhat dysfunctional in recent years.
Challenger Bill Finkbeiner, a Kirkland Republican who served 14 years in the Legislature, will bring new ideas and energy to the office.
Finkbeiner has been going after Owen, a moderate Democrat, with the intensity of a linebacker. He’s clearly not afraid of helmet-to-helmet contact.
Finkbeiner blasted Owen’s use of surplus campaign funds to pay for events for staff and dignitaries, including money for alcohol, gifts and lunches. Finkbeiner conceded many others in elected offices use excess campaign funds for similar expenses that can be linked to official duties. While he understands it is not a violation of the law, he finds the practice unethical and beneath that of the lieutenant governor.
Owen said he is careful how he spends surplus campaign funds that have been donated to his re-election campaign. He said he uses them for such things as promoting the state to trade groups and to reward his staff members for their hard work.
In addition, there have been other concerns about Owen such as using his nonprofit Strategies for Youth, an anti-bullying group, as an extension of his official government duties.
Owen, correctly, states that he has always been up front about the blending of his official duties and his work with anti-bullying and other charitable causes.
Owen might have blurred a few lines, but we don’t see this as significant ethical lapses.
However, it’s not good either.
Owen has taken it upon himself to stretch the duties of the office beyond serving as the backup to the governor and president of the state Senate. Owen, for example, has worked to boost foreign trade for Washington, including helping Walla Walla winemakers sell their product overseas.
We believe Owen should be focusing much more energy on righting the ship.
A new approach and new energy is needed in Olympia.
Owen doesn’t see it the same way. He said he felt he has been doing a good job and he saw no area where he should work to improve.
Finkbeiner vows to take action aimed at reducing gridlock and partisan bickering. For example, he believes forcing senators to sit next to senators from the opposing party and eliminating the aisle that separates Republicans and Democrats will bring the Senate together.
We aren’t convinced that’s going to work, but it couldn’t make the situation in the Capitol any worse.
Finkbeiner is a moderate Republican who has experience in the Senate, once serving as majority leader. He is smart, motivated and aggressive.
Again, Owen does an acceptable job.
But we believe Finkbeiner would make an excellent lieutenant governor, particularly at this time.