Jackley has baggage of his own this time

The rematch shaping up between state Rep. Brock Jackley and challenger Lois McMahan in the 26th District figures to be a good deal more entertaining to watch this time around than when Jackley first earned the seat two years ago.

McMahan, the Olalla Republican who from 1996 to 1998 held the 26th District House seat currently occupied by Pat Lantz, last week formally announced her intention to challenge Jackley. McMahan easily won the GOP nomination in 2000 and faced off against against Jackley, a Democrat and relative newcomer to politics from Manchester.

In that race, McMahan enjoyed strong support from her Republican base in South Kitsap while Jackley obviously fared better in Gig Harbor, which trends somewhat Democratic. The difference seemed to be moderate swing voters, who preferred Jackley’s low-key approach to McMahan’s outspoken conservatism.

This time around, however, Jackley won’t have the luxury of running on McMahan’s negatives. After two years on the job, Jackley now has a track record of his own to defend, not the least of which is his vocal support for the recent Tacoma Narrows Bridge legislation.

In the only opportunity residents of the 26th District were ever given to express their opinion about the controversial project, more than 80 percent of them rejected the plan during a 1998 advisory election. And it’s hard to imagine their views have moderated much in the meantime, as the price of the project has ballooned from $350 million to more than $800 million and construction has been delayed for a year and a half because the state Supreme Court ruled the original proposal violated several state laws.

Nonetheless, Jackley joined forces with Lantz and 26th District Republican Sen. Bob Oke in the most recent session to push through a bill that would put the project back on track by eliminating the laws that were broken.

Jackley, like Lantz, argued a bridge was necessary and inevitable and devoted his efforts during his first term to negotiating what he believed was the best possible answer rather than trying to oppose the project altogether. In doing so, Jackley is clearly gambling he knows more about his constituents’ wishes than a casual observer might guess based solely on the results of the 1998 bridge election.

He’d better hope so. Without question the state’s transportation problems in general and the bridge legislation in particular will be the defining issues of the campaign for Jackley, Lantz and Oke. If Jackley has miscalculated the feelings of his constituents, McMahan won’t be the only candidate carrying around a lot of baggage this time around.

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