BY THE NEWS TRIBUNE EDITORIAL BOARD SEPTEMBER 30, 2020 05:50 AM, UPDATED OCTOBER 13, 2020 10:09 PM

Washington political handicappers are being tested in suburban West Pierce County, home to one of 2020’s tightest legislative races. Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-Tacoma, has met his match in T’wina Nobles, a Fircrest Democrat, to retain the 28th District Senate seat he’s held since 2013 and Republicans have locked down for decades.

Nobles edged O’Ban by 235 votes out of 43,983 cast in the August primary. More than a million dollars have poured into the contest, with Nobles so far outraising O’Ban by nearly $50,000. (Four years ago, O’Ban outraised a different Democratic challenger by more than $160,000.)

“I have been elected three times because I think voters see that I fit the district well,” O’Ban told us in a joint interview with Nobles.

Yet the 28th is a swing district that lately has swung away from the right. Nobles is a powerful voice for that transformation, speaking up for working families in the era of coronavirus and other hardships.

We endorse Nobles for a four-year term representing West Tacoma, Lakewood, University Place, Fircrest, DuPont, Steilacoom and local island communities.

Nobles, 38, is a 15-year resident of the district who came to the area as a JBLM military spouse. Now in her second term on the University Place School Board, she has a clear-eyed view of public education challenges.

Likewise, her three years as president and CEO of the Tacoma Urban League make her well grounded on business and social service issues, particularly for people of color.

“I focus on anticipating the needs of our community, especially now during COVID-19,” Nobles said, noting how she’s led Urban League efforts to distribute personal protective equipment, mortgage assistance and student laptops.

Count her among a new generation of hands-on Black leaders mentored by Tacoma’s Harold Moss, who died Sept. 21. Her abilities have been noted nationally with a rare endorsement from Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

We endorse Nobles for a four-year term representing West Tacoma, Lakewood, University Place, Fircrest, DuPont, Steilacoom and local island communities.

Nobles, 38, is a 15-year resident of the district who came to the area as a JBLM military spouse. Now in her second term on the University Place School Board, she has a clear-eyed view of public education challenges.

Likewise, her three years as president and CEO of the Tacoma Urban League make her well grounded on business and social service issues, particularly for people of color.

“I focus on anticipating the needs of our community, especially now during COVID-19,” Nobles said, noting how she’s led Urban League efforts to distribute personal protective equipment, mortgage assistance and student laptops.

Count her among a new generation of hands-on Black leaders mentored by Tacoma’s Harold Moss, who died Sept. 21. Her abilities have been noted nationally with a rare endorsement from Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

O’Ban, 59, is a capable incumbent whom we’ve endorsed in the past. The constitutional lawyer and Senate GOP caucus insider is a longtime apostle of cheaper car tabs and Sound Transit reform.

On mental health and addiction issues, O’Ban has few peers in Olympia. His day job as senior counsel for behavioral health for Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier, which he’s had since 2017, has sharpened that expertise. But we’re concerned those dual roles may entangle his political interests with his professional duties.

O’Ban is a leader on integrated mental and physical healthcare; we hope he continues that important work in his county job or the nonprofit realm.

But in our view, Nobles should replace him in the Washington Senate.

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