Missing Andy Hill already | Don Brunell

Don Brunell. Staff image.

American elections traditionally have been cantankerous. Some early political feuds were so bitter they were settled with pistols in duels—-the most famous of which occurred between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton in 1804. Hamilton was killed.

Thankfully, dueling is outlawed because this presidential election has been so vicious that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump may have been tempted to consider one.

The nastiness of 2016 has been malignant. It has voters wondering if our nation can be re-united and governed, or will the scars be like tattoos which never disappear?

The healing starts when the candidates accept the election results, park their political resentment, and genuinely attempt to bring a very diverse electorate together. Just like finding a cure for cancer, it takes an unwavering commitment and hard work.

In Washington State, we have been blessed with a number of elected officials who can set aside differences and come together.

State Senator Andy Hill was one. Tragically, Hill lost his battle with lung cancer last week. He was 54 and leaves behind his wife, Molly, and three children.

Hill represented the 45th Legislative District, which includes Redmond, Woodinville, Kirkland, Sammamish and Duvall. He was first elected to the legislature in 2010, and rose quickly to become the state senate’s chief budget writer.

Hill was smart, affable, hardworking and pragmatic.

In 2014, the Association of Washington Business presented him with the Jim Matson Award as the Legislator of the Year noting Hill was instrumental in building a sustainable budget which put students first by adding $1 billion for basic education and halting three decades of college tuition increases.

“The easy way out is to raise taxes,” Hill said in accepting AWB’s award. “The hard way is to sit in a room with your Democratic counterpart and hammer it out line by line. We were able to change the fundamental trajectory of spending and we were able to do it in a bipartisan manner.”

“I’m the kind of guy who with toothpaste I squeeze the tube as absolutely empty as I can get it and then I cut it open and scrape out the rest,” Hill told TVW’s Austin Jenkins in 2014. “I think that is how I would approach budgeting this year.”

Even though Hill and his Republican colleagues battled majority Democrats in the House and Gov. Jay Inslee over budget and taxes, they were able to come to an agreement.

Hill and Inslee had serious differences. Inslee wanted lawmakers to pass a set of additional taxes to balance the state’s budget and increase spending. The governor proposed a new capital gains tax and wanted to tax carbon emission, but Hill and the Republicans argued new taxes would hurt the state’s recovering economy. They wanted the state to live within its means.

The next chapter in the tax and spending debate kicks off in January, but unfortunately it will happen without Hill.

Hill’s death prompted Inslee to call him a “strong champion for education and a compassionate advocate for people with disabilities.”

The Seattle Times noted Andy Hill stood out as a remarkable legislator in this time of divided politics. He was a strong budget negotiator, but he avoided demonization of his opponents.

Hill died from lung cancer even though he never smoked. His death came 20 years after another formidable state senator with a wife and three children, J.T. Quigg who also was a non-smoker from Hoquiam, died from lung cancer at age 49. Like Hill, Quigg as an affable elected official who got things done.

Both fought hard, but did not personalized differences. They are good examples to follow.

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at theBrunells@msn.com.