Published November 27, 2012
Democrats pick nominees for key seats, say GOP is includedJORDAN SCHRADER AND BRAD SHANNON
Senate Democrats chose nominees Tuesday for two powerful committee chairmanships, calling for longtime Sen. Jim Hargrove to lead the writing of the state’s operating budget and Tracey Eide, who represents South King County and a sliver of Pierce County, to lead on the transportation budget. The decisions are subject to approval by the full Senate, which is uncertain. Democrats will have a slim 26-23 majority if preliminary election results hold up, giving major leverage to Republicans and middle-of-the-road Democrats. But Democrats made several overtures to their more conservative wing and to the GOP. They offered to create a new bipartisan committee to deal with school-funding issues, to give Republicans their strongest hand in other committees that the minority party might ever have seen, and to give maverick Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, a plum post as president pro tem. Seattle Sen. Ed Murray, newly elected by Democrats as majority leader to replace retiring Sen. Lisa Brown, has asked Republicans to negotiate ahead of the session that starts in January. “In the Senate, we’ve shown a collaborative approach can get results. These proposals will help that collaboration continue in a chamber that often has fluid majorities,” Murray said in a statement. Sheldon and Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, have talked about forcing a power-sharing arrangement in the Senate, rejecting the Democrats’ slate of leaders in favor of choosing some from both parties. Tom is even considered a possible alternative as majority leader, if a pending recount in Clark County doesn’t change the balance of power. Democrats nominated Tom to return as chairman of the Higher Education committee and Sheldon as president pro tem, where he would preside over Senate floor sessions in the absence of Lt. Gov. Brad Owen and serve on the Rules Committee. “I think it’s a good first step,” said Sheldon, who has been largely frozen out of major committee positions in recent years. “I think the caucus is trying very hard to include me, where Sen. Brown as majority leader a couple years ago did not.” Republican Sen. Mark Schoesler of Ritzville called the plan an improvement over past sessions, especially the idea to give Democrats just one seat more than Republicans on most committees and the choice of Hargrove, a conservative from Hoquiam who tends to work across the aisle, as Ways and Means Committee chairman. But Schoesler added, “I think our caucus has broader reforms in mind.” Republicans meet today to elect a new leader to replace Mike Hewitt of Walla Walla, who is stepping down from the top GOP position. Sheldon said he sees a good chance for negotiations once Republicans make their decisions. Whoever is lead budget writer will have to figure out how to comply with a state Supreme Court order to fund schools, which could raise the state’s two-year budget shortfall above $2 billion or even higher. The chairmanship of the Transportation Committee also is critical as legislators consider sending a package of transportation taxes to voters. Chairwoman Mary Margaret Haugen lost her re-election bid, and Democrats recommended Eide, of Des Moines, who represents Federal Way, Pacific and Milton and would be an advocate for South Sound projects. Eide said in a statement she favors “a comprehensive approach to transportation in our state — one that addresses everything from public safety and the movement of goods and services, to ferry boats and infrastructure, highways, county roads and city streets.” Sheldon said he’d like to see the transportation panel equally split, with leaders from both parties and from opposite sides of the Cascades. “Co-chairs on that committee might be a key move to get a transportation package through the Legislature,” Sheldon said. But Thurston County Sen. Karen Fraser, the No. 2 Democrat behind Murray, said the caucus proposals recognize the slim majority Democrats have and are an attempt “to organize in a way that balances the perspectives and the districts. We’re trying to achieve a balance of responsibility across committees.” Democrats also recommended: • Fraser to remain majority caucus chairwoman, David Frockt of Seattle to replace Eide as majority floor leader and Andy Billig of Spokane as majority whip. • Steve Conway of Tacoma to chair the wide-ranging Government Operations, Tribal Relations and Elections Committee. • Nick Harper of Everett as chairman of Human Services and Corrections and new Sen. Jeannie Darneille of Tacoma as vice chairwoman. • Sharon Nelson of Maury Island as vice chairwoman of Ways and Means, with responsibilities for the capital construction budget. • Rosemary McAuliffe of Bothell to remain education chairwoman, with Frockt as co-chairman of the proposed education-funding committee. • Christine Rolfes of Bainbridge Island as Environment chairwoman. • Maralyn Chase of Shoreline as chairwoman of Workforce Development.
Jordan Schrader: 360-786-1826
Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688