The race is on for state House majority leader after the Nov. 2 elections and Rep. Lynn Kessler's retirement from the post after roughly a decade-long run. To hear Kessler tell it, Rep. Pat Sullivan of Covington is House Speaker Frank Chopp's favorite.
Kessler's favorite? Rep. Jeff Morris of Anacortes, who now serves as speaker pro tem and won accolades for his work at the podium during the past legislative session. Kessler said she thinks Morris, a rural Democrat like her, would be "excellent" in that leadership role.
Our news partner Jordan Schrader had this roundup of names mentioned in connection with filling of Kessler's shoes as caucus face and communicator with the public. And we've got a story coming this weekend that gets a little deeper into the scramble for leadership.
Democratic Rep. Kathy Haigh of Shelton had expressed interest in the job in April but by fall had cooled to the idea. She hasn't said who she will support yet, and neither has Rep. Sam Hunt of Olympia.
"I'm not putting in for it. There are two or three people who really want it and I'm sure would be fine with it. I made my decision I want to stay with the issue of education and focus on that. There are a few things I'd like to see changed in the high schools. It's going to be hard getting through the next couple of years without harming education. It's where I should be," Haigh said.
Hunt said he heard from a few of the Democrats angling for the job – including Zack Hudgins of Tukwila.
"I think Sullivan would be really good. I think Zack would be good," Hunt said this week. Asked about Rep. Eileen Cody of west Seattle, he said she would be good in leadership, too. Cody had been in the running for the top position more than a decade ago when the caucus picked Chopp as top gun.
Another Democrat who hasn't announced but could be interesting is Timm Ormsby of Spokane, Hunt said.And with caucus leader Dawn Morrell on the verge of defeat in her Pierce County race, there could be other openings. Hunt said a lawmaker like Rep. Tami Green of Lakewood might fit into one of the roles.
Sullivan is a leading candidate for chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, too, and is the lone leader of that committee returning. But some expect Rep. Ross Hunter, the Finance Committee chairman from Medina, to make a strong push for the budget chairmanship.
Haigh said she would rather see Sullivan stay with budgeting and called him "pretty brilliant and a pretty savvy person." "He would have my support for just about anything he wants to do," she said. But she also said she thinks Finance could be rolled into Ways and Means.
Haigh said she'll deeply miss the budget chair, Rep. Kelli Linville of Bellingham, who conceded her race but was possibly facing a mandatory recount in her close run against Republican Vincent Buys. Haigh said she is basing her votes for leadership posts on a teamwork concept, and she wants to work more collaboratively with Republicans, too.
"Are they good at representing the whole caucus and the whole state or are they more interested in their own back yard and own issues? People who work collaboratively are going to get my support and not those who draw a line and go down fighting for that line," she said.
The reorganization sessions for House Democrats and Republicans are both next Friday, Nov. 19.