Politics & Government

House Democrats pick Pettigrew as caucus chairman

Seattle area Rep. Eric Pettigrew is the new chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, beating out Shelton Rep. Kathy Haigh for the No. 3 caucus position.

Pettigrew, now the highest ranking African American in the Legislature, has been chairman of the House's appropriations committee on health and human services and Haigh chairs the House appropriations committee on education. Pettigrew joins Speaker Frank Chopp of Seattle, Majority Leader Pat Sullivan of Covington, Majority Whip Kevin Van De Wege of Sequim, and Floor Leader Tami Green of Lakewood as top members of the caucus leadership team.

Also elected today was Rep. Jim Moeller of Vancouver as speaker pro tem. Moeller replaces Rep. Jeff Morris of Anacortes, who had run for majority leader, and he beat out Rep. Larry Springer of Kirkland for the post.Green had no opponent and replaces Rep. Zach Hudgins. She had been deputy floor leader.

Pettigrew replaces Rep. Dawn Morrell of Puyallup, who lost her seat in the Nov. 2 election by 30 votes.House Democrats still have not completed their work to appoint chairs to various committees, including the important Ways and Means chairmanship held by out-going Rep. Kelli Linville of Bellingham. She narrowly lost her re-election bid in a recount.

Senate Democrats completed their leadership team and committee chair appointments earlier this week. They named tentative leaders last month including Thurston County Sen. Karen Fraser as caucus chair, the No. 2 Senate Democratic role.

House Republicans completed their line-up last month, re-electing Richard DeBolt of Chehalis as minority leader, and Senate Republicans earlier re-elected Sen. Mike Hewitt of Walla Walla as minority leader.

It is not clear how soon committee memberships will be completed for all four caucuses.

With Sen. Rosa Franklin, D-Tacoma, retiring this year, Pettigrew will become the lone African American serving in the 147-member Legislature. Franklin had been president pro tem in the Senate and is replaced next year by Sen. Margarita Prentice.