Democrats asserting power in Olympia

When the Washington state Legislature meets in January it will be a short 60-day session as all of the House of Representatives and half of the state Senate will be up for election.

With Manka Dhingra’s win in the 45th district, the Democrats have taken control of the Senate, and with it comes control of the capital. That will give the Democrats a very narrow edge in each chamber as they meet the age-old threshold for passing a bill into law. They need 25 votes in the Senate, 50 votes in the House and Gov. Jay Inslee’s signature. They now have the magic numbers in place.

The betting is that they will be out by day 58. That is early to gain political points with the public.

The Democrats will still need to negotiate with Republicans on some items but now bear the burden of responsibility for the final product.

But the new alignment has not stopped the politics, as many bills will be introduced for their political benefit or to make the other side look bad by voting against it.

This past week, the Democrats took control of the Senate committee structure by naming chairs and co-chairs.

Dhingra is the new star, but she is not home free and is likely to face the same battle next year as she seeks re-election. In an attempt to give her some visibility, the Democrats named her vice-chair of two committees: law and justice and human services and corrections.

In the party changeover, local District 30 Republican Sen. Mark Miloscia lost his chairmanship.

Miloscia is up for re-election in 2018. Rumors swirl about who might challenge him. Some locals are pushing the idea that either Democrat representative, Mike Pellicciotti or Kristine Reeves, might take on the task.

Reeves is mentioned most often. However, that appears to be a red herring from would-be candidates hoping she will take the bait before they run and have her vacate her seat.

That is not likely to happen, and neither is Pellicciotti running.

The two Democrats get high marks from non-partisan capital watchers and will be hard to beat in their re-election efforts. Each has a political future if they play their cards right.

However, they will still have opposition, and perennial candidate and Federal Way resident Mark Greene has already indicated his plan to run against Reeves by starting his attacks early. His questioning of an award she received for her commitment to assisting veterans only helped remind voters of her priorities.

One name circulating as a possible candidate against Miloscia is former Federal Way City Council candidate Sharry Edwards, who has been active with the Democrats for several years.

In the right situation, Edwards could be a candidate. Current council member Susan Honda has also been mentioned, but she doesn’t sound interested.

Speculation also includes former Councilwoman Kelly Maloney as a possible Republican candidate for state representative, but part of her job is as a lobbyist. If she shows any early interest in running, it would undermine her ability to lobby the Democrats effectively, and waiting until after the session hampers her ability to raise money. Former House members Linda Kochmar and Teri Hickel also seem unlikely.

Other names will surface during the holidays, as potential candidates test the waters.

Come January, watch for the Legislature to try and pass the capital budget as soon as possible, with our legislators likely to help as there is money in the budget dedicated for projects in city government, schools, local business, community groups and Highline College.

Pellicciotti will work on a compromise on the Sound Transit funding to give taxpayers a break while keeping the mass transit project headed toward its next stop in Federal Way. Reeves will work the capital budget along with veterans and economic development. All three will work on the education, homelessness and other issues important locally.

If you can go visit the Legislature while it is in session, it is worth attending. It is interesting to watch your democracy in action. But always look for the real story beneath the surface.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn and retired public official. He can be reached at bjroegner@comcast.net.

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