Legislative politics: President, governor, AG and speaker

As always money and power will be on the line and it will be an exciting session.

Bob Roegner

Bob Roegner

I was in Olympia last week and would encourage all of you who are interested in public policy to make a visit as well. Every week brings new players and issues to the forefront. The old statement “‘two things you should never watch being made are sausage and laws” is currently more true at the national level with split government.

Although you may have noticed with all the maneuvering over the last few weeks on homelessness it can also be true at City Hall.

But in Olympia the Democrats are in control of the Senate, House and the Governor’s Office with majorities large enough the outcomes are more predictable. Republicans will mostly play defense. But the Democrats must be careful to not overplay their hand or the control will be short-lived. It’s happened before.

In the last two weeks we had one governor coming in and one governor going out, as former California Gov. Jerry Brown came for a visit and current Washington Gov. Jay Inslee was leaving for New Hampshire and eyeing a possible run for president. Inslee is hoping that his message of climate change, global warming, and its implications for the future of the planet, will resonate with the liberal base and vault him into contender status. While many think it is a long shot, remember Jimmy Carter, Georgia and Bill Clinton, Arkansas, were small state governors when they captured voters’ attention and momentum. Carter with his outsider status and small-town values, and Clinton with his charisma.

But even if that fails, Inslee may create enough support to be considered for vice president, or a cabinet position such as the Environmental Protection Agency, in a Democratic administration.

Inslee still retains an option to run for a third term, but the sub-text assumes Inslee’s departure and was mostly about who would replace him as two well-known Democrats, King County Executive Dow Constantine and Attorney General Bob Ferguson are eyeing the job.

Republican candidates for governor are still quiet, although Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier and Secretary of State Kim Wyman were mentioned. Wyman is the only state-wide Republican officeholder and is good at her job. She seems likely to stay where she is. If Inslee does move on and the dominoes start to fall, who will be candidates for King County executive or attorney general? Democratic King County Council member Claudia Balducci from Bellevue is thought to be interested in executive if Constantine moves up. Attorney general possibilities include Balducci’s fellow County Council member Rod Dembowski, who might also be interested in being executive, along with local 30th District Democratic House member Mike Pellicciotti. Pellicciotti already works in the attorney general’s office and has pushed legislation popular with voters to stop dark, third party money, and to tighten rules on former legislators becoming lobbyists.

Another possibility is current Solicitor General Noah Purcell who has been the point man on much of the state’s battle with President Trump.

But the most interesting byproduct in Olympia of the 2018 elections has been a very visible change in gender, as females propelled the Democrats into control of the Senate and increased their seats in the House. Women are not only more visible, they have reaped the rewards of winning — power!

House Speaker Frank Chopp announced his intent to step down as speaker, but stay in the Legislature, and his replacement won’t be Pat Sullivan who is talented and would be logical. It will likely be one of three women.

Leading candidates include Rep. June Robinson who was appointed in 2013 and has been re-elected since. She works in Public Heath; Rep. Laurie Jenkins,Tacoma, also works in the health field and was first elected in 2010. She also has a law degree. Monica Stonier has a masters from WSU and works at a middle school.

Chopp is considered the most powerful speaker ever in Olympia as his strategic abilities of maintaining discipline will be missed. But with a large group of new legislators, Chopp may not want to herd cats, or kittens said one observer? Was two decades enough, or is it just that youth must be served?

Whatever the reason, his skills will be needed when the end of the session is in sight and all the chips are on the table.

There is some concern that more attention will be placed on who the next speaker will be and not enough on policy accomplishments that will be needed gearing up for 2020. Whoever wins will have to learn quickly.

Voters in the 30th District will see more power come our way as second-term Democrat Rep. Kristine Reeves moved into a leadership position as deputy majority whip in the House. That positions her for the future, while helping us now.

She has introduced legislation to help mothers with child care, and will also work on issues for veterans, the homeless and has reached out to help business in Federal Way through the Chamber of Commerce.

Over in the Senate, freshman Democratic Sen. Claire Wilson will also work as a whip and her focus will be K-12 and special education.

Mental health, K-12 and higher education will continue as major issues, but look for gun control and anti-gun control supporters to be highly visible along with pro–choice and pro-life advocates. If that doesn’t interest you then watch for plastic bags, straws and environmental issues.

As always money and power will be on the line and it will be an exciting session.

Go visit and enjoy the theater. And watch Frank Chopp pull the strings one last time.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.

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