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State Representative Cyrus Habib launches campaign for state Senate in 48th District

Last week, when Rodney Tom announced his decision to retire from the Washington State Senate, we observed that Tom’s departure would likely result in a major shakeup in the race, with either State Representative Ross Hunter or Representative Cyrus Habib getting in, and current senate Democratic candidate Joan McBride swapping places with one of them. As I wrote at the time:

In retiring, Tom has dealt the Republican Party a major blow and bolstered Democrats’ hopes of retaking the state Senate. The 48th LD is perhaps the most Democratic of the state’s suburban legislative districts. And since the redistricting of 2011, it has become bluer still, voting almost exclusively for Democrats.

In 2012, this became very evident when Ross Hunter and Cyrus Habib won their state House races by double-digit spreads. Habib, a first time candidate, dispatched Republican Hank Myers – a Redmond City Councilmember! – with astonishing ease. His massive blowout victory shows that the 48th is now a solidly Democratic district.

With Tom gone, the way is now clear for either Hunter or Habib to run. One of them likely will declare for state Senate, and Joan McBride will then be well positioned to run for whichever House seat then opens up. The Washington Senate Democratic Campaign (WSDC) would undoubtedly prefer to have a proven winner as its candidate, so it can direct money and resources into other districts.

Turns out that is exactly what’s happening.

This morning, in a pair of press releases, Habib and McBride officially announced their new plans for 2014. Habib is running for Senate and endorsing McBride for his House seat. McBride is now seeking Habib’s position in the House, with the additional blessing of the House Democratic Caucus. They’re switching places.

“I am proud to represent a district that leads the country in innovation and invention,” Habib said in a statement. “It is critical that we make the needed investments in human and physical capital to secure our continued prosperity and competitiveness. Unfortunately, the Republican leaders in the State Senate have punted on the most pressing issues of the day: education funding, transportation investments, and job growth. I am running to bring both my legislative experience and our district’s socially progressive yet pro economic growth values to the State Senate, where I know I can make an even greater difference.”

“I am excited to work with Joan as a colleague who shares my passion for strong communities, good schools and a transportation system that works,” he added. “I appreciate the opportunity to join–and improve the effectiveness — of the State Senate, and look forward to the campaign ahead.”

McBride, for her part, said she’s ready to join the House Democratic caucus and announced support from several Eastside leaders for her new campaign.

“I originally ran for two reasons: to defeat Rodney Tom and bring my perspective and experience as a longtime Eastside Civic leader to Olympia and continue my record of service,” said McBride. “With Tom out, my priority is to do what’s needed to make a difference on issues that matter — fixing transportation and transit, investing in our schools and families, and protecting our environment.  I think I can make the most immediate impact as part of a dynamic team in the state House.”

“I’m proud of the pressure we put on Tom, and will continue campaigning with the same excitement and focus for the House,” she said.  “For me, it’s always been about serving the people in the best way I know how, not the particular office.”

“I’m excited for Joan to join our caucus and efforts to complete 520, fund our schools and protect the character and quality of our eastside communities,” said senior Democratic State Representative Larry Springer, who has represented the neighboring 45th LD since 2005. “She is a strong, principled voice for our region and will make an immediate, positive impact in the House.”

McBride is also running for House with the support of Ross Hunter, County Executive Dow Constantine, and the mayors of Redmond, Kirkland, and Bellevue (John Marchione, Amy Walen, and Claudia Balducci).

“I know I speak for many when I say that I am thrilled Joan is going to campaign for the House, and we will see her in action next year in Olympia — where we desperately need her passion and commitment to our families and communities,” said Balducci, who has been on the Bellevue City Council for many years. (Bellevue has a council-manager form of government, as does Kirkland).

So, that’s that. The musical chairs have stopped for the time being: Cyrus Habib is now the Democratic Party’s candidate for Senate in the 48th, and Joan McBride is the candidate for the House seat he is vacating. Habib is a proven winner and well liked in his district; he will be favored to win in November against whoever the Republicans send up against him. McBride will be very well positioned to win as well, since the Republicans hadn’t found anyone credible to challenge Habib.

What a difference a week makes. The Democratic Party is now in excellent shape in the 48th Legislative District, and poised for a sweep of legislative races there this fall. That will free up resources to go to races in the 45th and 28th.

I know from talking to activists in the 48th that Cyrus Habib was always at the top of the list of who they wanted to see take on Rodney Tom. He is universally admired and respected within the 48th District Democrats. Thanks to Rodney Tom’s decision to retire – the best thing he ever did for his district – the 48th District Democrats are getting the Senate candidate many of them always wanted.

Joan McBride, meanwhile, is stepping into a race that she has an even better chance of winning. As a new member of the House Democratic caucus from the Eastside, she will have plenty of influence in the caucus room, and she will have quite a few colleagues that she can count on for advice and counsel, including Larry Springer, Ross Hunter, Roger Goodman, Judy Clibborn, and Tana Senn.