Don Benton, R-17
Don Benton, R-17

Break­ing news out of Clark Coun­ty this after­noon: Entrenched Repub­li­can incum­bent Don Ben­ton, who has long been one of Tim Eyman’s biggest boost­ers in the Leg­is­la­ture, is retir­ing from the Wash­ing­ton State Senate.

Via The Columbian:

Ben­ton said in a state­ment Sat­ur­day that he will fin­ish his cur­rent term, which expires at the end of the year. Ben­ton also works as Clark County’s direc­tor of envi­ron­men­tal ser­vices. He said he made his deci­sion to leave the Leg­is­la­ture with “a heavy heart,” but added his boss­es at the coun­ty didn’t want him to con­tin­ue serv­ing as a law­mak­er while also work­ing as the envi­ron­men­tal ser­vices director.

Ben­ton is one of sev­er­al mil­i­tant Repub­li­cans in the Wash­ing­ton State Leg­is­la­ture who espous­es anti-gov­ern­ment views despite hold­ing a pub­lic sec­tor job.

In case you’ve for­got­ten, these were the out­ra­geous cir­cum­stances under which Ben­ton got that job more than two years ago:

Claims of crony­ism are sweep­ing through Clark Coun­ty gov­ern­ment after a state sen­a­tor [Ben­ton] was giv­en the job of a man who may have exposed a mis­use of Clark Coun­ty funds.

That’s caused out­rage from hun­dreds of citizens.

So far, one coun­ty employ­ee has resigned in protest over this hire. A protest also is planned for out­side of the Clark Coun­ty com­mis­sion­ers meet­ing Tues­day — with more than 200 peo­ple so far sign­ing up to speak at that meeting.

“Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the poten­tial for abuse now seems to be the prac­tice,” said Demo­c­rat Steve Stu­art, chair of the non-par­ti­san Clark Coun­ty Board of Commissioners.

A lit­tle more con­text: It’s impor­tant to under­stand that at the time, Clark Coun­ty (which encom­pass­es Amer­i­ca’s Van­cou­ver) was gov­erned by a three-mem­ber coun­ty com­mis­sion made up of two mil­i­tant Repub­li­cans and one Democrat.

If this isn’t a text­book def­i­n­i­tion of crony­ism, we’re not sure what is:

Ben­ton was giv­en the posi­tion just a few days after apply­ing. He’s a per­son­al friend of one of the com­mis­sion­ers, Tom Mielke.

Last month, the group vot­ed to get rid of Direc­tor of Envi­ron­men­tal Ser­vices Kevin Gray.

Adding to the con­tro­ver­sy is that Gray is con­sid­ered by many as a man who blew the whis­tle on alleged cor­rup­tion in the coun­ty. In a whis­tle-blow­er mem­o­ran­dum, Gray said he has been tar­get­ed and expe­ri­enced retal­i­a­tion after report­ing that a super­vi­sor was using coun­ty mon­ey for his pri­vate business.

Six months before Ben­ton got the job described in the excerpts above, he nar­row­ly won reelec­tion in an extreme­ly tight con­test with Demo­c­rat Tim Prob­st, who had giv­en up his House seat to chal­lenge Ben­ton for Senate.

Ben­ton’s mar­gin of vic­to­ry was just sev­en­ty-four votes.

On Jan­u­ary 13th Prob­st announced he would chal­lenge Ben­ton again, set­ting up anoth­er mar­quee con­test in 2016. Now that Ben­ton is out, Prob­st will be run­ning for an open seat. It’s worth not­ing: If Democ­rats can get Prob­st elect­ed and knock out one oth­er Repub­li­can in anoth­er leg­isla­tive dis­trict with­out los­ing any seats, they will have a major­i­ty in the Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate a year from now.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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One reply on “Eyman cohort Don Benton announces his retirement from the Washington State Senate”

  1. What a vic­to­ry for good gov­ern­ment!!! Endorse and donate if you like what we’re doing. Share this good news and give peo­ple a smile this morning!

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