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Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, February 5th, 2016

Washington Secretary of Transportation Lynn Peterson forced out by Senate Republicans

After three years on the job, Wash­ing­ton State Sec­re­tary of Trans­porta­tion Lynn Peter­son­’s employ­ment has been abrupt­ly ter­mi­nat­ed — though not by Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee, the chief exec­u­tive who hired her and who she reports to by law.

Instead, in a stun­ning turn of events, Peter­son is being forced to pack her bags by the vin­dic­tive, games-play­ing Sen­ate Repub­li­can cau­cus, who failed to hold a time­ly vote on Peter­son­’s con­fir­ma­tion fol­low­ing her appoint­ment three years ago, but have now sud­den­ly decid­ed to deny her con­fir­ma­tion to score polit­i­cal points.

By vot­ing not to con­firm Peter­son, the Repub­li­cans  have forced her out. She won’t be able to con­tin­ue in her duties as WSDOT’s chief exec­u­tive, nor will she be able to con­tin­ue her ser­vice on Sound Tran­sit’s Board of Directors.

Repub­li­cans tried to jus­ti­fy their out­ra­geous move by claim­ing that WSDOT needs new lead­er­ship. But that isn’t what they were say­ing back in 2015, when Peter­son was unan­i­mous­ly rec­om­mend­ed for con­fir­ma­tion in com­mit­tee.

In fact, on June 24th, 2015, when Peter­son appeared before the Repub­li­can-con­trolled Sen­ate Trans­porta­tion Com­mit­tee at the time Democ­rats and Repub­li­cans were nego­ti­at­ing the Con­nect­ing Wash­ing­ton trans­porta­tion pack­age, this is what Repub­li­can Chair­man Cur­tis King of Yaki­ma said to her:

I want to thank you for the job that you’ve done over the last two – two and a half years, what­ev­er that num­ber is. And I can’t say thank you enough to the staff that you have behind you. I think I have met and talked with every one of them. They are a ded­i­cat­ed group of peo­ple who I believ­er are here to do the right things for the cit­i­zens of the State of Wash­ing­ton, and I think they have shown that exam­ple on numer­ous occa­sions. So thank you for that.

Con­sid­er­ing what King and his col­leagues were say­ing about Peter­son just a few months ago, today’s vote to deny Peter­son con­fir­ma­tion — which Sen­ate Democ­rats fought valiant­ly to stop — seems like a betrayal.

It cer­tain­ly amount­ed to unpro­fes­sion­al, shame­ful con­duct. Sen­ate Repub­li­cans gave Peter­son no oppor­tu­ni­ty to defend her­self or answer the charges they laid at her door. They did not move a no con­fi­dence rec­om­men­da­tion against Peter­son through com­mit­tee, did not pro­vide advance warn­ing to their Demo­c­ra­t­ic coun­ter­parts or to Gov­er­nor Inslee, and did not allow mem­bers of the pub­lic to weigh in.

Instead, they plot­ted in back rooms to oust Peter­son and then pro­ceed­ed to to car­ry out their plan on the floor of the Senate.

After­wards, they ran away from reporters instead of answer­ing for their actions.

Democ­rats were furious.

“Sen­ate Repub­li­cans today took an action whol­ly unfit­ting of the expec­ta­tions of the peo­ple of this state,” said an out­raged Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee. “They engaged in a polit­i­cal­ly-moti­vat­ed attack on an emi­nent­ly qual­i­fied woman.”

“As dis­ap­point­ing as this dis­play of par­ti­san pol­i­tics is to me, I am even more deeply and per­son­al­ly offend­ed by Sen­a­tor Schoesler’s unfound­ed, scur­rilous and out­ra­geous out­burst that Sec­re­tary Peter­son is a racist,” Inslee added.

“This per­son­al insult, uttered in the Sen­ate cham­bers, is sim­ply inex­cus­able and not wor­thy of his posi­tion as a leader in the Senate.”

“Lynn Peter­son has led the most suc­cess­ful effort in years to pro­mote oppor­tu­ni­ties for women and minor­i­ty-owned busi­ness­es by push­ing hard to make sure that women- and minor­i­ty-owned busi­ness­es get a fair chance to com­pete for trans­porta­tion projects. We can only won­der what the Sen­ate Repub­li­cans’ next polit­i­cal­ly moti­vat­ed attack will be.”

“I’m sit­ting on the Sen­ate floor in shock and dis­be­lief that Repub­li­cans are going to sack WSDOT Sec­re­tary Lynn Peter­son for pure­ly polit­i­cal rea­sons,” wrote Sen­a­tor Marko Liias (D‑21st Dis­trict) in a Face­book post­ing dur­ing the min­utes lead­ing up to the vote. “Such a grave injus­tice for an amaz­ing leader.”

House Trans­porta­tion Chair Judy Clib­born also voiced her dismay.

“This move comes after strong lead­er­ship from Sec­re­tary Peter­son under very chal­leng­ing cir­cum­stances,” Clib­born said. “It comes after the Sen­ate Trans­porta­tion Com­mit­tee unan­i­mous­ly approved her nom­i­na­tion. It comes after decades of lat­i­tude grant­ed to Gov­er­nors of both par­ties to select the lead­ers of their agencies.

“If there was any doubt remain­ing, it should be clear now – hard­line, D.C.-style grid­lock has arrived in our Wash­ing­ton. After reach­ing a bipar­ti­san agree­ment to invest $16 bil­lion in our trans­porta­tion sys­tem just a ses­sion ago, it is shock­ing and deeply trou­bling to see Sen­ate Repub­li­cans under­mine that work by remov­ing the head of agency respon­si­ble for car­ry­ing it out.”

“Crit­i­cal traf­fic relief, thou­sands of Wash­ing­ton jobs, and the health and well­be­ing of our econ­o­my are being put at risk for motives that can only be described as par­ti­san. Sen­ate Repub­li­cans have put their polit­i­cal frus­tra­tions above the needs of the peo­ple of Wash­ing­ton. Lynn Peter­son is the scape­goat for their inabil­i­ty to dic­tate pol­i­cy to the rest of our divid­ed gov­ern­ment, and the busi­ness­es and com­muters of Wash­ing­ton will suf­fer because of their actions.”

“This shame­ful act impedes the state’s abil­i­ty to do the peo­ple’s busi­ness and keep peo­ple safe,” agreed State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty Chair Jax­on Ravens. “Less than a year after Democ­rats and Repub­li­cans came togeth­er to pass a $15 bil­lion trans­porta­tion pack­age, this polit­i­cal maneu­ver only under­mines the abil­i­ty to deliv­er these much-need­ed trans­porta­tion projects on-time and on-budget.”

The roll call vote to deny Lynn Peter­son­’s con­fir­ma­tion was as follows:

SGA 9137
Sen­ate vote on confirmation

Yeas: 21; Nays: 25; Excused: 3

Vot­ing Yea: Sen­a­tors Car­lyle, Chase, Cleve­land, Con­way, Darneille, Fras­er, Frockt, Habib, Har­grove, Hasegawa, Hobbs, Jaya­pal, Keis­er, Liias, McAu­li­ffe, McCoy, Mul­let, Nel­son, Ped­er­sen, Rolfes, Takko

Vot­ing Nay: Sen­a­tors Angel, Bai­ley, Baum­gart­ner, Beck­er, Ben­ton, Braun, Brown, Dammeier, Dansel, Erick­sen, Fain, Hewitt, Hill, Hon­ey­ford, King, Lit­zow, Milos­cia, O’Ban, Pad­den, Par­lette, Pear­son, Rivers, Schoesler, Shel­don, Warnick

Excused: Sen­a­tors Bil­lig, Ranker, Roach

We join Gov­er­nor Inslee in strong­ly con­demn­ing today’s dis­grace­ful action by Sen­ate Repub­li­cans. Lynn Peter­son was a devot­ed pub­lic ser­vant who had the dif­fi­cult, unen­vi­able task of try­ing to run and improve the Wash­ing­ton State Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion. WSDOT has issues, but Peter­son was a com­pe­tent, qual­i­fied admin­is­tra­tor… by Sen­ate Repub­li­cans’ own admission.

Peter­son sim­ply does­n’t deserve the bile that was lobbed at her today. Sen­ate Repub­li­cans should be ashamed of the way they have treat­ed her.

We wish her the best in her efforts to land on her feet. We’ll miss her.

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  1. I won­der if it was revenge for the move mak­ing Pam Roach the Pro Tem. I did not endorse that sim­ply because, we do not elect our rep­re­sen­ta­tives to do play­ground tricks on the opposition.

    # by Mike Barer :: February 6th, 2016 at 10:03 AM
  2. That being said, it was a dirty trick.

    # by Mike Barer :: February 6th, 2016 at 10:13 AM

2 Pings

  1. […] « Wash­ing­ton Sec­re­tary of Trans­porta­tion Lynn Peter­son forced out by Sen­ate Repub­li­cans Sat­ur­day, Feb­ru­ary 6th, 2016 […]

  2. […] « Wash­ing­ton Sec­re­tary of Trans­porta­tion Lynn Peter­son forced out by Sen­ate Repub­li­cans Sen­ate Repub­li­cans trip all over them­selves try­ing to explain Lynn Peterson’s ouster » Sat­ur­day, Feb­ru­ary 6th, 2016 […]

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