Republicans are temporarily without a majority in the Washington State Senate owing to the resignation of 7th District Senator Brian Dansel, who has just taken a job in neofascist Donald Trump’s administration.
Dansel’s resignation, effective as of 1 PM today, leaves the Senate Republican caucus with just twenty-four members, including Tim Sheldon (R‑35th District), who calls himself a Democrat, but walks, talks, and acts like a Republican, and is considered to be a Republican by this organization and this publication.
However, the Washington State Constitution requires that bills pass the Legislature with an absolute majority in each house. It takes twenty-five senators to pass a bill; there are forty-nine districts in the state, each with one senator.
So until Dansel’s successor is chosen, Senate Republicans will not be able to move any legislation off the floor on their own. They will need the cooperation of Senate Democrats and/or Lieutenant Governor Cyrus Habib to do anything.
By law, Dansel’s immediate appointed successor will have to be one of three names selected by the statutory Washington State Republican Central Committee, or a caucus acting in the central committee’s name and with its authority.
The 7th spans multiple counties (Pend Oreille, Stevens, Okanogan, Spokane, Ferry), so the legislative bodies of each of those counties will need to agree on one of the names in order to make a joint appointment.
If they can’t agree within a couple of months, Governor Inslee will pick.
Tim Eyman enabler Doug Ericksen (R‑42nd District: Ferndale, Lynden, Whatcom County) is also taking a job in the Trump administration but has stated that he doesn’t plan to resign his seat. There is also speculation that fellow Eyman enabler Michael Baumgartner will also be getting a federal job from Trump and might be resigning from the Senate as well.
Dansel’s departure means there will now be a total of five special elections in Washington State for Senate this year. The affected districts are:
- 7th (Dansel’s district)
- 31st (vacancy created by resignation of Pam Roach, elected to the Pierce County Council in November of 2016)
- 37th (vacancy created by the resignation of Pramila Jayapal, elected to the United States House of Representatives in November of 2016)
- 45th (vacancy created by the death of Andy Hill from cancer in 2016)
- 48th (vacancy created by resignation of Cyrus Habib, elected as the state’s new lieutenant governor in November of 2016)
The 6th will join the list if Baumgartner resigns.
With all the special Senate elections, it’s going to feel more like an even-numbered legislative election year than in odd-numbered local election year in many respects.