Patty Kuderer
Patty Kuderer speaks at a candidate forum

This year, vot­ers in five leg­isla­tive dis­tricts hold­ing spe­cial elec­tions will decide who con­trols the Wash­ing­ton State Leg­is­la­ture in 2018. The two cham­bers are cur­rent­ly each divid­ed by the nar­row­est of majori­ties, with Democ­rats hold­ing a razor thin major­i­ty in the House and Repub­li­cans hold­ing a razor thin major­i­ty in the Senate.

While the Demo­c­ra­t­ic major­i­ty in the House is almost cer­tain to endure (Democ­rats are only defend­ing one seat, which Repub­li­cans aren’t even try­ing to pick up), the Repub­li­can major­i­ty in the Sen­ate is on the verge of dis­ap­pear­ing. The par­ty is try­ing to defend three seats this year, one of which seems as good as gone.

Repub­li­cans will be out of pow­er in the Leg­is­la­ture in a mat­ter of weeks unless they can find a way to win in Wash­ing­ton’s 45th — the only one of the five dis­tricts hold­ing spe­cial elec­tions that cur­rent­ly has a divid­ed del­e­ga­tion in Olympia.

They may not be able to.

The 45th is a dis­trict that is increas­ing­ly vot­ing Demo­c­ra­t­ic across the board, and all signs indi­cate that vot­ers there are ready for all-Demo­c­ra­t­ic representation.

Democ­rats are eager to turn the 45th com­plete­ly blue and are work­ing tire­less­ly to make that hap­pen. The par­ty has enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly ral­lied around expe­ri­enced pros­e­cu­tor Man­ka Dhin­gra, who eas­i­ly best­ed the Repub­li­cans’ hand­picked recruit Jiny­oung Lee Englund in last mon­th’s pre­lim­i­nary elec­tion, 51% to 41%.

Mean­while, in the neigh­bor­ing 48th Dis­trict (which is already solid­ly Demo­c­ra­t­ic), Democ­rats are work­ing to return Pat­ty Kud­er­er to the Sen­ate to fin­ish out the term of Cyrus Habib, who resigned after last year’s elec­tions to become Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor. Kud­er­er is opposed in the gen­er­al elec­tion by Lib­er­tar­i­an Michelle Dar­nell, in part because no Repub­li­can can­di­date filed to chal­lenge Kuderer.

Kud­er­er and Dar­nell shared a stage last night in Red­mond at a forum orga­nized by the League of Women Vot­ers of Seat­tle-King County.

Towards the end of the pro­gram, mod­er­a­tor Natal­ie Brand (who cov­ers pol­i­tics for KING5) asked the can­di­dates what changes, if any, they’d make to the struc­ture of the Leg­is­la­ture to enable bet­ter func­tion­ing in the future.

Kud­er­er used her time to make the case for oust­ing the Sen­ate Repub­li­cans from pow­er, explain­ing in depth how they have been mis­man­ag­ing the chamber.

Here’s a tran­script of what she said:

MODERATOR NATALIE BRAND: Many in Wash­ing­ton are dis­mayed by the inabil­i­ty of the Leg­is­la­ture to fin­ish its work on time, forc­ing it into mul­ti­ple spe­cial ses­sions and tak­ing the state to the brink of shut­down. Are there any changes that you think to be made to the struc­ture of the Leg­is­la­ture’s time and/or pay that might enable bet­ter func­tion­ing in the future? Ms. Kud­er­er to start.

DEMOCRATIC SENATOR PATTY KUDERER: Yeah. You know, I’ve talked to con­stituents about this. I’ve only been in the Leg­is­la­ture for not quite two years.  I’ve served both now in the House and the Sen­ate. They’re run dif­fer­ent­ly. And in the Sen­ate, what I saw this year [was ridicu­lous]. Even though my col­leagues on the oth­er side of the aisle talked about run­ning gov­ern­ment like a busi­ness, I don’t know any busi­ness that oper­ates that way.

There were sev­er­al days dur­ing the reg­u­lar ses­sion that we were not on the Sen­ate floor, and the rea­son we were not on the Sen­ate floor is because one sen­a­tor [Doug Erick­sen] was out in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. doing anoth­er job. And because he was­n’t there, we were tied 24–24, and they were con­cerned that we might bring a bill to the floor that some of their mem­bers would vote for.

So rather than com­ing over and hav­ing a gen­tle­man’s agree­ment on get­ting bills that, like mine, that passed 49 to noth­ing, that could have been done ear­ly in the reg­u­lar ses­sion… waits until the end. That was just irre­spon­si­ble, I think. It’s an irre­spon­si­ble way to govern.

There are so many things about how the Sen­ate was run that I felt were illog­i­cal, frus­trat­ing, and like I said, irre­spon­si­ble.

I don’t think we need­ed three ses­sions. And in terms of say­ing, Well, you should­n’t get paid and all that… I think that would make sense to some­one like me who’s actu­al­ly moti­vat­ed to com­pro­mise and get things done and all that. I did­n’t take per diem when I was­n’t down in Olympia dur­ing spe­cial ses­sion. I know some sen­a­tors did.

But hon­est­ly, when your lead­er­ship in the Sen­ate are all mil­lion­aires… They don’t care. They don’t care about the per diem. They don’t care about their salary. They’re not there for that mon­ey. They’re there for the pow­er. And so, when you put peo­ple in there who are more con­cerned about pow­er than peo­ple, you’re going to get inef­fi­cient gov­ern­ment. You’re going to get waste in gov­ern­ment. You’re going to get a waste of tax­pay­er dollars.

The empha­sis in that final para­graph of the tran­script is mine. I felt those four lines were the cul­mi­na­tion of Pat­ty’s remarks regard­ing the mis­man­age­ment of our state Sen­ate, so I bold­ed them. This is as pow­er­ful of a ratio­nale as any I’ve heard in any set­ting for why Wash­ing­ton vot­ers ought to fire the Sen­ate Republicans.

As a mem­ber of the Sen­ate, Pat­ty sees what’s going on — or not going on — on a dai­ly basis. And as a recent alum of the House, she can speak author­i­ta­tive­ly about the dif­fer­ences between how the two cham­bers are run. What­ev­er prob­lems may exist on the House side cer­tain­ly pale in com­par­i­son to the prob­lems that exist in the Sen­ate, which has become plagued by dys­func­tion and hostage-taking.

Pat­ty’s com­ment about the lead­er­ship of the Sen­ate all being mil­lion­aires is a ref­er­ence to the known net worth of most of the top Repub­li­can state sen­a­tors, who are indeed each worth over sev­en fig­ures.

  1. Mark Schoesler, Sen­ate Major­i­ty Leader: $1,754,311 (as of 2015)
  2. Sharon Brown, Deputy Leader: $1,292,446 (as of 2015)
  3. Tim Shel­don, Pres­i­dent Pro Tem­pore: $3,075,260 (as of 2015)
  4. Judy War­nick, Cau­cus Vice Chair: $1,221,851 (as of 2015)
  5. John Braun, Ways & Means Chair: $2,276,903 (as of 2015)
  6. Cur­tis King, Trans­porta­tion Chair: $1,003,337 (as of 2015)

Pat­ty men­tioned ear­li­er in the forum (in an answer not excerpt­ed above) that she got into pol­i­tics to cham­pi­on amply fund­ed pub­lic schools. Ful­fill­ing Wash­ing­ton’s para­mount duty is her pri­ma­ry moti­va­tion for serving.

Our coun­try and region need more law­mak­ers like Pat­ty. We all deserve elect­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tives who are pas­sion­ate­ly com­mit­ted to peo­ple-pow­ered pol­i­tics and aren’t afraid to speak truth to power.

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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