Two Republican legislators in key districts announced separately yesterday that they will be leaving the Washington State Legislature at the end of this year as opposed to seeking reelection in what many observers believe could be a wave year for the Democratic Party not unlike the 2006 midterms twelve years ago.
State Representative Jay Rodne — the extremist, Islamophobic Republican who came under fire last cycle for making un-American comments about Muslims — was the first to announce that he would be stepping down.
“I am announcing my decision to not seek re-election to my House seat later this year,” Rodne said on Facebook. “Although I will not seek re-election, I will continue to serve the citizens of the 5th District until my term ends on December 31, 2018.”
“When I was first appointed to the Washington House of Representatives in January 2004, my kids were seven and five respectively,” Rodne added. “It’s amazing how fast the years have flown by and with my kids now in college, about to graduate and embark upon their own lives as adults, I too am looking forward to making this transition to new opportunities, new challenges and new ways to give back.”
Rodne was facing the prospect of a strong challenge from Issaquah City Councilmember Bill Ramos, who filed to run against Rodne a few weeks ago. The Democratic Party has quickly rallied around Ramos, with the 5th District Democrats giving Ramos their endorsement at a recent general meeting.
The Republican Party has already found a replacement candidate for 2018: Chad Magendanz, Rodne’s former seatmate. Magendanz ran unsuccessfully for State Senate in 2016 against incumbent Mark Mullet, losing narrowly.
Both Rodne and Magendanz benefited from a surge of Republican votes in the late ballots, with Rodne coming from behind to defeat his Democratic challenger Jason Ritchie (who is now a Sammamish City Councilmember). However, Magendanz was not able to overcome Mullet’s lead, and Mullet held onto his Senate seat.
Magendanz is now hoping to return to the House in what looks to be a very difficult climate for Republicans nationally as well as locally.
Meanwhile, Republican Senator Michael Baumgartner has decided not to seek reelection in the 6th District. He will be running for county treasurer instead.
“Eight years ago when I returned from Iraq and Afghanistan you gave me the great privilege of serving as your State Senator. Today I’m writing to inform you that it’s time for a new challenge. I will not be returning to the Senate, but instead will be running for Spokane County Treasurer this fall,” Baumgartner wrote.
State Representative Jeff Holy will be leaving his House seat to pursue Baumgartner’s Senate seat, creating a new opening for a Democratic pickup on the House side in that district.
Baumgartner is one of the most extreme members of the Senate Republican caucus and one of the senators who is closest to disgraced initiative promoter Tim Eyman. Baumgartner, along with Doug Ericksen, enthusiastically supported and helped campaign for Eyman’s unconstitutional, hostage-taking I‑1366 in 2015, which the Mainstream Republicans of Washington strongly opposed.
Activist and dedicated healthcare advocate Jessa Lewis has announced that she will be seeking Baumgartner’s Senate seat on behalf of the Democratic Party.
“The more time I spend talking to my neighbors and friends in the 6th LD, the more I see the need to empower our communities to take our issues — our wishes, and our aspirations, our very real problems — and turn them from complaints into commitments,” Lewis wrote in a Medium post laying out her priorities.