One of the Washington State Senate’s most vulnerable Republicans is calling it quits ahead of the 2020 short session and presidential election cycle.
Senator Barbara Bailey (R‑10th District: Island County, Stanwood), who defeated veteran Democratic Senator Mary Margaret Haugen in 2012, has decided to resign and leave the Senate early instead of serving out of her term and retiring.
In a letter to Governor Inslee, Bailey explained her decision.
After much prayer and discussion with my family, I have made the decision to step down from my Senate seat effective September 30th, 2019. This decision was not taken lightly; however, I believe now is the best time to make this move. I have been giving this decision a lot of thought for the past three-four months.
Spending quality time with my family and church has been difficult at best, and unworkable at other times. There are significant projects and ventures in which my husband and I want to be involved while we are still reasonably healthy and mobile.
I leave with a great sense of accomplishment of some significant issues which were passed into law, and which have made life for our citizens more efficient and meaningful. Specifically, making higher education more affordable in our public institutions, better support for our veterans and their dependents, improved health care for our aging population, and as Chair of the Select Committee for Pension Policy, ensuring long-term sustainability at a time when other pension systems around the country were in crisis.
Our pension system now ranks among the most stable in the nation.
I plan to stay engaged with those programs affecting the well-being of our senior citizens to ensure they have improved access and resources for their care and dignity.
It has been my honor to have served the state of Washington, and specifically the citizens of the 10th District. I will always be available for consultation and continued service when and where needed.
The Senate Republicans today responded to the letter by issuing a public statement lavishing praise on Bailey for her contributions as a legislator.
What Bailey doesn’t say in her letter is that she was facing an uphill battle to secure reelection in 2020. Democratic challenger Helen Price Johnson declared her candidacy for the Washington State Senate a few weeks ago, and Democrats believe the 10th is ripe for flipping, especially given Dave Paul’s victory last year.
(State Representative Dave Paul unseated incumbent Republican Dave Hayes for one of the 10th’s two House seats last cycle, taking over the position Bailey once held while a state representative after prevailing in a close race.)
By resigning, Bailey is making way for a fellow Republican — perhaps State Representative Norma Smith, one of the most thoughtful and liberal Republicans in the statehouse — to serve in the Senate ahead of the 2020 presidential election and gain some of the advantages of incumbency prior to facing the voters.
It will still be an open seat, though, and Democrats will make it a top priority, along with Smith’s House seat, which she nearly lost last year. If Smith moves over to the Senate, it presents House Democrats with an opportunity for another pickup.
In accordance with the Washington State Constitution, the Central Committee of the Washington State Republican Party (presently chaired by Caleb Heimlich), must now draw up a list of three possible successors for Bailey.
This list will then be presented to the Island and Skagit County Commissions plus the Snohomish County Council, as the 10th is a multi-county district. The county legislative authorities will then have the opportunity to jointly make an appointment. If they cannot reach agreement, Governor Inslee will make a choice.
We’ll keep you posted on further developments.