The effort to bring more progressive representation to Washington State’s 5th Legislative District (Issaquah, Snoqualmie, Maple Valley, and nearby communities) just got a big boost today with the news that Governor Jay Inslee is backing challenger Ingrid Anderson over right leaning incumbent Mark Mullet for the district’s Senate seat, which Mullet has held for almost eight years.
“As we continue fighting a global pandemic, work to keep our kids and communities safe, and take steps to ensure a strong future economy, we need Ingrid’s frontline experience as a nurse, mom, and health care leader,” Governor Inslee said in a statement released by Anderson’s campaign. “Right now, there is not a single nurse in the State Senate. We can change that by electing Ingrid and helping all Washington families through this challenging time.”
Without mentioning Mullet, Inslee went on to explain that he needs allies in the Legislature to ensure that progressive legislation can reach his desk.
“I’ve been clear about the urgent need to adopt cleaner fuels and build a clean energy economy here in Washington State. Ingrid shares this sense of urgency, as a matter of public health and environmental protection. We need her voice – and her vote – to take overdue action to protect our health and climate.”
“I am so grateful for the support of Governor Inslee as we enter the home stretch of this campaign,” Anderson said. “We face some real challenges in the coming year as we recover from this pandemic, and once treatments are available, we will need health care professionals in office to make sure we enact equitable policies that benefit all Washingtonians. We also have the opportunity to reshape our economy and make it more fair, sustainable, and self-reliant. I look forward to working with the Governor to make needed positive change.”
“I am disappointed but not surprised by a call I received from the Governor this weekend letting me know that he would be endorsing my opponent,” Mullet said in a statement posted on Facebook reacting to Inslee’s decision.
“I respect that the Governor called to tell me this news in-person. Courtesy is an admirable thing in politics and severely lacking in our country at the moment. In the future, I look forward to working with the Governor when we agree and having a vigorous debate on the issues when we disagree. My hope for the Democratic Party is that it can be a place that accommodates different opinions like this.”
At the time Mark Mullet was first elected, in 2012, the 5th LD was a tough battleground district that Democrats were trying to do a better job competing in.
Mullet’s victory then represented a breakthrough for the party.
It’s easy to forget that for two years, Mullet was the Eastside’s only Democratic senator, with the 45th’s seat being held by Republican Andy Hill, the 48th’s seat being held by Republican-turned-Democrat-turned-Republican again Rodney Tom, and the 41st’s seat being held by Republican Steve Litzow.
In the span of three years, however, the Democratic Party elected three very progressive senators to each of the other Eastside legislative districts:
- Cyrus Habib in 2014 in the 48th, who defeated Michelle Darnell and served for two sessions before leaving to successfully pursue statewide office;
- Lisa Wellman in 2016 in the 41st, who defeated Litzow to regain the seat once held by predecessors Randy Gordon and Brian Weinstein;
- Manka Dhingra in 2017 in the 45th, who defeated Jinyoung Englund in a special election and flipped the State Senate Democratic. Dhingra succeeded Dino Rossi, the late Andy Hill’s appointed replacement.
Progressive champion Patty Kuderer succeeded Habib after he became Lieutenant Governor in 2017 and thoroughly bested Rodney Tom the following year (2018) when Tom unwisely tried to recapture the seat he had given up in 2014.
The successive election of three strong progressive women to the Washington State Senate from the Eastside of King County’s other three legislative districts ought to have tipped Mark Mullet off to the region’s changing political dynamics.
In the span of four years, Mullet went from being its only Democratic senator and its most progressive voice (in relative terms) to its least progressive.
Any lingering doubts about the Eastside’s transformation into a progressive bastion ought to have been erased by the convincing victories of Bill Ramos and Lisa Callan in the district’s two House races in the 2018 midterms.
The duo sailed into the House only two years after Darcy Burner and Jason Ritchie failed to defeat Paul Graves and Jay Rodne. This year, Callan is unopposed for reelection and Ramos is exceptionally well positioned to secure a second term, having garnered 59.07% in the Top Two election against two challengers.
Unfortunately, instead of recognizing that his district had evolved and proceeding to offer it more progressive representation, which he could have easily done, Mullet continued to take right wing positions and votes in the Senate.
A few examples:
- Mullet has consistently refused to support proposals to levy a capital gains tax on the wealthy, which NPI’s research has found robust majorities in favor of for more than half a decade now.
- Mullet voted against enacting Initiative 1000, the Washington State Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Act, while every single one of his Democratic colleagues voted for it, including his seatmates Ramos and Callan.
- Mullet has repeatedly backed proposals to divert public tax dollars to charter schools operated by private entities.
- Voted against addressing wage discrimination for women in the workplace (House Bill 1696);
- Voted against Washington’s landmark long-term care law supporting seniors (House Bill 1087);
- Voted to extend favorable aerospace tax giveaways to all manufacturers (ESHB 1109, Amendment 489);
- Voted against a bill to prevent toxic chemicals from damaging public health and the environment (Senate Bill 5135);
- Voted against an overwhelmingly bipartisan bill to increase penalties on drunk drivers (Senate Bill 5299)
- Voted against the operating budget negotiated by Democratic leaders, including millions of in-district dollars for special education, teacher salaries, school safety, mental health programs, and more (House Bill 1109).
In a recent Facebook post, Mullet took a page out of the Republicans’ playbook and resorted to Seattle-bashing in order to make the case for his reelection.
Mullet has made it abundantly clear that he’s not going to change, even though the district he represents has. As a consequence, Ingrid Anderson decided to challenge him, and is running on a platform that embraces the essential progressive causes that Mullet has scorned during his eight years in the Senate.
Despite not having run for office before, Anderson beat out Mullet for the top spot in this month’s Top Two election, securing 48.57% of the vote. That showing undoubtedly helped persuade Governor Inslee to take sides in the race.
Anderson already had the enthusiastic backing of the state’s labor movement, who have never been able to depend on Mullet when they needed him.
Now she has the support of Governor Inslee, the Washington State Democratic Party’s most visible standard bearer. This is a big deal.
It’s very rare for an incumbent Democratic governor to back a challenger to an incumbent Democratic legislator. It’s just not something we usually see.
But the circumstances in this race are somewhat unique. Democrats are guaranteed to win this seat because there’s no Republican running.
The only question, then, is what kind of Democrat the district will send to Olympia. Will it be an open-minded team player who will provide another vote for badly needed progressive legislation, or a longtime incumbent with a record of standing with the opposition to keep the broken status quo in place?
We’ll find out in a few weeks.