NPI's Cascadia Advocate

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Monday, June 5th, 2023

Christine Rolfes appointed to Kitsap County Commission; will leave State Senate

The chief bud­get writer in the Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate, Sen­a­tor Chris­tine Rolfes, was today appoint­ed to fill a vacan­cy in the three-mem­ber Kit­sap Coun­ty Com­mis­sion and will soon be leav­ing the Leg­is­la­ture to focus on her new respon­si­bil­i­ties at the local lev­el, the vet­er­an sen­a­tor con­firmed today.

Rolfes first joined the Leg­is­la­ture in 2007 after win­ning a term in the Wash­ing­ton State House in the blue wave midterm cycle of 2006, which saw huge Demo­c­ra­t­ic gains in both cham­bers. She was reelect­ed in 2008 and 2010. In July of 2011, she was appoint­ed to the Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate to suc­ceed Phil Rock­e­feller, who took a job with the North­west Pow­er and Con­ser­va­tion Council.

Democ­rats lost their Sen­ate major­i­ty the fol­low­ing year when Rod­ney Tom and Tim Shel­don defect­ed to the Repub­li­can cau­cus just a few weeks after Jay Inslee defeat­ed Rob McKen­na to become Wash­ing­ton State’s next governor.

It took five years for Democ­rats to regain a Sen­ate major­i­ty. In Novem­ber of 2017, the par­ty won a spe­cial elec­tion in Wash­ing­ton’s 45th Dis­trict, which result­ed in care­tak­er State Sen­a­tor Dino Rossi being replaced with Man­ka Dhin­gra, a North­west Pro­gres­sive Foun­da­tion boardmember.

The flip­ping of the Sen­ate major­i­ty led to a lead­er­ship changeover in all of the cham­ber’s com­mit­tees, includ­ing the pow­er­ful Ways & Means Com­mit­tee.

Rolfes was named as the Chair of that all impor­tant fis­cal com­mit­tee and has held the posi­tion ever since, assist­ed by fel­low Demo­c­ra­t­ic sen­a­tors like David Frockt, June Robin­son, and Mark Mul­let. She’s now over­seen the draft­ing of the Sen­ate’s ver­sion of three oper­at­ing bud­gets (in 2019, 2021, and this year) plus three sup­ple­men­tal oper­at­ing bud­gets (in 2018, 2020, and 2022).

On her watch, in 2021, the Sen­ate took a long-await­ed vote to enact a cap­i­tal gains tax on the wealthy, join­ing the House and Gov­er­nor Inslee in cement­ing a his­toric win for tax fair­ness and equi­ty that sur­vived a right wing legal challenge.

Oth­er tax fair­ness vic­to­ries Rolfes was involved in includ­ed the repeal of a tax loop­hole for big banks and the mod­ern­iza­tion of the real estate excise tax.

Ways & Means also heard bills to cre­ate a wealth tax, but did not vote on them.

Rolfes con­sid­ered run­ning for Com­mis­sion­er of Pub­lic Lands in 2020, but opt­ed against it when Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee sought a third term, caus­ing incum­bent Hilary Franz to seek reelec­tion rather than pur­sue the state’s top job.

(Franz is now run­ning for gov­er­nor, cre­at­ing an open­ing for a new Com­mis­sion­er of Pub­lic Lands, but Rolfes has decid­ed she’d rather be a dif­fer­ent kind of Com­mis­sion­er — a mem­ber of Kit­sap Coun­ty’s leg­isla­tive branch.)

The Kit­sap Coun­ty Com­mis­sion vacan­cy mate­ri­al­ized when incum­bent Rob Gelder moved to Thurston Coun­ty to become an assis­tant coun­ty man­ag­er there.

Gelder was a Demo­c­rat. Like Rolfes, he had been in office since 2011.

The Wash­ing­ton State Con­sti­tu­tion says that when vacan­cies in par­ti­san coun­ty or leg­isla­tive office arise, the coun­ty cen­tral com­mit­tee of the polit­i­cal par­ty the depart­ing office­hold­er was from shall draw up a list of three nom­i­nees for the coun­ty leg­isla­tive author­i­ty to choose from in appoint­ing a successor.

(In the case of a leg­isla­tive dis­trict span­ning mul­ti­ple coun­ties, the appoint­ment is made joint­ly in a spe­cial meet­ing of the dif­fer­ent leg­isla­tive authorities.)

If the coun­ty leg­isla­tive author­i­ty or author­i­ties fail to do their job with­in six­ty days, the Gov­er­nor assumes the pow­er to appoint.

The two remain­ing com­mis­sion­ers, Katie Wal­ters and Char­lotte Gar­ri­do, were pre­sent­ed with three names by the Kit­sap Coun­ty Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty. Those names were Rolfes, Brynn Felix, and Greg Nance. They were select­ed from a group of eleven appli­cants who com­pet­ed for a spot on the list at a spe­cial nom­i­nat­ing cau­cus held by the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty. Wal­ters and Gar­ri­do inter­viewed the trio of final­ists and then decid­ed to select Rolfes, a deci­sion that sur­prised nobody.

Before run­ning for the Leg­is­la­ture, Rolfes was a Bain­bridge Island City Coun­cilmem­ber, serv­ing from 2000 to 2006. So, as she not­ed, she’s return­ing to her local gov­ern­ment roots. Assum­ing she remains on the Kit­sap Coun­ty Com­mis­sion for at least a cou­ple of years, she will have com­plet­ed a quar­ter of cen­tu­ry of pub­lic ser­vice at three dif­fer­ent lev­els of state and local government.

She told the Kit­sap Sun: “It’s an oppor­tu­ni­ty to return to my roots and con­tin­ue to serve the coun­ty by work­ing on the 2024 com­pre­hen­sive plan and using my con­nec­tions and all of my rela­tion­ships around the coun­ty to do good things.”

“I love being in the Sen­ate, I loved serv­ing in the Leg­is­la­ture, but this is my 17th year, and I’m excit­ed to try some­thing new,” she explained to the Sun.

Rolfes is not barred by cur­rent law from hold­ing a state leg­isla­tive posi­tion in addi­tion to the coun­ty one. But, wise­ly, she has decid­ed to give one up to focus on the oth­er. She’ll resign in a few weeks. The 23rd Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict is locat­ed entire­ly with­in Kit­sap Coun­ty, so one of Rolfes’ first major deci­sions will be work­ing with Wal­ters and Gar­ri­do to select her replace­ment, again from a list of three nom­i­nees picked by the Kit­sap Coun­ty Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty. If that replace­ment is State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Drew Hansen or State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Tar­ra Sim­mons, the process will then have to be repeat­ed to find a new state representative.

By sum­mer’s end, as a con­se­quence of Rolfes’ move to the Com­mis­sion, the 23rd will have a new state sen­a­tor and pos­si­bly a new state rep­re­sen­ta­tive too.

And the Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate Demo­c­ra­t­ic cau­cus will have to pick a new Ways & Means Chair for the 2024 short ses­sion that begins in Jan­u­ary. The cur­rent vice chairs are June Robin­son and Mark Mul­let. Mul­let is run­ning for gov­er­nor, so it’s unlike­ly he will want the posi­tion, or be cho­sen even if he did.

NPI thanks Sen­a­tor Rolfes for her con­tri­bu­tions as a state leg­is­la­tor. We wish her well as she assumes her new duties at the coun­ty level.

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  1. When does she leave the Senate?

    When will she be sworn in as a Commissioner?

    Is the swear­ing in open to the public?

    If so, where? What time?

    # by Regina C. :: June 20th, 2023 at 10:57 AM
    • Rolfes has already been sworn in as a commissioner. 

      She is expect­ed to leave the Sen­ate this summer.

      # by Andrew Villeneuve :: June 24th, 2023 at 9:41 AM
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