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A healthy check on Democratic power in Olympia

Post by TNT Editorial Board / The News Tribune on Dec. 10, 2012 at 6:34 pm with No Comments »
December 10, 2012 6:34 pm

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

By now – a day after they handed the state Senate to Republicans – Sens. Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon will have been excoriated as traitors, turncoats, back-stabbers and double-crossers by their fellow Democrats.

Conniving rascals they may be, but they’ve done the state of Washington a big favor.

Until Monday, 2013 was shaping up as another dreary stretch of same-old, same-old Democratic hegemony over House, Senate and governorship. The party’s leadership has grown a little too comfortable, a little too arrogant, a little too generous to public unions and other favored interest groups.

It does real damage to the state. For example, it’s the chief reason Washington has suffered from one of the nation’s most benighted approaches to public education.

Any reforms that promised to make schools more accountable faced dual execution squads in the Legislature, where the education committees of the House and Senate faithfully did the bidding of the Washington Education Association and other enforcers of the status quo.

The coup’s sweetest result: The Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee falls into the hands of Republicans.

It’s a shame that Sen. Ed Murray had to be the biggest casualty of all this. He would have been majority leader had the Democrats held the Senate. A Seattle liberal, Murray has been one of the most reasonable and flexible Democratic leaders in the Legislature.

Now it looks as if he’ll have more time for his run against Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn – an enterprise in which we truly wish him well.

Instead of Murray, we’ll get Tom, a fiscally conservative Democrat from Bellevue. Tom was officially excommunicated Monday by party chairman Dwight Pelz, who said the Democrats will recruit a true-blue candidate to unseat him in 2014.

That’s nearly two years off, though, and Tom could have quite a run between now and then. Because he and Sheldon provide the Republicans with a one-vote nano-majority in the Senate, they’re in a position to crack the whip any direction they want. Feel the power of the dark side, Tom.

This is not a happy turn of events for Speaker of the House Frank Chopp and Gov.-elect Jay Inslee, whose party had undivided control of state government until Monday. Now, in the Senate, they face a much-needed counterweight.

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