Sen. Jim Kastama, the Puyallup Democrat who was part of a centrist-Republican coalition that led to a bipartisan state budget this year, expects to leave his seat to run for the top job overseeing state elections.
I say “expects” because Kastama made his announcement today contingent on the retirement of Secretary of State Sam Reed, a moderate Republican. Kastama, who praised Reed’s work in the job, said he expects Reed to retire.
Another political domino: Kastama’s seat in one of the swingingest of swing districts now opens up. The 25th District elected its last new lawmaker by 30 votes. Kastama will stay in his Senate seat during the campaign but won’t run for re-election in 2012.
“For me it’s an up-or-out,” he said in an interview. “That’s why it was a very serious decision to make.”
Kastama, 51, who has served two terms in the House and three in the Senate, highlighted his work on elections issues in a news release. He chaired the Senate’s elections and government-operations committee as the Legislature dealt with fallout from the 2004 governor’s-race recounts.
This year, he tried unsuccessfully to deny a Senate seat to fellow Democrat Nick Harper, who had been elected after a bruising campaign that included deceptive mailers sent not by Harper, but by his supporters — liberal groups that posed in the mailers as tax-hating conservatives.
He also joined this year with fellow “Roadkill Caucus” Democrats — including a core in the Senate of Kastama, Rodney Tom, Brian Hatfield and Steve Hobbs — to pressure their party to negotiate with Republicans on a state budget. The pro-business coalition also helped force two major changes, settlements for injured workers and unemployment-insurance tax relief for employers.
“I think actually my willingness to look at both parties and not be as partisan hopefully will be a benefit in this job,” he told me.
Here’s his news release:
For Immediate Release: Senator Jim Kastama Announces Bid for Secretary of State
June 20, 2011
State Senator Jim Kastama (D-Puyallup) announced today that he intends to run for the position of Washington’s Secretary of State if the current Secretary Sam Reed declines to run again, as is speculated.
Kastama, known for his fierce independence, stood against his own party to unseat Nick Harper in the Moxie Media election scandal earlier this year; a scandal which was so egregious that the Public Disclosure Commission recommended criminal prosecution. “The fair and efficient administration of elections is a vital function of the office of Secretary of State. Voters can rest assured that I will fight for their interests,” said Kastama.
Kastama, who has been re-elected five times, has extensive experience in statewide election law, having chaired the Government Operations and Elections Committee following the Gregoire/Rossi election in 2004. He is responsible for many of the election law reforms put in place in the aftermath of this controversial election including: routine audits of county elections, the purging of ineligible voters from the voters rolls, and moving the primary forward to allow overseas military personnel more time to return their ballots.
Kastama is also known for the role he played in the last legislative session, helping to forge a bipartisan budget in the State Senate—the first budget to receive 34 votes (out of 49) in recent memory.
Senator Kastama believes the position of Secretary of State can also play a key role in turning the state’s economy around, being responsible for the licensing and incorporations of Washington’s businesses. For the past five years he has been Chairman of the Senate Economic Development, Trade and Innovation Committee. Most notably, he has been responsible for the creation of the state’s Economic Development Commission and the STAR research program, which has been instrumental to Washington’s development of aerospace bio-fuels and more efficient and faster microchips. He has also participated in trade and cultural missions to China, Taiwan, Japan and Turkey to promote our state.
“The Secretary of State’s office can be a tremendous advocate for Washington’s businesses. “ Kastama said, “After all, every business has contact with the office at least once a year. This point of contact should be used to maximize foreign trade opportunities and make sure our businesses are connected with services that can help them grow and prosper.”
In 2011, Kastama spearheaded the effort to establish the state’s first public on-line university, WGU Washington. “A highly skilled workforce is at the heart of being competitive globally,” Kastama added. “WGU Washington makes the dream of a college education possible for thousands of people who are shut out of the traditional higher education model. It’s a top-notch education at a reasonable price.”
Senator Kastama plans to continue his current Senate position, while crisscrossing the state, articulating his vision for the office of Secretary of State. “I have worked side-by-side with Sam Reed, and I respect him”, Kastama said, “I hope to continue his steadfast advocacy for our citizens, and at the same time bring a new dimension to the position.”