Former state Senate Republican leader Bill Finkbeiner of Kirkland announced today he is running for lieutenant governor in 2012 in a bid to bring more bipartisanship to the state Capitol. Finkbeiner served as GOP leader in 2004-05, deciding one year later not to seek re-election.
In an email today, Finkbeiner spoke of trying to build more bipartisanship at the Legislature – even more than what four-term Democratic Lt. Gov. Brad Owen of Shelton has mustered as presiding officer. Among his ideas is use of a mediator to help settle disputes and less of the global travel Owen does to boost trade and good will.
“There’s things the lieutenant governor can do to make the Senate work better … It’s not that he’s doing something bad. … He’s kind of mailing it in. There’s more than following Robert’s Rules of Order and banging the gavel,’’ Finkbeiner said.
Feinbeiner’s suggestion there is insufficient bipartisanship might be news to those in the Senate who crossed party lines in May to produce the most bipartisan budget agreement in decades. But in a telephone interview Finkbeiner said he thinks lawmakers could bring that kind of spirit to a lot more issues.
Finkbeiner knows of what he speaks, having crossed party lines as a senator in 2006 to provide the 25th vote to pass a historic civil rights bill for gays and lesbians, which had been bottled up in the Senate by GOP opposition. His switch and similar votes by conservative Democrats passed the bill by 25-23, and it went on to easy passage in the House where then-Rep. Ed Murray had fought for it for years.
Finkbeiner says he hopes he is remembered for work on a budget led by then-Sen. Dino Rossi in 2003-04 and his role in “transportation and a lot of education reform.”
Owen hasn’t been campaigning visibly, but his campaign has reported receiving $41,451 before the session fund-raising freeze. Among his top contributions are $3,200 from Washington Dental Service and $1,600 each from Boeing, Comcast Financial, the Sabey Corp., the Puyallup Tribe, Washington Boilers Association PAC, and Washington Health Care Association PAC.
Finkbeiner is a property manager and his wife Kristen Rowe Finkbeiner is a Democrat and activist with Mom’s Rising, which is advocating for early childhood education. His web site mentions his run, but doesn’t yet feature his news release, which says:
“The gridlock and partisan bickering in our State’s Capitol is unacceptable, especially in times like these. We need innovation and openness in Olympia. As the Lieutenant Governor, I’ll work with both political parties to encourage a more cooperative, less partisan, and less lobbyist-influenced government,” said Finkbeiner.
“Many of the top companies in our nation are located here in Washington, we have a beautiful environment unlike any other place, and we have strong communities — it’s time we had a state government just as good” he said.
Finkbeiner was the youngest Senate Majority Leader in the history of the Washington State Senate. He was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1992 at the age of 23 and left politics in 2006. He is now 42 years old.
“When I was Senate Majority Leader, there was not a single party-line vote. Since that time, party-line voting happens all too often and it’s holding up the process in Olympia. We cannot let party games get in the way of effective government,” said Finkbeiner.
“The way the system is set up now, legislators end up spending too much time thinking about their own re-elections and about party politics, while they’re failing to address the fundamental issues facing our state” he said. “Working together we can create a results-oriented Legislature. It’s time to fix our broken government.
Finkbeiner said he would campaign on a reform agenda, with goals of reducing special interest lobbyist and political party influence on the Legislature, and of bringing elected leaders together to work toward solutions that benefit all of us in a bi-partisan way, including:
** Extending “session freeze” ban on lobbyist campaign contributions – until 30 days after session.
**Making members sit together rather than dividing into two political parties sitting on the right and left sides of the aisle in the legislature.
** Reducing partisan influence that polarizes voting and wastes taxpayer funds.
** Changing joint legislative rules to make conference committees more bipartisan.
** Using a mediator to help legislators negotiate.
** Focusing the office of the Lieutenant Governor on creating a better functioning Washington State Senate and not on world travel.
If elected, Finkbeiner also pledged to use his positions on the State Finance Committee and Productivity Board to make state workers more efficient and state investments responsible.
“The bottom line is that the State Senate can, and must, do better. Working together, we can address the most pressing issues facing our state in an effective, time efficient, and proactive way. To do this, we have to fix our broken state government,” he said.
“I bring both business and political experience to the table. In addition to having held elected office, I worked at Microsoft for five years as a contractor and helped start-up the state’s first online high school. I have an MBA from UW, and am raising a family in the community where I grew up,” he said. “I’m committed to making Washington state a better place—and to do that we must make state government more open and efficient, less partisan, and we must leverage new technology to improve our state government’s performance.”
Finkbeiner is married to Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, executive director of MomsRising, and they have two children. He is on the board of 4Culture which provides millions of dollars of support for local arts and heritage organizations and he has also served on the board of the Kirkland Boys and Girls Club and the Cascade Land Conservancy and was involved in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.
“The time is now to begin turning things around in Washington State,” Finkbeiner said.