The Senate has sworn in maverick Democratic Sen. Tim Sheldon to serve as president pro tempore, presiding over the politically divided chamber when Lt. Gov. Brad Owen is away. No one else was nominated but the vote was 38 to 10 Monday – far from unanimous.
Among the dissenters was Democratic Sen. Karen Fraser of Thurston County.
“A big portion of my constituency is very unhappy with his shifting” allegiance to join the GOP caucus in a coalition, Fraser explained.
Among other lawmakers voting against Sheldon were Democratic Sens. Jeannie Darneille of Tacoma, Maralyn Chase of Shoreline, Adam Kline of Seattle, and Sharon Nelson of Vashon.
The Senate also swore in Sen. Paull Shin as vice-president pro tempore after voting him in without dissent.
The Senate also voted to appoint Hunter Goodman as secretary of the Senate, its chief administrative officer. Goodman has served as a deputy and legislative director for outgoing Attorney General Rob McKenna, a Republican. The vote was 44-to-1.
Fraser, Republican Caucus Chair Linda Evans Parlette and others also spoke on the floor to remember and honor Tom Hoemann, who was ousted by the Senate power shift from his role as Senate secretary.
UPDATE on original 2:38 p.m. Jan. 14 post: The roll call on Sheldon’s election as president pro tem is
I spoke to Sheldon briefly after the vote and, despite criticism that it is “bipartisan in name only,” he thinks the Majority Coalition Caucus is a new model for bipartisanship.
“I think the Majority Coalition Caucus is a great opportunity for like-minded legislators of both parties – regardless of party – to work together. And I’ve been here 22 years – this is my 23rd year, and I think I’m more excited about this session than any other … because it’s a new model,” Sheldon said. “So many people want it to fail. So many people that are partisan to the core want this effort to fail. And I’d like to prove them wrong.”
He also said the president pro tem role is less “rancorous” and more like a “skilled mechanic” working on the political machine. He said he doesn’t have the skills yet, but believes he’ll bring fairness to floor debates.