By Ralph Schwartz
** UPDATED ** Adds Ericksen statement; adds quotes from our local state senators; corrects name of majority leader; includes link to Republican press release
State Sen. Kevin Ranker (D-Orcas Island) called this morning to say a press conference is announcing that two Democratic state senators are shifting their allegiances, forcing a power-sharing arrangement in the Senate.
Details are only now coming in, but the Republican sympathies felt by D Tim Sheldon and D Rodney Tom have forced a shift in power. Both will retain their party affiliation, keeping the Dems in control of the Senate, but Tom takes over as Senate majority leader (one wonders if he didn’t threaten to switch to R to get the post), and a Republican will chair the powerful Ways and Means Committee, which directs the state budget, and five other committees.
In a press conference, the new GOP-Tom-Sheldon caucus called this power-sharing setup “unprecedented.”
Read the “majority coalition caucus” press release here, on the Senate Republicans website.
Some information was provided by Brad Shannon, The Olympian’s politics editor. (The Olympian and the TNT are sister papers of the Herald). His politics blog can be read here.
Quotes from our senators about the change:
42nd District’s Doug Ericksen (R-Ferndale): “It’s an exciting opportunity to focus on solutions and not partisan labels.”
40th District’s Ranker, speaking of the “core Democratic values” held by a majority of state citizens: “We need to make sure we continue to govern for the citizens of Washington state.”
At 3:10 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 10, Ericksen’s office issued a statement:
Sen. Doug Ericksen was selected today to serve as co-chair of the new Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee.
“My focus in the Senate is on doing what’s best for the people of Whatcom County and Washington state,” said Ericksen, R-Ferndale. “Serving as chair of the Energy and Telecommunications Committee will provide me with a great opportunity to promote positive solutions for job creation and economic growth.”
Ericksen will also be a part of a new bipartisan group, known as the “Majority Coalition Caucus,” which will set the operating rules for the 2013 legislative session, which begins Jan. 14.
“This is an unprecedented opportunity to change the way Olympia operates,” Ericksen said. “We’re going to be judging ideas based on their merit, rather than the political party they’re associated with. That’s important because the best solutions don’t come with an ‘R’ or ‘D’ next to them; they’re a product of everyone listening to each other and working together.
“My legislative priorities will remain the same as they’ve always been – forcing government to live within its means and creating a sustainable budget based on the priorities of our state.
“I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few months talking to people in Whatcom County and across Washington state about what they want from their government. The message I heard loud and clear is that people want solutions, not finger-pointing. It’s time to move forward with fresh ideas and this new model for state government.”