Afternoon Jolt: Senate Republican Leader Steps Down
No winner or loser today, just a Jolt.
In a surprise announcement today, state Sen. Mike Hewitt (R-16) said that he would not be running for reelection as leader of the Senate Republican Caucus.
Back in April, Hewitt went through surgery to remove a cancerous tumor in his abdomen. In his statement, he cites "my health challenges this past year" as one of his reasons for deciding not to run again. Senate Republican Caucus spokeswoman Rebecca Japhet would not say whether Hewitt's health problems had worsened or were among the reasons for his decision. "I'd rather let his statement speak for itself," she said.
Hewitt name-checked a number of suburban senators who bring "a whole new face" to the party. On the list were three of the senate's most moderate Republicans: Joe Fain (R-47), Andy Hill (R-45), and Steve Litzow (R-41). Fain, Hill, and Litzow all joined Democrats in voting for gay marriage and allowing medical marijuana dispensaries, among other moderate votes.
Although the names Hewitt mentioned did include some more conservative senators like newly elected Sens. Bruce Dammeier (R-25) and Ann Rivers (R-18), the inclusion of so many moderates signals a recognition by party leaders that the party needs to move toward the center to survive in Washington State.
Reflecting a general consensus after the election, in which just one Republican, Secretary of State-elect Kim Wyman, won statewide office, that the party needs to move toward the center, Hewitt said, "Focusing on centrist policy rather than party labels is what will make the people of Washington a winner." Hewitt has moved to the right in his time as a senator, and is generally perceived as one of the more conservative Republicans in the senate.
Hewitt has served as head of the Republican Caucus since 2005.