Sen. Rodney Tom (D-48, Medina) sent the following email to members of the Majority Coalition caucus today:
I wanted to let you know I will not be running for re-election to the state senate this year. A sequence of events just make this the right decision for me. I'm still working through some health issue related to my kidney stones adventure that I had at the end of session. The final straw was on this past Thursday, my 85 year old father was hit by a car while walking in the grocery store parking lot (in a crosswalk with his cane). It broke his femur, as well as damaging his hip. He's going to require a lot of physical therapy over the next several months, and I'm his only son that lives in the area. I have always said that health and family are my number one values, and instead of that being merely a campaign slogan, I really do try to live by them.
It has been an incredible honor to serve in the Legislature these past 12 years, especially these last two years working with the Majority Coalition Caucus (MCC). It has been a thrill of a lifetime working with all of you (well, most of you!). I really do believe we did an amazing job for the citizens of Washington state these past two years in focusing on jobs and the economy, creating a great education system for all of Washington from pre-K to our colleges and universities, all while maintaining a sustainable budget that empowers our economy.
I wish you all the best of luck in the future, you're an amazingly talented group of individuals. I hope you stay true to the core principles of the MCC, and leave the social and other divisive issues aside. If you stay focused on what really matters in driving our economy forward, the citizens of this state will be well served.
This is a bombshell: Sen. Tom is the dissident Democrat (and former Republican) from the Microsoft suburbs who decided to caucus with the GOP two years ago, throwing control of the senate to the Republicans. Tom took over as senate leader of what his allies (now 24 Republicans and one other dissident Democrat, Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlach) call the Majority Coalition Caucus. They currently control the state senate 26-23.
In order to keep his caucus together, Sen. Tom has placated conservatives by shutting down Democratic priorities such as the Reproductive Parity Act; however, the MCC did pass the DREAM Act, or Real Hope Act, as the MCC renamed it, this session. Perhaps more controversial in the Seattle suburbs, where Tom's coservative economic POV isn't as unpopular as it is with Seattle Democrats, is the fact that Tom's MCC did not pass a transportation package (the Democratic house did), stranding the burbs with pending bus cuts.
With Sen. Tom out (I've also heard Tom did polling last week), the Democrats' long-shot efforts to take back the senate got a much-needed dose of hope. There was already a Democratic-endorsed candidate running to oust Sen. Tom, former Kirkland Mayor Joan McBride, though powerful state house Rep. Ross Hunter (D-48, Medina) and Cyrus Habib (D-48, Kirkland) may step in. Rep. Habib says the party is currently trying to figure out the best plan and credited McBride for her "courageous" race so far. McBride has raised $61,000; Tom has raised $109,000.
Democrats are also trying to win senate seats in the 28th, the 30th, and the 45th, with the 28th—Tacoma, Lakewood—being their best shot where liberal labor Rep. Tami Green is challenging incumbent Sen. Steve O'Ban.
UPDATE at 2:24 pm Washington State Republican Party Chair Susan Hutchison issued the following statement on Tom's decision to bow out, contradicting McBride's campaign line that recent polling may have looked bad for Tom:
We are sorry to learn of the circumstances – both health and family related – that brought Rodney Tom to his decision not to seek re-election. By forming and leading the Majority Coalition Caucus, Rodney Tom and the Republicans have been able to push back against the out-of-control spending and tax increases promoted by the Democrats and Governor Inslee. There is now a new opportunity for Republicans to win a Senate seat in a district that has had a very positive impact on the people of this state. A recent survey shows that the voters of the 48th District would have re-elected Rodney Tom by a wide margin, and that the issues of most concern to them - education, too much government spending and job creation - are Republican strengths. We’re convinced that there are a number of quality potential Republican candidates in the 48th District. The Democrats may be cheering now, but they won’t be cheering in November.