Election 2012

A Risky Game for Transit Advocates

By Erica C. Barnett November 2, 2012

Here's some scary legislative math for transit wonks to consider as we head into the November 6 election. They're in a lose lose situation. Surely, they want the Democrats to maintain control of the senate—Democrats are, obviously, more favorable to the transit agenda. But one of the key chess pieces in the fight for the senate is state senate transportation committee chair Mary Margaret Haugen (D-10, Camano).

Haugen is a longtime nemesis to transit advocates across the state.

Quick background on Haugen's transportation/environmental voting record: She sponsored legislation to make it easier for the state to build highways without local governments' consent; proposed a bill to allow private vanpool services into transit-only lanes and the downtown Seattle transit tunnel; kept federal stimulus dollars away from Seattle; and killed transit funding in Pierce and Snohomish Counties, among many other anti-transit votes in her 30 years in office. 

Currently, the Democrats hold a 27-22 majority in the state senate. However, six races, including Haugen's, are in play and could give the Republicans the advantage. (With two conservative Democrats already in the mix—Sens. Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon—the Republicans could be behind nominally, but still end up calling the shots. Some even speculate that they could demand a power sharing set up to control some committees.)

In Haugen's race, the immediate fallout if she loses to her Republican opponent, Barbara Bailey, would depend almost entirely on whether the Democrats are still in control of the senate. If Haugen loses and the Democrats stay in power, her seat as transportation chair would likely go to committee vice-chair Tracey Eide (D-30), a progressive Democrat who represents the largely transit-dependent voters of Federal Way. That would be a win for transit, which is the reason the transit advocates at Seattle Transit Blog felt comforatble endorsing Bailey. 

On the other hand, if the Republicans take the senate, the chairmanship of the transportation committee would almost certainly go to a Republican–like ranking minority member Curtis King, or ranking minority member Curtis King (R-14), or assistant ranking minority member Joe Fain (R-47). That would be bad news for transit—one reason some transit advocates, generally longtime Haugen opponents, have been out doorbelling on her behalf. 

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