Morning Fizz

Morning Fizz: Session Obsession

Caffeinated News & Gossip featuring Rodney Tom's credibility, Dow Constantine's pick, Bruce Harrell's announcement, and lots more.

By Morning Fizz January 14, 2013

Democratic house budget leader Representative Ross Hunter (D-48, Medina) on the left and Majority Coalition leader Sen. Rodney Tom (D-48, Bellevue) on the right. Just sayin'. (And that's freshman Representative Cyrus Habib, D-48, Bellevue, center). 

Caffeinated News & Gossip

1. One drama to watch as the legislative session begins in Olympia today: Which Democrats will take up state senator Rodney Tom's (D-48, Bellevue) offer to chair committees? Tom has been lobbying individual Democrats to do just that after the Democratic caucus, led by state senator Ed Murray (D-43, Seattle), turned down Tom's "power-sharing" offer of six "Majority Coalition Caucus"-chaired Committees, six Democratic-chaired committees, and three co-chaired committees.

Tom (and conservative Democrat Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-35, Potlatch), of course, split off from the Democratic caucus last month, and joined with Republicans to form the Majority Coalition Caucus (MCC). Tom, the new senate majority leader, claims the coalition represents a bipartisan approach to governing.

The Democrats argue that Tom's proposal gives the Republicans disproportionate advantages at the committee level, including as a 12-7 lead in the powerful Rules Committee and a 13-10 advantage on Ways and Means; Murray rejected the agreement because he wants to undercut the MCC's attempt to have bipartisan credibility—forcing Tom and Sheldon to come out as Republicans so that Murray's Democrats can play the traditional role of loyal opposition.

With a handful of Democrats considering Tom's offer, Murray's defensive strategy may collapse.  

With a handful of Democrats considering Tom's offer, including senator Tracey Eide (D-30, Federal Way), who's likely to co-chair the Transportation Committee, and conservative Democrat senator Steve Hobbs (D-44, Lake Stevens) thinking of chairing the Financial Institutions Committee, Murray's defensive strategy may collapse. 

Footnote on the "co-chaired" Transportation Committee offer, though: The Republicans would still have a 9-7 advantage, so it's not clear how Eide's position as co-chair would have a practical impact. Ditto on the "co-chaired" Energy Committee, where the MCC would have a 3-1 advantage.

As for Hobbs's potential Financial Institutions Committee? Hobbs would supposedly give the Democrats a 4-3 advantage. Given Hobbs's starring role as a member of the conservative Democratic faction known as the Roadkill Caucus, which often sides with the Republicans on economic issues, the Democratic advantage there is debatable as well.

2. Something else to take note of as the session begins: the Eastside Microsoft suburbs.

It looks to Fizz like the major committees this session are being run by legislators from Seattle's Eastside burbs. On the house side it's Representative Judy Clibborn (D-41, Mercer Island) and Rep. Ross Hunter (D-48, Medina) heading up Transportation and Appropriations, respectively. And in the senate, where the trend is more pronounced, it's senator Tom, senator Andy Hill (R-45, Redmond), and senator Steve Litzow (R-41, Mercer Island) as Senate Majority Leader, Ways & Means Chair, and K-12 chair, respectively.

Having "Bellevue" Republicans ascendent in the party is an eye-opening development. 

Having "Bellevue" Republicans—as party-line Republicans derisively call moderate (pro-choice) Republicans like Litzow—ascendent in the party is an eye-opening development after the drubbing the GOP took in 2012. 

3. For more session obsession, tune in to KUOW 94.9 FM at 10 this morning.

Josh will be on with Weekday host Steve Scher for a preview of this year's legislative action.

4. King County Executive Dow Constantine is likely to send three names—out of the five candidates vying to fill Bob Ferguson's seat—to the King County Council this week for consideration. (Ferguson is the new State Attorney General; the council will name one of Constantine's three picks to succeed him.)

Fizz hears Constantine will recommend: Foster Pepper attorney and supposed inside favorite Rod Dembowski (Dembowski's political consultant is the same as Constantine's, Christian Sinderman); Shoreline City Council member Will Hall; and state Rep. Cindy Ryu (D-32, Shoreline). 

The other two contenders are Municipal League Board Chair Chuck Sloane and Shoreline Planning Commissioner Keith Scully.

Harrell will be the second City Council member to announce that he's challenging incumbent Mayor Mike McGinn.

Though Dembowski is the odds-on favorite, Ryu has some momentum, scoring a batch of recent labor endorsements including the Seattle Building and Construction Trades Council, the Carpenters Local 41, the Iron Workers Local 86, the IBEW Local 46, and AFSCME Local 341. In addition to the recent thumbs up from labor, Ryu has also gotten the nod from former King County Executive Ron Sims, Seattle state Rep. Jamie Pedersen, and Seattle City Council member Bruce Harrell.

5. Speaking of Harrell, chatter is high that he's jumping in to the mayor's race early this week (Fizz, in fact, will put money on that).

Harrell will be the second city council member to announce that he's challenging incumbent mayor Mike McGinn in the upcoming election (the other is Tim Burgess).

Former city council member Peter Steinbrueck and state senator Ed Murray are also officially in the race—along with a growing group of long-shot, low-profile candidates.

Harrell, who's half-African American and half-Japanese, has made a big deal out of police accountability, and may thwart McGinn's effort to lock up the minority vote.

At McGinn's re-election announcement speech last week at the Filipino Community Center in Southeast Seattle, McGinn was the only white person on stage, flanked by African, Asian-American, and Latino leaders. His predominantly-white volunteer squad was out in the hallway during his speech.

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