Spin Control

WA Lege Day 12: Senate honors McCaslin

OLYMPIA — With a photo of Bob McCaslin propped up near his old desk and his family in the gallery, the Washington state Senate’s most senior member was praised for his ability to make his colleagues laugh with a well-timed joke and keep them on track with encyclopedic knowledge of the rules.

McCaslin, whose 30 years made him the most senior member of the Senate until he resigned this month for health reason, was described by Republicans and Democrats alike as a mentor to new legislators. In a tribute that lasted for nearly an hour, members on both sides of the aisle said his humor and historical knowledge may be needed more than ever this year.

“We’re going to miss Bob McCaslin’s institutional memory as we deal with this crisis,” Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, said, noting the Spokane Valley veteran was the only remaining member of the Senate who served in the last big economic downturn of 1981-82.

McCaslin who is 84, was hospitalized last week for circulatory problems and had a leg amputated this week. But he’s “doing better each day”, his son Bob, who was in the gallery for the tribute, said.

McCaslin was the master of a well-timed story or joke, Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, said. “Bob was always the one who, when things were going badly in caucus, could get things…he’d tell a little story.”

Some senators joked about his reputation as the Republican caucus’s “most eligible bachelor”, who as he got older didn’t mind being set up on a date as long as it was with someone who could drive at night. “We looked for interns who had really nice grandmothers with a driver’s license,” Schoesler joked.

He had a reputation of killing bills that came to the Senate from the House, and Senate bills from Democratic members.

“He always killed my bills. He said you work too hard, but we don’t need all these things,” Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, said. “He hated Growth Management. And you know what Bob, you were right about some of it.”

They didn’t agree on many issues but found ways to work together for things important to Spokane like the Mirabeau Point, said Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown of Spokane, who added she’d miss their “entertaining exchanges.”

McCaslin was so skilled at debating a point that an opponent wouldn’t immediately realize he was being skewered, said Lt. Gov. Brad Owen who serves as president of the Senate. “He is the only senator so far to tell the president he’s wrong without the president knowing it until he got back to his office.”

The resolution, which was read in its entirety in an unusual move, can be found inside the blog

By Senators Honeyford, Delvin, Fraser, Parlette, Brown, Carrell, Ranker, Hewitt, Schoesler, Pflug,
King, Hobbs, Becker, Prentice, Morton, Zarelli, Eide, Litzow, Regala, Chase, White, Keiser,
Murray, Haugen, Hargrove, Hatfield, Kohl-Welles, Pridemore, Kastama, Nelson, Harper, Stevens,
Rockefeller, Baumgartner, Tom, Hill, Kilmer, McAuliffe, Swecker, Conway, Ericksen, and Shin
WHEREAS, Senator Bob McCaslin was elected to the Senate in 1980 and in January 1981 he
began a 30-year run in the Senate, one of the longest in Washington State's history; and
WHEREAS, Senator McCaslin has endeared himself not only to his faithful constituents and
Senate Republican Caucus staff, but to Senators on both sides of the aisle, as they recall how he
often lightened the tone with his wit and wisdom during heated Senate floor debates; and
WHEREAS, Senator McCaslin has always displayed equal amounts of compassion and
strength with regard to the issues, while keeping in mind, and working toward, the needs and
betterment of the 4th Legislative District and the entire State of Washington; and
WHEREAS, Senator McCaslin is a friend to all, confidante of many, and trustworthy advisor
to his colleagues; and
WHEREAS, Senator McCaslin served in the United States Navy during World War II, after
which he spent 17 years in production management at Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Corporation,
and for another 17 years owned his own real estate company in the Spokane Valley; and
WHEREAS, Senator McCaslin, during his time in the Senate, has been passionately involved
in growth management issues, and currently serves as the Ranking Republican Member of the
Senate Judiciary Committee, and as a Member of the Senate Economic Development, Trade and
Innovation Committee; and
WHEREAS, Senator McCaslin was a source of constant moral support to his colleagues, a
stalwart conscience who would, when a colleague changed positions on a bill, wonder aloud if the
colleague were as firm on this new position as on the prior one; and
WHEREAS, Senator McCaslin's institutional knowledge and parliamentary prowess were
legendary, and he is credited with establishing a tremendous body of precedent in the form of rulings
by the President of the Senate, such as at least one ruling which established that a bill cannot be
outside the scope and object of itself; and
WHEREAS, Even when Senator McCaslin did not completely achieve his parliamentary aims
on the full floor of the Senate, his tireless crusade to establish a breakfast break for those early
Saturday morning sessions, his constant battle to ensure that the President knew he was handsome
and wise before he ruled on a particular matter, and his dogged quest to check with the rostrum to
make sure the clock measuring the three minute rule was working properly were a source of constant
inspiration; and
WHEREAS, He steadfastedly opposed tax increases throughout his illustrious career, but
could be overheard from time to time wondering if the state might solve its fiscal problems once
and for all by charging fees for floor speeches; and
WHEREAS, On those rare and frustrating times when the Senate's business took the members
deep into the dark of night, Senator McCaslin's sage advice as he put on his coat carried great weight
with his colleagues, as he wished them all the best on their fruitless endeavors and hoped that they
would turn the lights off when they left, as he was making for the elevator; and
WHEREAS, Senator McCaslin, due to health reasons, has made the decision to retire, leaving
an indelible mark on Olympia and this great institution; he will be greatly missed by all of us who
know and love him;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, That the Washington State Senate recognize and
congratulate Senator McCaslin for his thirty years of dedication to the citizens of the State of
Washington; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That a copy of this resolution honoring him be immediately
transmitted by the Secretary of the Senate to Washington State Senator Bob McCaslin.

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Jim Camden
Jim Camden is the Olympia bureau chief, covering the Legislature and state government. He also is a political columnist and blogger for Spin Control.

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