Sen. Jim West, never one to mince words, called on the House of Representatives on Wednesday to begin impeachment proceedings against Gov. Mike Lowry.
West, R-Spokane, said he has concluded Lowry “is not fit to serve” after having read an investigator’s report issued last week about allegations that Lowry had sexually harassed a former press aide, Susanne Albright.
Other lawmakers, however, showed little enthusiasm for West’s idea.
In a letter to be given to all members of the state House and Senate today, West states, “Anyone except Governor Lowry that reads this report would not want their wife, daughter or female friend to work in close proximity to this man.
“The report in my opinion clearly indicates that his conduct constitutes malfeasance in office.
“The governor should not be held to any lower standard than anyone else in our society. Governors cannot and should not flout the law. If only half the allegations are indeed truth and this were anyone but the governor, there would be no questions asked; he would be summarily fired.”
Lorraine Hine, the governor’s staff director, said West’s remarks “do not merit response.”
In her report, Seattle attorney Mary Alice Theiler said Lowry’s conduct toward Albright does not meet the legal definition of sexual harassment. But she said his conduct has made at least one, and probably more, of his employees uncomfortable, adding that “he must change.”
Lowry issued a statement Wednesday to his staff promising “to conduct myself in a manner that prevents this from ever happening again.”
That was a far cry from his behavior at a news conference last week in which Lowry agreed with his wife, Mary, that he had done “absolutely nothing wrong.”
West appeared to get scant support for his call for impeachment Wednesday. He said he was summarily dressed down in a closed-door meeting of the Republican caucus for making his move unilaterally.
Senate Minority Leader Dan MacDonald, R-Bellevue, called West’s request “Jim’s thing” and said he doesn’t expect it to go anywhere.
House Speaker Clyde Ballard, R-East Wenatchee, said he would not even consider West’s request until after the legislative session. “We have a very full agenda, and I’m not going to get pulled off onto side issues,” Ballard said.
West dismissed Ballard’s reluctance, saying, “The leadership of the House aren’t red meat eaters.”
House Democrats rejected West’s remarks out of hand.
“You’ve got to be kidding,” said Rep. Marlin Appelwick, D-Seattle, minority floor leader. “This is just a way to attack the governor and keep the issue alive.”
But West said he’s not pursuing the impeachment proposal for political reasons. “For Republicans, the best thing politically would be to have Mike Lowry on the ballot in 1996. This is above politics.
“I’m not a feminist or any kind of fighter for women’s rights, but what he did was wrong and can’t go without response.”
Under the state constitution, the House must initiate impeachment proceedings with at least 50 members voting for impeachment. The Senate then would conduct a trial, and at least 33 members must vote to impeach for the governor to be removed from office. No Washington governor ever has been impeached.
Lowry has two years left in his term, and he has said he definitely will run again.