Turnover is both constant and necessary in an elected legislative body. The democratic spirit demands it.
So, members come, and members go. But some departures are more conspicuous than others, such as that of state Sen. Bob McCaslin, who announced his resignation this week.
The affable Spokane Valley Republican, who was first elected the year Ronald Reagan was elected president, gave in to health concerns this week and stepped down from the Senate, where he was the third-longest-serving member in history and the most senior of 147 current members of the House and Senate.
McCaslin will keep his Spokane Valley City Council seat, but with a bone marrow disorder that requires frequent and lengthy transfusions, he is in no position to undertake the strain of a legislative session 300 miles away.
His decision, difficult as it had to be for one with such zest for the political process, was the right one for himself, the Senate and the 4th Legislative District.
For the record, The Spokesman-Review did not endorse McCaslin in his City Council race, in part because of concern over holding two elective offices simultaneously. But the voters made their choice, and it’s regrettable that the veteran lawmaker’s departure is dictated by health rather than the political process or his own desires.
It’s also unfortunate that the decision comes on the eve of a challenging session in which lawmakers must confront some of the toughest economic issues they’ve faced in years, starting with a $4.6 billion revenue gap for the 2011-’13 biennium. Hard choices loom and the legislative process requires full participation from all those whom the voters have designated to make them.
Yet, although the Legislature will open on Monday, McCaslin’s seat will remain vacant until the prescribed process for filling it has had time to unfold. Fourth District Republicans must come up with a list of nominees from which Spokane County commissioners – all Republicans, for what that may be worth – must choose. Such processes sometimes drag out.
State Rep. Larry Crouse says he isn’t interested in the appointment, but his 4th District colleague, Rep. Matt Shea, is. If Shea gets the job, that would merely create a new vacancy in the House and the process would have to be repeated.
Meanwhile, the shirt-sleeves work of bill drafting, committee hearings, work sessions and the like will be moving forward, all important preparation for the final votes that await down the line. The 4th District’s representation in those important activities will be diminished until the appointment is made.
It’s no secret that there has been strain within the Spokane County Republican Party of late. There also are three strong-willed county commissioners, each with his own contacts, priorities and values.
There can be no tolerance for squabbles and political maneuvering. Everyone involved owes the 4th District’s residents a prompt decision.