Because of a quirk in state law, Spokane’s 4th Legislative District will have one senator for the first day of the upcoming special session, and a different senator for the rest of it.
Republican Mike Padden is the apparent winner of the race to fill a seat that came open earlier this year when veteran Sen. Bob McCaslin resigned for health reasons. Padden has a mathematically insurmountable lead over Jeff Baxter, a fellow Republican appointed to the seat earlier this year.
Padden, a former state representative and district judge, leads Baxter by 3,628 votes. The Spokane County elections office estimates there are fewer than 3,000 votes left to count in the 4th District.
Baxter, a Valley businessman, was picked from a list of three nominees submitted to county commissioners by Republican precinct officers early this year, and served for most of the regular session and all of the special session that followed. Because he was appointed to fill the seat, state law says, the winner of Tuesday’s election takes over as soon as the results are official.
But state law also says there isn’t a winner until the Spokane County Canvassing Board certifies all the election results at a 1 p.m. meeting on Nov. 29. Ordinarily, that wouldn't make any difference because regular sessions of the Legislature start the January after an election.
This year, the upcoming special session starts Nov. 28, while Baxter still holds the seat.
Padden’s swearing-in ceremony is being scheduled for the afternoon of Nov. 29. He’ll have the same committee assignments as Baxter – Ways and Means, Judiciary and Human Services – and probably the same office in the Capitol Building.
“I’m not going to interfere with anything Jeff does that one day. I don’t think he should step down,” Padden said. “I would think he’d want to be the senator for that day, go over and say his good-byes.”