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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

Coalition in Senate: A coup or exciting pact?

OLYMPIA -- Reaction to the announcement of a new coalition to run the Senate is decidedly mixed.

Republicans, not surprisingly, are hailing the decision of two Democrats to join hands with the 23 GOP members and create a brave new world of legislative leadership.

State GOP Chairman Kirby Wilbur described himself as "beyond excited."

"The courage of these two Democrats means that we can expect a no-new taxes budget and education reform with Republicans now chairing both the Ways and Means and K-12 committees," Wilbur said in a press release.

His Democratic counterpart, Dwight Pelz, is, not surprisingly, less thrilled. Sens. Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon "turned their backs" on their own party to side with "radically right" Republicans, he said. And this after the state Ds gave Tom $25,000 in his last election.

"Sen. Tom has instigated this unprecedented coup and joined with Republicans to install himself as Majority Leader out of a desire to further his own personal ambitions," Pelz said in a prepared statement.

Governor-elect Jay Inslee is staking a "wait and see" attitude on the loss of his party's control of the Senate and won't weigh in on whether Democrats should reject the offer choosing some committee chairmanships and sharing others, spokeswoman Jaime Smith said. Who is in charge of the chamber and the committees is less important than solving problems on the budget and education, she added.

House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan said the plan "certainly has the potential to make reaching a consensus more difficult" but insisted House Democrats have always worked with members from both chambers and both sides of the aisle. (House Republicans would likely take issue with that. ) He also chimed in on the Senate Republicans' theme of not wanting to look like that Congress.

"But we can't allow this Washington to devolve into the bitter drama and endless gridlock we too often see in the other Washington," Sullivan said.

Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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