Thursday, December 27, 2012

(Rural) Moderation of Washington state's political scene

Kirk Johnson reports in the New York Times today on a new coalition of lawmakers in Washington state--a centrist coalition that includes both Democrats and Republicans.  Johnson writes:
From the governor-elect on down, through both chambers of the Legislature, a tincture of blue political monoculture drifts through Washington State politics like mist through the pines. 
Or is the Democrat-led consensus an illusion, a distortion of liberal Seattle, Washington’s urban center and the heartland of the Pacific Northwest left? Two Democrats in the State Senate, in bolting from the party’s ranks this month to join with Republicans in creating a new majority coalition, say yes. 
True representation of state residents — republican government with a small “r” — demanded a broader discussion and a larger voice, they said, for marginalized segments of the electorate.
Without expressly saying so, Johnson implies that those marginalized segments are in rural Washington.    He notes that Jay Inslee, a former Democratic congressman who will become governor next month, won majorities in just eight liberal counties, while losing the other 31.  The new coalition, which controls the legislature with 25 seats--including two who abandoned the previously 26-strong Democratic majority--aims to do a better job of representing them and moving away from what one of the coalition Democrats calls "Seattle-centric" lawmaking.  That Democrat is veteran lawmaker, Senator Tim Sheldon, from a district west of Olympia, who will be President pro-tem of the state Senate come January.   The other Democrat who has joined the coalition will become majority leader.  

Johnson otherwise sums up the forces that alienated the likes of Sheldon, and which presumably marginalize rural forces in Washington state politics:
[S]afe seats in Seattle, campaign money raised in safe seats but spread around, and a caucus that rewards and reinforces the safe-seat equation with powerful leadership posts.
That the Republicans have held onto power in this way reminds me of this post from about 18 months ago, about the persistent strength of rural lawmakers in state houses.

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