Update: 4:49 p.m.
State Senate: Mutiny on the D side
Washington state Democrats had hardly finished celebrating their control of the Legislature when some of their own decided to throw a damper on the mood. Now, the Democrats are back to waiting out the vote count.
In fact, the counting in a vote key to how the Senate is governed could go on for weeks, just the kind of Rossi-Gregoire nail-biter everyone thought had been dodged.
Two factors are at play.
First, one race is so close that it has just flipped from Democrat to Republican, and it could end up in automatic-recount territory. In Clark County, 17th District Democratic challenger Tim Probst just lost the lead he had held over long-time archconservative Sen. Don Benton. Clark County released results shortly before 5 p.m. from a significant batch of votes. Benton, who had been trailing by 16 votes, now leads by 65 — out of more than 53,000 so far cast and counted. Benton picked up 379 votes in today's counting; Probst picked up 298. But there are more than 5,000 votes still to count. (Live results here.)
Second, at least two Senate Democrats — or perpetually conflicted Democrats — want to undo party control and run the Senate in a bipartisan fashion, according to The News Tribune and Washington State Wire. Sens. Tim Sheldon of Potlatch and Rodney Tom of Bellevue are demanding that committee chairmanships not be decided by the majority party and that the leader of the Senate could be from the minority. (Tom is so conflicted/confused that he formerly served as a Republican representative. Despite his antics, there's no sign of a reconversion so far. Or a name change to run next time as Tom Rodney/Prefers Various Parties).
Last Thursday, outgoing Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown (she chose not to seek re-election) put out a statement saying, "Senate Democrats are well-positioned to continue to lead the state. I look forward to watching the efforts of our seasoned members as well as our emerging leaders." Who is well-positioned apparently remains to be seen, however.
Senate Majority Leader vote
4:10 p.m. update
Adding to the drama, Senate Democrats gathered today to elect their leader, majority leader or just Democratic caucus leader if the mutineers have their way. As widely expected, Seattle's Ed Murray won the vote.
Senate Democratic caucus spokeswoman Dana Slote Robinson sent out a text shortly after 4 p.m. announcing the seletion. It was the first real change in the leadership of the caucus since Brown became minority leader in 2002. When the party gained control of the Senate in 2005, she became majority leader.
In a press release, Brown reused the phrase "well-positioned" but with a different emphasis: “I have congratulated Sen. Murray on his election as majority leader and offered my assistance. He has done a fantastic job during the course of his 17 years in Olympia, and we have accomplished a great deal together. Under Sen. Murray’s leadership, the Democratic Caucus is well-positioned to continue to provide support for the people of Washington"
Good news on Mount Rainier
After spotting two stranded snowboarders last night, rescuers this morning reached the two men some 1,600 feet above the Paradise ranger station. According to an AP and KING 5 report, the men were taking liquids and able to walk. Getting them off the mountain was expected to take place sometime this afternoon.
Logging/blogging a 'Big' departure at seattlepi.com
Amy Rolph of seattlepi.com's Big Blog told readers that she is leaving at the end of the week, for a position with MSN. She promised that her colleagues would pick up the long-popular feature, which had been pioneered by Monica Guzman when there was still a Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Since the Big Blog has been a key draw, with lots of personality, one might guess that Rolph's shoes will be hard to fill. It had better be one lively colleague who is designated to take the lead role that Rolph and Guzman made so important.
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