Bipartisanship rears its head in the Senate Democratic caucus, but Ed Murray is picked as leader as results flip to Republican Don Benton in a key race. Also, Mount Rainier rescue progress and sports controversies.
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.
Confusing Jerramy Stevens case
KING5 posted a midday story reporting a court appearance for former UW football star Jerramy Stevens in connection with a domestic violence investigation. He and soccer star Hope Solo were supposed to be married today. The most detailed account so far comes from seattlepi.com. Solo's attorney reportedly said she had not been assauted. It's not at all clear there's any legal fire behind the smoke around a very confused situation (stun gun used by Solo's brother while fighting unwanted guests, just for starters). The pi.com report says: "Making his appearance in Kirkland Municipal Court on Tuesday afternoon for a bail hearing, Stevens was quickly released after Judge Michael Lambo deemed there was 'zero' evidence connecting Stevens to an assault."
College athletic follies
After announcing an independent investigation into the charge of abuse by the fan of public humiliation now running the football program, Washington State University president Elson Floyd received well-deserved praise from News Tribune columnist Peter Callaghan. Callaghan, never one to gush unnecessarily about public officials, also pointed out the unusual nature of University of Washington Athletic Director Scott Woodward's policy of avoiding emails for fear that a public information request will let the public in on what is going on at the (last time we checked) public university's athletic program.
During the football season, the UW's football program also joined the craze for withholding information about injuries to players, something that has spread as a way to maintain supposed competitive advantages. Now, with basketball season under way, the UW has reprimanded a News Tribune reporter for tweeting too frequently during a game. Apparently, it has to do with the central purpose of college athletics, broadcast rights (and the money from the broadcasts). Which is fine if a bit stretched; radio has got to be a better experience than hunching over a screen — tablet, mobile, or desktop — for updates. And there's a good post on Deadspin making the point that more is often less. Samer Kalaf writes, "Most beat writers would be well served to tone down the live-tweeting a bit."
Of course, too much tweeting could be a virtue, too, for a school like Seattle University, which is rebuilding its athletic programs. Men's basketball Coach Cameron Dollar sent this tweet to Dybas: