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Meet Don Benton, state Senate bill-monger

The Republican Senator won reelection in a tight race this year that clinched a Republican majority coalition in the Senate. He's not looking back.
Senator Don Benton, R-Vancouver.

Senator Don Benton, R-Vancouver. Don Benton for State Senate

One of his constituents recently told Sen. Don Benton that he couldn't know how long he'd be in the Washington Senate majority — so don't waste time. Benton is taking that advice to heart.

So far, just two weeks into the legislative session, Benton, R-Vancouver, has introduced 30 bills. You can expect more.

They include: Requiring parents to be notified if a girl, 18 or younger, gets an abortion. Making the children of illegal immigrants ineligible for in-state college tuition. Requiring proof of citizenship before getting a new driver's license. Keeping that pesky United Nations out of Washington's land-use laws.

Just to name a few.

The bills also tell us a lot about Benton himself. The state Senator — a 55-year-old father of four and consultant for television station sales staffs — is an ardent protector of property rights. He also describes himself as persistent. He is. Over the course of his legislative career, which includes 16 years in the Senate and two in the House, he's introduced numerous bills each year. But the Democrat-controlled Senate committees have usually killed them before they got off the ground.

It's been pretty frustrating to him.

This year though, a Republican-dominated majority coalition controls the Senate and Benton has reintroduced lots of his old bills, plus a few new ones. With Republicans in control of most Senate committees, he hopes they will get at least hearings this time and perhaps even have a decent chance of passing the full chamber. The Republican-heavy majority coalition gives Senate Republicans the chance to pass bills that have been dead on arrival in the past.

"Is there a pent-up demand for fair hearings on bills by Republicans? I say yes. ... There's no grand master plan. The plan for me, Don Benton, is to incorporate legislation that has been stifled by Seattle's domination in the legislative arena," Benton said.

A major chunk of the Legislature's Democrats live in Seattle and its surrounding area. House Speaker Frank Chopp and Senate Minority Leader Ed Murray are both from the liberal 43rd District, composed of Seattle's Wallingford, University District and Capitol Hill neighborhoods. The anti-Seattle sentiment was one of the reasons Sens. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, and Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, jumped the aisle to team up with the Senate Republicans for a Senate takeover.

Benton's re-election was the key to enabling the new majority coalition's control of the Senate.

It had been a bitter race. Probst spotlighted Benton's failed attempt at reelection as the Washington Republican Party chairman amid allegations of mishandled finances. In 2000, the Seattle Times reported that Benton refused to resign after he left $1.2 million in donations unspent during the 2000 campaigns, which included Democrat Maria Cantwell's narrow unseating of Republican incumbent U.S. Sen.Slade Gorton. Party leaders also criticized him for putting $365,000 in escrow to move the party headquarters from Tukwila to an Olympia building, without telling party leaders.

Meanwhile in 2012, Benton sent out an aggressive political mailer: "My opponent has been promised $250,000 in negative attack mail by the Seattle Democrat machine. They will stop at nothing to maintain their failed control of the state Senate, including lying to you about my record."

The Columbian newspaper of Vancouver dug into the issue: Democrats denied the attack mail allegation, but Benton told The Columbian that his allegations were true. They came from several sources, he said, which he declined to name to the newspaper.

Initially, former Rep.Tim Probst, D-Vancouver, beat out Benton by a slender 222 votes. The tiny margin triggered an automatic recount, which Tom and Sheldon watched closely. A win by Benton would provide the 25th vote they'd need to justify switching sides because of their philosophical differences with the other Democrats on budget matters.

The recount made Benton the winner by 74 votes. And power shifted to the Senate's Republicans.


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Comments:

Posted Fri, Jan 25, 7:29 a.m. Inappropriate

Mr. Stang should provde an example of where he has referred to Democrat in leadership as a " Bill-Monger".

Cameron

Posted Fri, Jan 25, 7:31 a.m. Inappropriate

mon·ger (mnggr, mng-)
n.
1. A dealer in a specific commodity. Often used in combination: an ironmonger.
2. A person promoting something undesirable or discreditable. Often used in combination: a scandalmonger; a warmonger.
tr.v. mon·gered, mon·ger·ing, mon·gers
To peddle.

Cameron

Posted Fri, Jan 25, 8:57 a.m. Inappropriate

Abortion? In-state tuition? The UN? These are as much sideshow issues as the wasteful feel-good legislation the Democrats typically excel in. The GOP is wasting a golden opportunity if they do not stick to fiscal responsibility and core government services. Rome is still burning. We just have a new fiddler.

dbreneman

Posted Sat, Jan 26, 6:21 a.m. Inappropriate

Yep no parent would ever want to be notified of their 13 year old daughter was being given a cab ride and abortion by their health clinic in their school...there are never any "complications" after a procedure like that.

In-State tuition for people in the country illegally? Why wouldn't the Washington State Tax Payers want to pay for people who are not legally able to work in the country or even be here? Those pesky tax paying legal residents should be greatful the State is so welcoming and open minded in the way it doles out it's surplus education dollars and fills slots to attend State Universities.

Using UN land use rulings as the basis for deciding cases in Washington State Courts? Probably wouldn't need to be addressed if we had a Judicial Branch who could refrain from citing the UN in decisions.

Are these all TOP priorities? Maybe not, but if the Murray led Democrats had not pushed for soo many items that need to be corrected, perhaps they wouldn't need to be addressed now.

Cameron

Posted Sat, Jan 26, 9:52 a.m. Inappropriate

Address the top priorities first. Then if there's time in the session do the fun stuff. It's called discipline, something that the Democrats never had.

dbreneman

Posted Sat, Jan 26, 4:41 p.m. Inappropriate

Does that abortion bill have any exception for cases of incest? Seems odd to ask the dad about abortion if the dad is also the father of the baby.

Also, does Benton expect to move any of these bills? Most of them seem like they'd be DOA in the House, so I figure he is mostly doing this to provide red meat for his supporters rather than to actually pass legislation, but it could be wrong.

DannyK

Posted Sat, Jan 26, 8:43 p.m. Inappropriate

"Seems odd to ask the dad about abortion if the dad is also the father of the baby."

Just how common is this? Maybe in Seattle it's an accepted practice but the rest of the state? I think not.

Djinn

Posted Sun, Jan 27, 10:25 a.m. Inappropriate

Lawmakers need to consider the most vulnerable when they write laws. I'd still like to know if an incest victim needs to ask her abuser for permission or not.

DannyK

Posted Sun, Jan 27, 3:47 a.m. Inappropriate

So, if parts of the state are waging war against Seattle, Seattle needs to wage war back. Seattle needs to start having its elected representatives work on having Seattle tax money stay in Seattle, instead of subsidizing people waging war on Seattle. Let the freeloaders go without the subsidy from Seattle. A bunch of welfare taking moochers waging war against those they mooch from. Let them go bankrupt, keep Seattle tax dollars for Seattle.

jhande

Posted Sun, Jan 27, 7:42 a.m. Inappropriate

Interesting concept, Speaking of bankrupt, who gets the 9 Billion dollars in tunnels and bridges Bills after the State divorces Seattle?
How many people will stay in Seattle when Seattle is unrestrained by being a part of a larger community? The vast majority of people in King County live outside Seattle city borders, I believe many businesses would find it far more desirable to relocate outside the "Peoples Republic of Seattle".

Cameron

Posted Sun, Jan 27, 11:33 a.m. Inappropriate

Don Benton is a thoroughly corrupt politician. How can you write a story focused on him without mentioning his reputation for being too cozy with lobbyists? Even Republicans I know in Olympia have no respect for Benton's integrity. And because of two treacherous Democrats, this hack now has sway in Olympia again. A sad day indeed.

Posted Mon, Jan 28, 5:07 p.m. Inappropriate

There are over twenty Treacherous Democrats Currently in the Washington State Senate and they are ALL way to cozy with lobbyists. Always have been and always will be. It's been a sad three decades that they have held sway in Olympia. Is it any wonder we are in the situation we are in with the Democrats corrupt influence?

Cameron

Posted Fri, Feb 1, 7:12 p.m. Inappropriate

Benton has a reputation for being the worst and most greedy, never saying no to a lobbyist-paid dinner and even being known to order a second steak for safe keeping.

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