House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler, as expected, has announced she's not seeking reelection. Kessler, a Hoquiam Democrat, has been in the House for 18 years and a top leader for the past decade.
She's a more conservative member of the House leadership, hailing from a blue-collar town. As such, she has often been at odds with House Speaker Frank Chopp, and was almost chosen speaker by her colleagues. Her departure removes one more rival to the somewhat embattled speaker, whose fairly secretive ways have angered quite a few Democrats in his caucus.
Speakers who play such a powerful role normally accumulate enemies over time. They become too powerful to defeat in an election (Chopp's home base is Wallingford), but are usually quietly deposed within a caucus. Don't look for that any time soon, observers say. Several of Chopp's main detractors will likely be defeated in the fall elections, as Democrats in marginal districts pay the price for the recession and raising taxes. The ironic result will be that Chopp's majority will be smaller but his hold on the caucus will be stronger.
Chopp has typically been able to make a flurry of deals at the last minute and get the session to end on time. Not this time, with Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown holding out, futilely, for a sales tax boost. When Gov. Gregoire opposed the sales tax increase but refused to say she would veto it, that produced the extension. Voters deeply dislike these overtime sessions, seeing them as evidence that legislators aren't doing their jobs. Next time: leave it to Chopp!