Midday Scan: Washington 'a profile in female-political representation'

Women serving in public office in Washington have been as "consistent as rain," from the first female governor, elbow-throwing Dixy Lee Ray, to current legislators such as the irascible Democratic state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, who panders to nobody.

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Washington Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen (D)

Women serving in public office in Washington have been as "consistent as rain," from the first female governor, elbow-throwing Dixy Lee Ray, to current legislators such as the irascible Democratic state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, who panders to nobody.

Well-behaved women rarely make history, or so the axiom goes. (Let this be a lesson to you, ye-too-well-behaved Patty Murray.) The axiom falls away, however, when applied to consummate elbow thrower Dixy Lee Ray, Washington's first female governor, who was freighted with poor political instincts and a visceral distaste for the legislative process. (And what about the late Rep. Julia Butler Hansen? Now there was an elbow thrower worth emulating.)  

In sum, Washington is a profile in female-political representation. As the New York Times' Isolde Raftery writes, "Nationwide, women’s groups point out the glaring gender disparity in public life, noting that there are only 6 female governors and 17 female senators. Across the country, women make up 23.6 percent of state legislatures, according to Off the Sidelines, a project started last year by Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand of New York. But in Washington State, women’s serving in public office has been as consistent as the rain." (Rep. Norm Dicks will likely get teased for saying, "I think women tend to advocate for women, and I think to myself, 'They ought to mention men, too.'")

Raferty's one sin of omission is not underlining the bipartisan nature of Washington's female political talent. Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers is a member of the House Republican leadership and Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler is considered a standout freshman.  

Another backbone-ish female politician? Consider Democratic state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen. The irascible Haugen, a pivotal vote in support of marriage equality, is a composite of independent thinking and tireless advocacy. She also has served long enough in public life to alienate core Democratic constituencies. In announcing her decision to run for re-election, Haugen shouldn't encounter a sexist groundswell: Her opponent will be another woman, Republican state Rep. Barbara Bailey.   

"Haugen is part of a vanishing species in state (and national) politics: She’s a character and a strong personality who panders to nobody," the Seattlepi.com Joel Connelly writes. "As a defender of the Growth Management Act, she survived a campaign of vilification by the Building Industry Association of Washington.  After resisting an oil tax — the Anacortes oil refineries are in her district — Haugen took hits from the Washington Environmental Council." 

Efforts to build a new or expanded Seattle Monorail are a political cicada, a pest that disappears only to re-emerge years later, louder and more chafing. Please, why not something new, like Shanghai's Maglev train? Or bike trails. Or jet packs.  

"Elizabeth Campbell, the Magnolia neighborhood activist, tunnel opponent, and onetime mayoral candidate, is launching a campaign to build a new monorail from Ballard to West Seattle," Publicola's Erica Barnett writes. "In a statement this morning, Campbell said she would be seeking about 3,600 signatures to create a local transportation authority to fund a monorail line from Ballard to downtown to West Seattle, roughly along the same lines as the failed Seattle Monorail Project."  

The Seattle Times' Lornet Turnbull writes a heart-rending and incisive portrait of an openly gay teenager, Rafael Morelos, who committed suicide in the small farming community of Cashmere. Was Morelos a victim of harassment or were the circumstances, as with so many suicides, more complicated? 

"His death came more than a year after a series of highly publicized suicides of gay teens focused national attention on issues of bullying, moved Congress to introduce legislation to make schools safer and inspired the creation of the video campaign 'It Gets Better,' in which celebrities and others offer young gay people encouragement and support," Turnbull writes. "Exactly how big a role bullying may have played in Rafael's decision to take his life remains unclear, but his suicide has sparked a number of actions in this traditionally conservative part of the state."  

Lastly, reviving indigenous place names generally makes sense. Mount Tahoma, for example, is more authentic and sweeter sounding than Mt. Rainier. Alas, "Lake Smokiam," which sounds like an outpost tangled in ash and smoke, is more authentic than "Soap Lake." Though admittedly, the Salish translation of Smokiam, "healing waters," sounds decidedly more welcoming than the prospect of swimming in soap.

So, who is the decider to re-name the names? The Washington State Commission on Geographic Names, of course. The Seattle Times runs down the list of proposed changes. (No more Ebey Slough? Oh no!)

Link Summary

New York Times, "Washington state has a history of women in government"

Seattlepi.com, "Sen. Haugen, key legislator, will run again"

Publicola, "Extra Fizz: Monorail edition"

Seattle Times, "Soul searching in conservative Cashmere over gay teen's suicide"

Seattle Times, "Ebey Slough, Soap Lake may be renamed by state"


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About the Authors & Contributors

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson is the former editorial-page editor of the Everett Herald. Follow him on Twitter @phardinjackson