Republicans name state Senate chairs for 2015

No Democrats will lead committees, but a former Democrat will head a new committee on accountability.
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Mark Miloscia

No Democrats will lead committees, but a former Democrat will head a new committee on accountability.

Washington's Republican-dominated Senate Majority Coalition has apparently ended its two-year experiment with offering minority Democrats' caucus members committee chairmanships.

No Democrats were in the list of chairperson assignments for the Washington Senate, according to a Republican Senate Caucus list announced via Twitter late Tuesday.

When former Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, and current Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, joined 24 Republicans in late 2012 to create the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus, the new majority offered six committee chairs to the minority Democratic caucus for the 2013-2014 legislative biennium. The minority caucus as a group turned down the chair positions, arguing they were given the six least important committees as a token gesture.

However, two centrist Democrats — Sen. Steve Hobbs of Lake Stevens and Sen. Brian Hatfield of Raymond — accepted the chairs of the financial institutions and agricultural committees, respectively, on their own initiative. Meanwhile, now-former Sen. Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, accepted a co-chair position on the transportation committee. A few weeks into the 2014 session, the majority caucus demoted Hobbs to co-chair of the financial institutions committee, while elevating Sen. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, as co-chair in a move that left a bitter taste with at least some of the minority Democrats.

Now the majority coalitions consists of 25 Republicans and Sheldon. That means the GOP also has a Senate majority without Sheldon in the 49-person chamber.

The majority coalition created one new committee -- the Accountability & Reform Committee, which will handle transparency, efficiency and strategic planning matters. Newly elected Sen. Mark Miloscia, R-Federal Way, will be chair. Miloscia served in the Washington House for 14 years as a Democrat, left the Legislature for two years and then successfully ran for Senate as a Republican. Republicans, including their Senate leader, Mark Schoesler, have stressed the party's interest in reform and accountability.

There will be several committees with new chairs:

  • Agriculture, Water & Rural Economic Development Committee: Newly-elected Sen. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake, replaces Hatfield as chair.
  • Commerce & Labor Committee: Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, replaces former Sen. Janéa Holmquist Newbry, R-Moses Lake, as chair. Holmquist Newbry did seek not re-election, choosing instead to make a run for a seat in Congress that went to another Republican.
  • Financial Institutions & Insurance Committee: Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, becomes sole chair in the place of Hobbs and Angel. Angel is now vice-chair of that committee. For the past two years, Benton was deputy majority leader. This year Sen. John Braun, R-Chehalis, assumed that position.
  • Trade & Economic Development Committee: Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick, replaces Braun as chair.
  • Transportation Committee: Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, will be chair. He had co-chaired the committee with Eide.

In other committees, the same senator will serve as chair again next session: Early Learning & K-12 Education, Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island. Energy, Environment & Telecommunications, Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale. Governmental Operations, Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn. Health Care, Sen. Randi Becker, R-Eatonville. Higher Education, Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor. Human Services, Mental Health & Housing, Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-Tacoma. Law & Justice, Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley. Natural Resources & Parks, Sen. Kirk Pearson, R-Monroe. Ways and Means, Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond.


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About the Authors & Contributors

John Stang

John Stang

John Stang is a freelance writer who often covers state government and the environment. He can be reached on email at and on Twitter at @johnstang_8