Recall Rodney Tom?

In 2006, I worked my ass off to get Rodney Tom elected as my state senator. Representative Tom had just switched parties—from Republican to Democratic. His challenge was to beat Senator Luke Esser, a friendly, but solidly Republican, incumbent.

In Tom’s favor, the 48th LD district was increasingly turning blue.

Tom has now, essentially, switched back. And in doing so, he has shit upon the people who elected him.

Yes, I’ve heard Tom try to explain why he will caucus with the Republicans. “It’s bipartisan!,” he exclaims.

Bullshit. When you are elected under the label “Democrat,” it is not bipartisan to caucus with the Republicans and, in doing so, turn over control of the Senate to the Republicans. If the voters of the 48th wanted that, they would have elected a Republican.

“But, but, but, the voters have spoken on the issue of new revenue,” he proclaims.

How odd, then, that when the voters spoke directly by electing a Democratic senator, Rodney Tom forgot to listen! Yet somehow, based on “related” issues, Tom can divine that the voters want Republicans in charge and a zero revenue budget. Bull. Fucking. Shit.

In many states, Tom would be subject to a recall election simply for this betrayal of his constituents. In these states a recall election is a political act.

In Washington state, the Constitution specifies a higher bar and a different purpose for recalling a politician. From Article I Section 33 of the Washington State Constitution (my emphasis):

Every elective public officer of the state of Washington expect [except] judges of courts of record is subject to recall and discharge by the legal voters of the state, or of the political subdivision of the state, from which he was elected whenever a petition demanding his recall, reciting that such officer has committed some act or acts of malfeasance or misfeasance while in office, or who has violated his oath of office, stating the matters complained of, signed by the percentages of the qualified electors thereof, hereinafter provided, the percentage required to be computed from the total number of votes cast for all candidates for his said office to which he was elected at the preceding election, is filed with the officer with whom a petition for nomination, or certificate for nomination, to such office must be filed under the laws of this state, and the same officer shall call a special election as provided by the general election laws of this state, and the result determined as therein provided.

Man…that is one run-on sentence! But what does this mean? Is switching party, throwing control of the Senate to the other party an act of misfeasance or malfeasance? RCW 29A.56.110 defines the terms:

(1) “Misfeasance” or “malfeasance” in office means any wrongful conduct that affects, interrupts, or interferes with the performance of official duty;

(a) Additionally, “misfeasance” in office means the performance of a duty in an improper manner; and
(b) Additionally, “malfeasance” in office means the commission of an unlawful act;

(2) “Violation of the oath of office” means the neglect or knowing failure by an elective public officer to perform faithfully a duty imposed by law.

Additionally, RCW 29A.56.140 specifies that any petition must be reviewed in Superior Court for “(1) whether or not the acts stated in the charge satisfy the criteria for which a recall petition may be filed, and (2) the adequacy of the ballot synopsis” and that “[t]he court shall not consider the truth of the charges, but only their sufficiency.”

In practice, Superior Court judges have been reluctant to allow recall petitions to go forward unless clear violations of the law are involved. Some Wingnuts learned this the hard way in their 2005 attempt to recall Secretary of State Sam Reed. More recently, an attempt to recall Public Lands Commissioner, Peter Goldmark, suffered the same fate.

So, no. Short of some remarkable revelation of legal wrongdoing, Rodney Tom is not going to go through a recall election. But I note that my pessimism isn’t shared—it hasn’t stopped one of my activist neighbors from purchasing the domain I hope she uses it to bring attention to the “Tom issue.”

Tom has another fate. When he comes up for reelection in two years—if he bothers to run—he’ll lose.

The 48th LD is now solidly blue. No matter what party Tom claims to “prefer,” his actions are unambiguous. He’s a Republican now. And the 48th LD is most certainly NOT going to elect a Republican state senator.


  1. 1

    Greg spews:

    Is there any way that we could get screwed because of the top two thing, so that we end up with two republicans making it out of the primaries? I’m sure that’s what the repubs would like, and it wouldn’t surprise me if we had lots of fake Democratic candidates registered in order to dilute the vote on our side.

  2. 2


    The Democrats will have a strong candidate running in the primary. With any luck, the Republicans will, too (I mean, assuming Tom doesn’t switch to “Prefers the Republican Party”). If so, the general election will be Tom v. some Democrat or some Republican v. some Democrat.

    The trick will be letting voters in the 48th know what Tom has been up to. It’s certainly not too early to start that process!

  3. 4

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Theoretically, Democrats could target some other GOP senator — it shouldn’t be very hard to find criminal conduct among that bunch — but given the eagerness of Republican voters to vote for yahoos who brandish guns on the legislative floor, abuse their employees, or drive drunk, it would be difficult to win a recall election in any Republican district.

  4. 5

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    The way things are going it’s just a matter of time before we have gunfights in the legislature.

  5. 6

    Brenda Helverson spews:

    No matter how much I hate to type his name . . . .

    When Phil Gramm changed Parties in Texas, he resigned his House seat and ran again as a Republican, reasoning that people voted for him as a Democrat and deserved the chance to change their mind.

    So the only logical conclusion is that Rodney Tom is unfit to be a pimple on Phil Gramm’s ass.

  6. 7

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @6 This is a free country. Anyone can call himself a “Democrat” even if he’s lying about it. That’s why we have to check everyone out before voting for them.

    (Of course, Republican voters don’t have this misrepresentation problem, because no Democrat would ever stoop to calling himself a “Republican,” and what incentive is there? Only Republicans have an incentive to lie about who they are.)

  7. 8

    jcricket spews:

    Rodney Tom’s credibility is now at severe risk. Since he cannot be recalled given the definitions above, he either has to vote against his new R caucus-mates a significant number of times, and on issues that matter to the Democrats who voted for him because of the ‘D’ after his name on the ballot, OR he has to run again in a safely R district next time. If there is a next time.

    Otherwise, this move will label him as a liar, never to be trusted again with public matters.

  8. 9

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @8 “Otherwise, this move will label him as a liar, never to be trusted again with public matters.”

    There is no “otherwise.” He’s already crossed that Rubicon. Democrats will never trust him again.

  9. 10

    SJ spews:

    Darryl’s anger arose because Tom, a “Democrat,” is now caucusing with the Republicans …giving them power over how the Senate is run.
    The problem here is that under the new WASTATE law, we do not have a two party system! Rodney Tom ran.. as his opponent did ..without an official state label, instead he was listed as preferring to tbe called a Democrat. Are these labels really important anymore?
    Rodnet TomDarryl, a scientist, is usually rational. Here too he reviews the WASTATE law and finds that Tom can not be replaced unless a court rules that an election is needed for malfeasance, “In practice, Superior Court judges have been reluctant to allow recall petitions to go forward unless clear violations of the law are involved. ” .. not bloody likely “short of some remarkable revelation of legal wrongdoing,” The right has tried this … Tea Party types tried to recall Secretary of State Sam Reed in 2005 , unsuccessful. The radical right effort to to recall Public Lands Commissioner, Peter Goldmark, suffered the same fate.
    What my friend Darryl does not realize is that while the radical right is destroying the Republican party. the party lines are themselves dissolving .. in our state this is abetted by the combination of an election law that does not fund party primaries or allow parties to select candidates for the final election. This system encourages independents.

    Darryl asserts that Tom will not get r- elected when he comes up for reelection in two years. After all Tom’s 48th LD is now solidly blue. “No matter what party Tom claims to “prefer,” his actions are unambiguous. He’s a Republican now. And the 48th LD is most certainly NOT going to elect a Republican state senator.”

    Why? Darryl himself is a good example of the voters in the 48th. He and his wife are UW profs. Their neighbors range from the well paid Microsoft gurus to investor class denizens of Hunt’s Point. Obama AND ROMNEY came to this part of WASTATE not for votes but for money.

    Are Darryl and the Mrs. true blue Democrats? They may be but this does not mean their neighbors are. While anyone sane today would “prefer” the Democratic label, accepting the discipline that Darryl wants would mean being hard line pro union and higher taxes … not necessarily what “prefers D” means in the affluent 48th.

    Lets assume that Rodney Tom serves as Majority Leader of the WASTATE Senate … under the “D” label. Lets assume he supports Governor Insley (D) social legislation and share the rather business like ideas about taxes and programs the led to Insley’s election. Now we can hope that the national radical republicans fail n their effort to undermine the economy and WASTATE, two years from now is looking good.

    Will Darryl’s “blue” neighbors reject Rodney Tom?