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 RecallRodneyTom.com. 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.