Great news for WA state Democrats: 21 of the 36 remaining members of the recently diminished state House GOP caucus voted Friday to retain Rep. Richard DeBolt (R-Chehalis) as minority leader.
Why is this good news? Democrats picked up six seats last Tuesday, increasing their hold on the state House to a commanding 62-36 majority, and I think it’s fair to lay at least some of the blame for the GOP’s electoral failure at the clay feet of DeBolt and his ham-fisted, hardball tactics.
House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler, D-Hoquiam, was unsure of what to expect from the Republican leadership team in the 2007 session.
She noted the DeBolt-led GOP’s fiery tactics on the 2006 session’s opening day, when the minority tried to bypass protocol and force a vote on a sex-crime bill. The caucus’ political committee later issued mailers criticizing Democrats for their positions on sex offenders.
“In 2004, [DeBolt] was really great to work with. I enjoyed working with him,” Kessler said. “In 2006, not so much.”
If you’re looking for a reason why an Iraq-war-fueled national Democratic wave managed to sweep so many local Republicans out of office, I think you have to look at the mean-spirited, Rove-like tactics of the state and local GOP over the past couple years. The fake sex offender mailings, 2005’s last minute voter registration challenges, the vicious, gay-bashing demagoguery before and after historic passage of WA’s gay civil rights bill… all this helped to make our relatively defanged, homegrown sub-species of Republican virtually indistinguishable in the eyes of average voters from the corrupt, feral and politically rabid breed that inhabits the other Washington.
Thanks in part to DeBolt and his caucus’s efforts to mimic the tactics of their national Party, voters concluded that a Republican is a Republican. And in 2006, that wasn’t a very good thing for a politician to be.
Now the Republican caucuses in both state houses are so small that Democrats don’t really need their votes or input on anything but a constitutional amendment. (And we’re only a few votes shy of not needing them on that either.) Given this disparity of power it would be awfully tempting to dis the GOP caucus the way their Congressional leadership dissed Democrats for most of the past 12 years, but Kessler says she plans to work with DeBolt.
“Because we have this big majority, we feel an extra responsibility to work with the Republicans and keep them engaged,” she said. “I’m hoping he will accept that from us.”
If DeBolt is smart he’ll accept Kessler’s olive branch, though personally I don’t think he deserves it. Considering the geographic divide between the two parties it is in the best interests of all of the state’s residents if the two sides can manage to work together… at least during the session.