48th District Rep. Rodney Tom, a two-term Republican from Bellevue, has announced that he will seek the Democratic nomination to challenge incumbent Republican state Sen. Luke Esser.
“Senator Luke Esser and the Republicans in Olympia have moved so far to the right they no longer represent the interests of mainstream voters. They have become more focused on partisan politics than real results,” said Tom. “Running and serving in the Senate as a Democrat will allow me to be more effective at solving problems, making smart investments in education and transportation and ensuring fiscal responsibility.”
While I appreciate his sentiment, and welcome him to the Democratic Party, I simply cannot endorse his candidacy… not in this district, not at this time. Not only is Esser out of touch with mainstream voters in the 48th, judging from his voting record, so is Tom. And besides, the Dems already have a strong challenger to Esser in Debi Golden.
In fact, Golden, a former teacher and current curriculum and course designer for Bellevue Community College, nearly beat Tom two years ago, despite a late start and no prior campaign experience. She’s also yet another alum of my class at Camp Wellstone, which includes such rising stars as 8th CD congressional candidate Darcy Burner and 45th LD senate candidate Eric Oemig.
There is a common misconception that the 48th LD is a Republican district, but don’t let the likes of Esser and Tom fool you. In 2004 John Kerry got 56 percent of the vote district wide, and Dave Ross carried most of the precincts as well. Clearly, the changing demographics of the district, plus a strong challenge for his own seat from former Kirkland mayor Deb Eddy, are the primary forces behind Tom’s move.
Given the choice between a progressive Democrat like Golden or a moderate ex-Republican like Tom, I’m choosing Golden. And I’m guessing that in a closed primary, 48th district Democrats will choose Golden as well.
Still, I look at Tom’s flipping as a sign of things to come. Over the coming months, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a couple more suburban R’s either switch parties or decline to seek reelection. The realignment is well under way.