As a legislator, State Rep. Geoff Simpson is absolutely one of my favorite Dems in Olympia. He’s not just reliably progressive, he’s outspokenly so, and in a swing district no less. Where many other Dems — even some pretty good Dems — tend to couch their votes and their public statements with an eye toward their next reelection campaign, Rep. Simpson doesn’t seem to even give shit. Then he fights like hell during the campaign, and somehow manages to win.
You could say he’s one of the few Dems in Olympia with balls.
So it really pains me to read the news that Simpson has been charged with a gross misdemeanor assault stemming from an incident at Seattle Children’s Hospital where his ex-wife attempted to keep him out of a room where their 12-year-old daughter was recovering from surgery.
According to the police report a social worker with Children’s Hospital witnessed the scene and her description of the incident matched what the ex-wife told the officer.
The social worker told the officer she saw Simpson “barrel” into the room, push his wife out and shut the door. According to the social worker’s statement in the police report Simpson closed the blinds and “barricaded himself inside using his body.” The social worker’s statement noted he was yelling inside the room and would not open the door.
I have to admit that if Simpson were a Republican I’d be more than rubbing his nose in this — it’s kinda my job — but I wouldn’t be having much fun. I have empathy for all the parties involved in this incident, Simpson, his ex-wife and their daughter, and I take no joy from reporting (or even exploiting) such personal family tragedies. Corruption and hypocrisy, that’s different, but this kinda stuff is always painful to write about.
And it leaves a lot of Democrats with a terrible dilemma. Rep. Simpson is a great legislator… an effective, outspoken progressive leader who always seems to have the interests of working families at heart. He’s not just another vote in the caucus, and would be hugely missed in Olympia.
And yet, domestic violence, whatever the circumstances (and for a moment, put yourself in Simpson’s shoes and imagine how you might react should your ex-wife block you from entering your daughter’s hospital room) is not something that can be dismissed lightly. I don’t know much more about this incident than what I’ve read online, but I have to trust Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes that his office wouldn’t be prosecuting if they didn’t feel it worthy of prosecution.
So is this enough to ditch Simpson, not only handing over his swing district to the Republicans, but costing us one of our most passionate and effective voices in the state House?
I dunno. I guess I’ll have to wait to learn all the details, and see what Simpson ultimately says for himself. In the wake of an incident two years ago in which charges were dropped after he spent a night in jail, Simpson made a point of reiterating his support for domestic violence laws that left police with little discretion but to detain and charge him in response to a complaint from his ex-wife:
“I’ve thought a lot about this the past several weeks. I don’t like what happened to me and I didn’t like going to jail with all the unpleasantness associated with that. But I think that’s better than the alternative.”
The alternative being that domestic violence reports not be taken seriously enough by the police and the courts.
It’s a complicated issue. Almost as complicated as the dilemma this incident creates for Simpson’s many friends in the Democratic Party.
Much is being made in the comment thread about this being Simpson’s second domestic violence charge, but I think it’s important to note that the previous charges were dropped. According to the dismissal motion:
“… based on the alleged victim’s stated intentions for calling 911 at the time of the incident, there is no evidence that the alleged victim was calling 911 to specifically report a domestic violence incident or that the defendant would have reason to believe that she was calling to report domestic violence.”
As I explained at the time, police have little discretion when responding to what they believe to be a domestic violence complaint but to detain and charge the defendant, and for good reason. So while Simpson and his ex clearly have their problems, I’m not sure these two incidents are comparable.