Three Democratic senators have agreed to chair, or co-chair, committees as offered by Senate Republicans.
Sen. Tracey Eide will co-chair the Senate Transportation Committee along with GOP Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima. Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, will chair the Financial Institutions, Housing and Insurance Committee and Sen. Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond will chair Agriculture, Water and Rural Economic Development.
Eide, in an interview off the Senate floor, would not describe the reaction of her caucus but said she’d given the move a “lot of thought” before pulling the trigger.
“It’s always been a bi-partisan committee,” Eide said of the transportation panel, and noted there will be an effort to send voters a transportation tax package this session to pay for highway improvements.
Hobbs said that he’s a centrist and by taking the Republican offer of a committee chairmanship, “this shows I’m still a centrist.”
Hatfield said he was just being realistic. “You come to the realization, ‘We’re in the minority.’ And at that point, you play the hand you’re dealt,” he said.
Senate Democratic Leader Ed Murry, D-Seattle, said his caucus supported their decision. All three senators will remain in the Democratic caucus and will not join the GOP coalition.
Republicans are expected to take control of the state Senate on Monday with the help of Democratic Sens. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, and Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch. The two Democrats would give the GOP a 25-24 majority.
There are already some signs of the shift in power. Tom has moved into the Senate majority leader’s office, for example. And there was a fair amount of confusion Monday morning as people tried to figure out the new configuration.
Outgoing Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna, who lost to Democratic Gov-elect Jay Inslee in the gubernatorial election, dropped by to say some parting words to the Republican Senate caucus — and accidentally knocked on the door of the Democratic caucus.
Republicans and Democrats have switched sides in the Senate chamber, giving the GOP more spacious offices. McKenna apparently wasn’t aware they’d already moved.