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Politics Northwest

The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

September 30, 2013 at 5:00 PM

State Democratic chairman Dwight Pelz to step down

The Washington State Democratic Party will be in search of a new leader soon, as chairman Dwight Pelz says he’s stepping down from the post he’s held since 2006.

Pelz, 62, informed top elected Democrats and other party leaders of his decision this afternoon and said he’ll leave the position effective Feb. 1. That’s the date of the next Democratic state committee meeting in Vancouver, where party activists will elect a successor.

Pelz leaves with the Democratic Party riding high in Washington. Last year, Democrats won every statewide elected office except for Secretary of State. Democrats also hold six of Washington’s 10 U.S. House seats and have controlled both U.S. Senate seats for more than a decade.

“The Democratic Party of Washington state is very strong. We demonstrated our worth and talent in the last election here where we led a very strong get-out-the-vote effort, which is one of the reasons Jay Inslee was elected governor,” Pelz said in an interview.

Tooting his own horn, Pelz added: “You know, that’s not a small thing, because the parties state by state can have a very mixed reputation.”

Pelz said he plans to travel the world for a couple years but is not ruling out a return to politics. He could even decide to run for the state Legislature, he said.

A former community organizer, Pelz helped pass the 1977 statewide initiative campaign that repealed the sales tax on food. In 1978, he was trained as an organizer by Greg Galluzzo, who later mentored a young Barack Obama. Pelz was elected to the state senate from the 37th District in 1990 and served six years before being elected to the Metropolitan King County Council, where he served nine years.

After a failed bid for Seattle City Council in 2005, Pelz was elected state Democratic Party chairman in 2006. He was reelected to another two-year term in January, but decided to step down early.

Frequently colorful and even profane in comments to reporters, Pelz loved to bash the rightward tilt of the Republican Party — and displayed a particular zeal for insulting initiative guru Tim Eyman.

On election night in 2011, Pelz compared Eyman to herpes. “Just when you think it’s gone, it comes back,” he said. Earlier, he’d referred to Eyman as “a self-aggrandizing punk.”

Today, Pelz emailed a third insult to complete what he called his “Eyman trifecta.” Pelz wrote Eyman is the one thing he won’t miss upon retiring from his post: “I know it is a cliche to call him a feckless turd, but he really is.”

Asked to comment, Eyman called it a “bummer” that Pelz is stepping down.

“Dwight Pelz has been one of my favorite people that I’ve interacted with, honestly. He is the other side of the coin of me. He likes to get out there and throw the bombs.”

Post updated at 5:29 p.m. with Eyman comments.

Comments | More in Washington state Democratic Party | Topics: state Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz, Washington State Democratic Party


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