Dems run the show. What now for state government?

Well, it happened: With a flip of one seat in Tuesday’s election, Democrats will now control the state Senate. Manka Dhingra, the Democratic candidate to succeed Republican Sen. Andy Hill in the 45th District, emerged victorious, so now Democrats will control both houses of the legislature and the governor’s office.

The result in the 45th hurts for those of us who believe Washington benefited from split control in Olympia, but it also felt inevitable.

The GOP ran a strong candidate in Jinyoung Lee Englund, but legislative races are often at the mercy of national trends. There is a Trump backlash out there, and the 45th – full of professionals and techies – wasn’t going to trend right in this environment.

The whole enchilada
Democrats got what they wanted, full control in Olympia. They also now get what comes with that: Full responsibility for what happens in state government.

Senate Republican leader Mark Schoesler said the Democrats “can’t blame me anymore” for not getting bills through. There has been plenty of that in the last few years, especially on carbon legislation and tax increases.

It was never clear, given all the excuse-making , what stated goals legislative Democrats actually had the votes to fulfill. For instance, House Democrats have never brought a carbon tax up for a vote. They likewise would not vote for their own capital gains tax this spring unless Republicans agreed to it first. So, we still don’t know what they have the votes to actually pass.

Now we’ll know. It’s put-up-or-shut-up time.

So much will be revealed
How the new one-vote Democratic majority in the Senate actually governs will be enlightening. Divisions that don’t matter much in the minority are magnified when you need all 25 votes to pass a controversial bill. Sen. Doug Ericksen (R-Ferndale), for one, is predicting difficulties for Democrats’ environmental agenda.

How Democrats deal with tax policy will be enlightening as well. Manka Dhingra, the incoming senator from the 45th, said during the campaign that she supports an income tax on capital gains. Gov. Jay Inslee has said many times that he doesn’t support a regular income tax, though the Democratic base wants one. We’ll see to what degree each of them meant what they said.

The good news is that moderates will continue to have great influence on state government’s direction. Writing this week that Democrats will control the chambers but moderates will set the agenda, the Seattle Times noted:

“Democrats who control the state House didn’t have the votes this year to enact a tax on carbon emissions, despite Inslee’s continued push for it. That hasn’t changed overnight. And the capital gains tax House Democrats proposed earlier this year still doesn’t have enough votes to clear the state Senate, even if Dhingra’s lead holds and Democrats take over. Too many moderate Democrats in Olympia already say they won’t vote for it.”

That moderates will help keep the excesses in check gives us some hope. We’re going to need a big dose of that hope on a number of issues, especially on finally solving the Hirst issue to do right by rural Washington.
-Rob McKenna

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Rob McKenna
Rob served two terms as Washington’s Attorney General, from 2005 to 2013. He successfully argued three cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and negotiated three of the largest consumer financial protection settlements in national history, all involving mortgage lending and servicing. He is a recognized leader in the development of consumer protections on the internet, in data protection and privacy regulation.