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Washington Senate Opens With Democratic Insurgency

Elaine Thompson
AP Photo
Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, stands and is applauded after being elected as President Pro Tempore in the Senate at the start of the newest legislative session, Monday, Jan. 12, 2015, in Olympia, Wash.


Republicans control the Washington Senate, but Monday’s start of the 2015 session featured a Democratic insurgency.

It happened when Republicans tried to re-elect Sen. Tim Sheldon as president pro tem of the Senate. Sheldon is a Democrat who in 2012 joined with Republicans to help them take control of the Washington Senate.

Majority Republicans wanted to re-elect Sheldon to the position when suddenly minority Democrats nominated a Republican. And not just any Republican: Sen. Pam Roach who’s been a lightning rod over the years.

In the end, Roach won. Democrats elected a Republican when Republicans wanted a Democrat in the position.

The president pro tem presides over the state Senate in the absence of the lieutenant governor and at least historically has served as vice chair of the committee that decides which bills make it to the floor.

Senator Roach’s election is just another twist and turn in a long and eventful career in the Washington Senate. In 2010 Roach was barred from the Republican caucus following an investigation into her treatment of Senate staff.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.