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Democrats React Angrily To Power Grab In Wash. Senate

Washington Legislature

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Some Washington Democrats are reacting angrily to a power grab in the state senate. A coalition of Republicans and two breakaway Democrats announced Monday they will seize the majority, but share power.

The chair of the Washington State Democratic Party says Senators Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon are turning their backs on their own party. The two Democrats say they will join forces with Republicans to govern the chamber from the middle.

Under the so-called power-sharing agreement, Democrats would still get six committee chairmanships and three committees would have bipartisan co-chairs. But Republicans would gain control of the budget, education and health care committees.

Democratic State Senator David Frockt says Democrats may propose a counter-offer.

“We are going to take it back to our members, to our caucus and we are going to have to evaluate where we are and what we’re going to do. It’s not an agreement because we haven’t agreed to anything that was presented to us. It was a feit accompli.”

Frockt acknowledges Democrats may not have much bargaining power against the coalition. At the same, members of that new majority concede their hold on power is fragile. If they lose one member, they lose their lock on the Washington senate.

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."