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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Washington Senate Opens With Democratic Insurgency
File photo. State Senator Pam Roach was elected as as President Pro Tem of the Senate

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 Senator 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: Senator 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 Lt. 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."