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Published: Monday, January 10, 2011, 9:35 p.m.

Sen. Nick Harper gets to work

Senate rejects effort to keep him out over worries about election

  • Sen. Nick Harper, D-Everett, is sworn in Monday afternoon. He was seated after Sen. Jim Kastama, D-Puyallup, tried to prevent Harper from being seated...

    Mark Mulligan / The Herald

    Sen. Nick Harper, D-Everett, is sworn in Monday afternoon. He was seated after Sen. Jim Kastama, D-Puyallup, tried to prevent Harper from being seated, arguing that alleged illegal actions by Moxie Media resulted in skewed results in Harper’s race.

  • Sen. Nick Harper, D-Everett, shakes hands with Sen. Jim Kastama, D-Puyallup after being sworn in Monday afternoon. Kastama tried to prevent Harper fro...

    Mark Mulligan / The Herald

    Sen. Nick Harper, D-Everett, shakes hands with Sen. Jim Kastama, D-Puyallup after being sworn in Monday afternoon. Kastama tried to prevent Harper from being seated Monday, arguing that alleged illegal actions by PAC Moxie Media resulted in skewed results in Harperís race.

  • Relatives of Sen. Nick Harper, mother-in-law Jennifer Wiitala, wife Lacey Harper and mother Jeinell Harper are brought to tears when the Senate decide...

    Mark Mulligan / The Herald

    Relatives of Sen. Nick Harper, mother-in-law Jennifer Wiitala, wife Lacey Harper and mother Jeinell Harper are brought to tears when the Senate decided Harper would be sworn in as a Washington state Senator on Monday afternoon.

  • Sen. Nick Harper of Everett speaks with members of the media in the wings of the Washington state Senate chamber after being sworn in Monday afternoon...

    Mark Mulligan / The Herald

    Sen. Nick Harper of Everett speaks with members of the media in the wings of the Washington state Senate chamber after being sworn in Monday afternoon.

  • Sen Nick Harper and Senator Majority Leader Lisa Brown, of Spokane, leave the Senate Democratic Caucus room to address the media Monday afternoon. Har...

    Mark Mulligan / The Herald

    Sen Nick Harper and Senator Majority Leader Lisa Brown, of Spokane, leave the Senate Democratic Caucus room to address the media Monday afternoon. Harper had just been sworn into office after a short delay.

  • Senator Jim Kastama, D-Puyallup, speaks to the State Senate on Monday afternoon, asking them to prevent Nick Harper of Everett from being seated.

    Mark Mulligan / The Herald

    Senator Jim Kastama, D-Puyallup, speaks to the State Senate on Monday afternoon, asking them to prevent Nick Harper of Everett from being seated.

  • Senator Nick Harper of Everett awaits his fate Monday afternoon inside the State Senate as members vote whether to seat Harper.

    Mark Mulligan / The Herald

    Senator Nick Harper of Everett awaits his fate Monday afternoon inside the State Senate as members vote whether to seat Harper.

  • Senator Nick Harper, of Everett, speaks with members of the media in the wings of the Washington State Senate chamber after being sworn in Monday afte...

    Mark Mulligan / The Herald

    Senator Nick Harper, of Everett, speaks with members of the media in the wings of the Washington State Senate chamber after being sworn in Monday afternoon.

OLYMPIA — Everett Democrat Nick Harper secured his seat in the state Senate on Monday after his new colleagues foiled an historic attempt to keep him out.
Harper, visibly relieved as the political drama played out on the opening day of the 2011 session, let loose a wide smile as he walked up to be sworn into office.
“It was an emotional moment. Very emotional,” Harper recalled later.
Harper will now begin a four-year term as the senator serving residents of Everett, Marysville and Tulalip living in the 38th Legislative District.
His parents, Keith and Jeinell Harper of Port Townsend watched from the front row of the gallery. As their son lifted his right hand to be sworn in, his mom moved to the edge of her seat, clasped her hands together and fought back tears.
Later, she would say how proud she was of how her son has dealt with a “difficult introduction to politics.”
Difficult and nearly historic.
Only once in state history had the Senate used its constitutional power to prevent the winner of an election from taking office. That came in 1941, when Democrat Lenus Westman of Arlington wasn’t seated because of his ties to the Communist Party.
State Sen. Jim Kastama, D-Puyallup, sought Monday to do it again. He drew up a resolution to bar Harper from office and declare the 38th District seat vacant.
But he couldn’t muster enough votes to bring it to the floor; his motion failed 23-18 as 20 Democrats and three Republicans united against Kastama’s motion.
Harper, who spoke with Kastama on Saturday, said there no hard feelings.
“I know that he didn’t hold a grudge against me, and I certainly don’t expect to hold one against him or any other members who voted on the other side of this motion,” Harper said.
Kastama had contended that political allies of Harper knowingly conspired to deceive voters in the August 2010 primary in which Harper and conservative Rod Rieger beat incumbent Sen. Jean Berkey, D-Everett.
An investigation by the Public Disclosure Commission found those forces had masked their identity and concealed the source of money used to pay for mailers and phone calls in support of Rieger, the Republican candidate, an effort carried out at the same time they were spending money in support of Harper.
The state has sued the Seattle political consultant behind the effort, Moxie Media.
Kastama said the Senate should act to give voters a valid election with valid choices by leaving the seat vacant and letting Democrats in Snohomish County appoint someone to the post.
To not act, he said, would send a message to voters that “no matter how bad the election was, no matter how corrupt it was, we will seat the person with the most votes.”
Sen Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, said, “What happened to Senator Berkey is horrible. What Moxie Media did was deplorable.”
But Harper is not accused of any wrongdoing, and to punish him in this manner would be wrong, she said. The courts should decide the matter, she said.
Moreover, she wasn’t ready to conclude voters had been deceived.
“Who are we to tell the (people who voted for Harper) that they didn’t know what in the world they were doing when they were voting,” she said.
Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, and Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, were two of those who supported bringing Kastama’s resolution to a vote.
Hobbs said he felt the Senate had the “constitutional duty” to take up the question, but he would have voted against the resolution because it seemed the courts are the right place to resolve the legal questions.
Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com.






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