OLYMPIA — House Speaker Frank Chopp said Thursday he is still planning to “step aside” as leader shortly after the legislative session ends — even if a successor hasn’t been chosen.
Since the Seattle Democrat and longest-serving speaker in state history announced the timeline in November, it’s been presumed the 57-member Democratic caucus would settle on a replacement when Chopp departs.
Now, with the session scheduled to end April 28, some are concerned it’s too soon to act. They want to ensure there is adequate time for each person to be able to meet with candidates and the caucus to deliberate before a decision is made.
They are willing to wait until September when representatives will be in Olympia for the House’s scheduled committee days.
“I’ve heard some people are trying to figure it out. If the caucus decides to do it later, that’s okay. It doesn’t matter to me,” he said. “I’m stepping aside a few days after we’re done here.”
There may be a discussion next week to figure out dates for the selection, he said.
“People want to make up their own minds,” he said. “They have to make up their own minds.”
Whoever Democrats put forth must be approved by a majority of the full chamber. That means Chopp would retain the title of speaker until the 2020 session unless someone is chosen before the current one ends or there is a special session in which a replacement could be confirmed.
If there are chores in the interim, Chopp said he can hand them off to Speaker Pro Tem John Lovick, a Mill Creek Democrat. Chopp, who was re-elected in November, intends to serve his full term.
There are several lawmakers said to be in the hunt for the job.
Rep. Monica Stonier, D-Vancouver, who is the majority floor leader and a member of the caucus leadership team, said Thursday she is a candidate.
Other potential contenders include Reps. June Robinson of Everett, Laurie Jinkins of Tacoma, and Gael Tarleton of Ballard.
If the next speaker is a woman, she will be the first of either party in the position.
Chopp, who was first elected to the House in 1994, became co-speaker in 1999 when there were equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans in the House. Democrats won a special election in Snohomish County in 2001 to gain control of the chamber and installed Chopp as speaker.
Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@herald net.com. Twitter: @dospueblos
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