Male-only no more: The next House Speaker will be a woman

The Frank Chopp era will end soon. Everett’s Robinson is among a crowd of women who may seek the job.

Frank Chopp

Frank Chopp

OLYMPIA — Frank Chopp’s reign as speaker of the state House of Representatives will end soon.

The Seattle Democrat, the longest serving speaker in state history and one of the most dominant forces in Washington politics since the turn of the century, intends to step down from the leadership post after the 2019 legislative session.

And when he goes, the male-only sign on the door to this seat of power will come down and a woman will be chosen to occupy it.

Bet on it.

In a state accustomed to electing Democratic and Republican women, the House speakership is a plateau of politics yet to be reached by any woman of either party.

Chopp’s exit after two decades is the opportunity to get there. And with women controlling a majority of the 57 seats in the Democratic caucus, one of them is going to do it.

But who it is promises to be an unending drama in the 105-day session, which gets under way Monday.

Will Democrats want someone with a progressive soul and pragmatic approach, kind of like Chopp? Or someone whose progressive ideology drives their political decision-making more than he has shown? How important is one’s temperament and skills at building ties to Republicans and alliances with Senate Democrats?

Right now it’s a wide-open contest. There are no declared candidates, only rumored ones. The decision won’t be made by the Democratic caucus until May.

Possible contenders now include Reps. June Robinson, of Everett, Laurie Jinkins, of Tacoma, Gael Tarleton, of Ballard, Tana Senn, of Mercer Island, Monica Stonier, of Vancouver, Tina Orwall, of Des Moines, and Christine Kilduff, of University Place. There are probably others.

June Robinson

June Robinson

Each will have a role in the coming session to set themselves apart.

Orwall is deputy speaker pro tem and Stonier is majority floor leader, which puts both in caucus leadership and assures each plenty of chances to showcase their style.

Robinson is on the appropriations committee and will be a central figure in the writing of the next two-year state budget, as she was two years ago. It requires getting deals done with those in the other party, the other chamber and in her caucus.

Jinkins will be in the spotlight as the leader of the committee set to tackle civil rights, criminal justice and gun control issues. It’s worth noting she probably earned goodwill in the midterm election with a political committee she formed. It contributed to 15 Democratic House and Senate candidates including House newcomers Jared Mead, of Mill Creek, and Dave Paul, of Oak Harbor.

Tarleton’s acumen will be tested as chairwoman of the House Finance Committee, the panel through which Democrats will shepherd any tax-raising ideas.

Senn will guide the Human Services and Early Learning Committee, which wrestles with policies related to child welfare, children’s mental health and substance abuse. And Kilduff will serve on committees led by Senn and Jinkins, giving her influence in shaping what policies emerge from those panels.

Rep. Shelley Kloba, D-Kirkland, is one woman in the caucus not seeking the gig. She wants lots of choices.

“My hope is we have some competition because I think that reflects that we have a deep bench,” she said. “I would hate to see us presented with only one option.”

That’s been the case for awhile. It won’t be this year.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@herald net.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Snohomish County prosecutor calls for end of death penalty

Adam Cornell didn’t oppose it until the Supreme Court struck it down. He says that changed the landscape.

Slain Edmonds 7-Eleven clerk identified; suspect at large

Nagendiram Kandasamy, 64, was killed by a man who came in, jumped on the counter and shot him.

Snohomish County aims for all renewable energy by 2045

A government-led group is trying to make the county’s vehicles and buildings effectively carbon free.

State Democrats propose increased spending on homelessness

On Monday, House and Senate leaders unveiled supplemental spending plans for the 2020-21 fiscal year.

After a storied history, the Argosy rests in pieces

The 100-year-old ship has been removed from Warm Beach after it ran aground in Tulalip.

Man on run shot at troopers more than 20 times, report says

A 45-year-old Redmond man led troopers on a chase from Everett to Redmond. The motive is unknown.

Tribal-casino sports betting bill advances in Legislature

Some have suggested sports betting should also be allowed in card rooms and at horse tracks.

This Boeing deal could have ‘clawbacks’ in the ‘snap-back’

The company wants a tax break temporarily repealed. Some don’t want to give it back without new conditions.

Alleged threat: ‘You have been visited by your local Nazis’

The feds have filed charges against a former Arlington resident and three alleged neo-Nazi companions.

Most Read