Will State Senate coalition flatten Roadkill Caucus?

Does the rise of the Senate Majority Coalition signal the fall of the Roadkill Caucus?

The caucus, an assemblage of fiscally conservative Democrats, is a shadow of its original self these days, its forces depleted by departures in the House and its leaders divided by the new politics of the Senate.

It begins this session without its former swagger. Gone is the aura it’s enjoyed as the “X factor” in the Senate, that of a group capable of swinging key votes on budget and reform bills to the side of one party or the other.

Instead, not many folks walking around the marble-lined hallways of the Capitol know who’s on the roster and what’s on the agenda. Frankly, not many care right now.

When two conservative Democrats, including Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina who is an original Roadkill member, joined the Republicans to forge a Senate majority, it sapped the caucus of much of its muscle.

“Our leverage was working within the majority caucus,” said founding member Sen. Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond. “Once we go into the minority, that leverage is taken away. Maybe we have to rename ourselves to something like Main Street Caucus.”

He and co-founder Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, know the roar of the caucus is not as mighty but given the fragility of the Senate alliance, it may regain its thunder before the 105-day session ends.

“They’ll still need votes,” Hobbs said. “If Rodney Tom thinks we’re going to pass moderate, centrist policies, he’ll still need moderate, centrist Democrat votes.”

In some ways, Roadkill’s identity crisis could be viewed as a sign of its success.

Moderate Democrats united out of frustration at seeing policies they viewed as middle-of-the road run over by interests on the left and the right of the political highway.

Hatfield, Hobbs and Tom served as organizing catalysts. From the outset, they spoke dreamily of working with their friends across the aisle in a bipartisan fashion to craft fiscally responsible bills.

Now Tom is living the dream. He and Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, crossed the aisle to join the Republicans in the Senate Majority Coalition. They’ve got 25 members to the 24 seats held by Democrats and Tom is their leader.

But that margin is what gives Hobbs’ confidence the remaining roadkillers could become critically relevant down the stretch.

“There will be things some conservative Republicans will not want to vote for,” Hobbs said. “There will be things some liberal Democrats will not want to vote for.”

Hobbs and Hatfield don’t view themselves as simply an insurance policy for Tom should a couple of Republicans go rogue. They figure they can shape some policies and to that end — and to the chagrin of other Democrats — they accepted offers from the coalition to serve as committee chairmen.

Both issued statements rejecting predictions they would be the next to join the coalition.

“This decision does not mean I have aligned myself with or promised anything to the Republican majority,” Hobbs said.

But their actions may help the Roadkill Caucus regain its stride should the coalition stumble.

Political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, is at www.heraldnet.com. Contact him at 360-352-8623 or jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

A Mukilteo Speedway sign hangs at an intersection along the road on Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Mukilteo, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Long live the Speedway! Mukilteo’s main drag won’t be renamed

The public shot down the mayor’s idea to change the name: 77% voted ‘No’ in an online survey, with 95% opposed on Facebook.

Everett
Motorcyclist dies in crash on East Marine View Drive in Everett

Around 8 p.m. Tuesday, a motorcycle and a vehicle crashed into each other at the intersection of 11th street and East Marine View Drive.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Darrington in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Motorcyclist dies in crash on Highway 530

Jeremy Doyle, 46, was riding east near Darrington when he crashed into the side of a car that was turning left.

The Marysville School District office on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
‘Financially insolvent’ Marysville schools to get unprecedented oversight

Superintendent Chris Reykdal will convene a first-of-its-kind Financial Oversight Committee, he wrote in a letter Tuesday.

Woodside Elementary Principal Betty Cobbs on Monday, June 17, 2024 in Bothell, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett’s first Black principal retires after 51 years

In her office, Betty Cobbs kept a black-and-white photo of herself at age 5: “I am right there, with dreams of becoming an educator.”

Junelle Lewis, right, daughter Tamara Grigsby and son Jayden Hill sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” during Monroe’s Juneteenth celebration on Saturday, June 18, 2022. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
On Juneteenth: ‘We can always say that there is hope’

The Snohomish County NAACP is co-sponsoring a celebration Saturday near Snohomish, with speakers, music and food.

Firefighter hopefuls suit up during the Future Women in EMS/Fire Workshop on Saturday, June 22, 2024, at the South County Fire Training Center in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
To fill gap, Snohomish County tries new approach to recruit women firefighters

About 30 women tried on bunker gear, pulled rope and worked chainsaws at a first-of-its-kind workshop Saturday.

Granite Falls
Man, 35, dies from heart attack while hiking Lake 22

The man suffered a heart attack about 1½ miles into the 6-mile hike east of Granite Falls on Friday, authorities said.

36 hours after final show, Everett radio host Charlye Parker, 80, dies

When Parker got into radio, she was a rarity: a woman in a DJ booth. For the past 12 years, she hosted weekend country music shows at KXA.

Homeowners Jim and Chris Hall stand beneath their new heat pump, at right, inside their Whidbey Island home on Thursday, Sep. 7, 2023, near Langley, Washington. The couple, who are from Alaska, have decreased their use of their wood burning stove to reduce their carbon footprint. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Snohomish County to start ‘kicking gas’ in push for all-electric homes

Last year, 118 Whidbey Island homes installed energy-efficient heat pumps. A new campaign aims to make the case for induction stoves now, too.

Dr. Scott Macfee and Dr. Daniel Goodman outside of the Community Health Center on Wednesday, June 12, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett CHC doctors, feeling like ‘commodities,’ speak up on ailing system

At the Community Health Center of Snohomish County, doctors say they feel like “rats getting off a sinking ship.” They want it to get better.

Construction occurs at 16104 Cascadian Way in Bothell, Washington on Tuesday, May 7, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Snohomish County real estate values tick up 4.5% in assessor’s report

You’ve got mail: The Snohomish County Assessor’s Office will send property tax statements this week.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.