Clear Fog Blog

Political musings from Warren E. Peterson

Fred Jarrett, Rodney Tom: Turncoats or Practical Politicians?

Posted by Warren Peterson on December 15, 2007

Republican Representative Fred Jarrett of Mercer Island has announced his intention to run for the State Senate – as a Democrat. Liberal Democrat Brian Weinstein, who is not seeking reelection, currently holds the 41st District Senate seat. Representative Jarrett joins State Senator Rodney Tom who made the same switch in 2006. Tom was a 48th District Republican State Representative when he ran for the State Senate as a Democrat. He ousted Senator Luke Esser who now serves as the State Republican Party Chair.

One questions whether these two servants of the people are turncoats, have truly settled ideologically on the Left or are political opportunists. Turncoat is perhaps too strong a term. It may apply better to people like U.S. Senator “Jumpin Jim” Jeffords of Vermont whose midterm abandonment of the Republicans turned control of the U.S. Senate over to the Democrats. At least Tom and Jarrett formally switch parties in an election so their constituents can weight in on the decision.

As for ideology, Jarrett and Tom are classic moderates. Take an issue like taxes and spending. They probably don’t support tax and spending increases as high as core Democrats do but then are surprised when they get both in spades.

Jarrett and Tom have seen the Eastside’s 41st and 48th Districts move from solid Republican, when they first were elected, to Democrat now. (See Seattle Times 12/14/2007) The Democrats hold both the House and Senate and will likely retain their majority in the 2008 elections. The majority party controls the entire legislative process, appoints all the committee chairs and has the majority of members on every committee. It is just practical politics for those not grounded in any particular political philosophy to desire membership in the majority.

If and when the political tides reverse, should the Republicans welcome back these prodigal sons? Sure, if it get the GOP the majority. It’s only practical politics.

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