One of the most influential and controversial members of the Washington legislature made a bombshell announcement Monday.
Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom announced that he is dropping his bid for re-election. Tom is one of two Democrats who joined with Republicans last year to help them take control of the state Senate.
In an email message to fellow lawmakers, Tom says he will not run for a third Senate term because of personal health issues relating to a recent bout of kidney stones. He also cites a need to care for his elderly father.
Tom’s departure from the race comes as a shock to Washington’s political establishment.
“This is terrible news for the Republicans,” says former chair of the Washington State Republican Party Chris Vance. He says Tom’s departure will make it harder for the mostly Republican Majority Coalition Caucus to retain control of the state Senate.
“The Senate was going to be competitive anyway," says Vance. "Now it’s even more competitive.”
Republicans will now have to recruit a candidate to run against Democratic challenger Joan McBride in Tom’s suburban Seattle district.
Tom first won election to the Washington legislature as a Republican. In 2006 he switched parties to become a Democrat. He remained a Democrat even after joining with Republicans to take control of the state Senate.