Rodney Tom, the Democratic senator who defected from his party to head up a spirited crusade for bipartisanship in the state legislature, announced yesterday that he won't run for reelection. Saying his decision was driven by his and his father’s health problems, Tom's farewell statement to colleagues read in part: “I really do believe we did an amazing job for the citizens of Washington state these past two years in focusing on jobs and the economy.”
He did do an amazing job—an amazing job basking in the spotlight while getting nothing done.
Of course, plenty of folks are praising his "legacy of bipartisanship" and can't wait to canonize him for his "centrist ideals." I'm genuinely sorry his dad's leg was broken in a car accident and that Tom has kidney stones, but let's not sugar-coat his distasteful career.
As you’ll recall, Senator Tom’s notion of “bipartisanship” amounted to him and Democratic senator Tim Sheldon caucusing with GOP lawmakers starting in 2012. In forming their so-called Majority Coalition Caucus, Tom became the head of it. Tom also became a political celebrity, a kingmaker and keystone, but I’d challenge you to find a valuable accomplishment under his direction. The only thing Tom could do with a Democratically controlled house and Democratic governor was assemble the senate into a roadblock. Tom blocked the Reproductive Parity Act, nixed a vital transportation package, and scotched numerous other bills that were passed in the house.
His budgets were cursory regurgitations of previous flawed budgets, thereby punting critical problems—including a multi-billion-dollar shortfall in basic education funding—onto future legislatures. Tom’s final term and legacy looks like a stunt to get attention, not to do anything.
You won't hear that tune at the Seattle Times.
At 4 pm today, they published a gushing editorial titled "Rodney Tom leaves legacy of bipartisanship in Olympia." It says he had "much to be proud of" after he "emphasized down-the-middle principles and downplayed divisive issues like guns and abortion." His budget accomplishment? He prevented the state from spending money! Never mind the actual tax burden for Washington citizens is lower than average and falling, while we can't pay for education, transit, and other stuff the state needs.
In fact, Tom effectively wasted the millions of dollars required to convene the legislature by ensuring it accomplished nothing. So he also leaves an ironic legacy: Conservatives claim to be crusading against government waste, but in taking over one chamber of the legislature, Tom and his conservative colleagues brought government’s productivity to a crawl without really lowering the costs of government.
That was not a platform that screams "reelect me."
Democratic Party leaders and activists had been determined take out Tom this fall (Kirkland mayor Joan McBride has been raising money and campaigning to defeat him)—so perhaps Tom is just retiring before he get his clock cleaned.
So, yeah. I'm sad Tom’s dad is having health problems, but Washington State voters should rejoice that we can say goodbye to a do-nothing, self-aggrandizing hypocrite who flushed our money down the toilet, and thank him for showing that switching parties under the bullshit banner of "bipartisanship" is a fast-track to retirement.