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posted Friday, April 18 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 16
Rodney Tom out of 38th District Senate race, former Kirkland mayor Joan McBride is frontrunner
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Rodney Tom out of 38th District Senate race, former Kirkland mayor Joan McBride is frontrunner

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

State Senator Rodney Tom has dropped his bid for reelection in the Eastside's 38th Legislative District, leaving former Kirkland Mayor Joan McBride as the frontrunner in the race.

Tom, a Republican-turned-Democrat who then turned Democrat-who-votes-with-Republicans, withdrew from the race April 14, citing his own health problems and a serious injury to his 85-year-old father.

McBride, who served as Mayor of Kirkland from 2010 to 2103, was first elected to the Kirkland City Council in 1997. She has been endorsed by the Victory Fund - an organization that promotes LGBT candidates - as well as a host of prominent Democrats.

On April 16, McBride also won the endorsement of the Martin Luther King County Labor Council, a group that represents 150 union locals and some 78,000 workers.

Tom was condemned by the Washington State Democratic Party for 'gross disloyalty' and 'perfidious behavior' in 2013, when he and fellow Democrat Senator Tim Sheldon joined Senate Republicans to form the so-called 'Majority Coalition Caucus' and seize control of the Senate.

Tom's reward for switching sides was to be elected Senate Majority Leader, but he earned the wrath of Democratic Party regulars who vowed to unseat him this November.

Tom's decision to drop out changes the complexion of the race, McBride told SGN.

'When I started it was very easy to say what I was running against,' she said, 'but now I'm focusing on what I'm running for:

'A balanced transportation plan; ample funding for our educational system, including higher ed; for our middle class, in particular, to deal with growing wage disparity; for the Reproductive Parity Act [which would require state insurance plans to cover contraceptives and abortions if they cover maternity care].'

McBride, who has already raised more than $61,000, touts her 'robust field campaign,' and says she is optimistic about her chances.

'I've been in many races, and I've always won,' she told SGN. 'This will be a contested race. The Republicans will file a candidate. But the way to win is to work hard, and listen to what the constituents say.'

In February Tom hired Republican publicist Keith Schipper as his campaign manager, and Republicans were expected to stay out of the race. With Tom gone, the GOP will almost certainly try to field a candidate to preserve their razor-thin majority in the Senate.

Other Democrats who might be candidates - state Representatives Ross Hunter and Cyrus Habib - have already endorsed McBride. McBride, who recently married her partner of 14 years, also enjoys the Victory Fund's 'stamp of approval,' she notes.

As Mayor of Kirkland, McBride presided over a period of rapid expansion and development. She oversaw the purchase of the Cross Kirkland Corridor to facilitate rail and other transit, and development of the Kirkland Transit Center and South Kirkland Park and Ride. McBride also championed a parks and roads levy, and funded local Youth and Senior councils, and a city Teen Center.

Although she is a veteran campaigner, McBride says she has been surprised at some feedback from 38th District voters.

'I've always considered myself an environmentalist, but I was surprised by how many people are worried about climate change,' she said.

'I've been surprised at the number of people who are concerned about the Republican Party, about them being the party of No, about how we lost the ability to have constructive debate.

'I'm also surprised when I talk to small business owners about their economic viability. They can be as vulnerable as some of the most vulnerable individuals.'

McBride added that community members who wish to help her campaign can donate or volunteer via her website, JoanMcBride.com.

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