Changes Afoot For A District With Lineage

Changes Afoot For A District With Lineage
The 48th District has a rich political lineage, plus two new appointees to the state legislature, and special elections coming in November. This district includes parts of Redmond, Kirkland and Bellevue, and several other communities. Seen here: downtown Bellevue. Photo: Ming-yen Hsu

Washington’s 48th Legislative District swung wholly Democratic from the early to mid-2000s, and hasn’t swung back. Along the way, it has sent several state legislators either to top leadership slots, or higher appointed and elected posts. Most recently, former State Sen. Cyrus Habib (D-48) was elected Lieutenant Governor, beginning with a wide-open, full-throated primary election contest that drew 11 candidates. As a result of Habib’s ascent, the King County Council has appointed State Rep. Patty Kuderer (D-48) to fill his Senate vacancy, and Bellevue City Councilwoman Vandana Slatter to fill Kuderer’s House Position 1 seat. The 48th contains parts of Redmond, Bellevue and Kirkland, and encloses Clyde Hill, Yarrow Point, Hunts Point and Medina.

Kuderer was the first choice of 48th District Democrats for the Senate appointment. Their second choice was Becky Lewis, a FUSE board member; their third was activist Sarah Chandler. Kuderer will be Assistant Ranking Minority Member on the Senate Health Care Committee. She will also sit on the Senate Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee, and the chamber’s State Government panel.

Slatter was the preferred choice of Democrats for the House seat, followed by Seattle-based entrepreneur Brayden Olson, and Redmond resident David Combs. Her committee assignments were to be finalized Friday, January 13.

November Special Elections Ahead In 48th

As appointees, both Kuderer and Slatter will have to run for re-election in November. Cynthia Cole, Chairman of the 48th Legislative District Republicans, told Lens that Republican candidates will run against the two lawmakers this November, but “no one has declared publicly yet.”

Balducci Hails Picks

King County Council Member Claudia Balducci, who previously served on the Bellevue Council, said in a news release, “The Eastside is gaining two outstanding, accomplished and effective leaders to represent the 48th district during what is anticipated to be one of the most daunting sessions in many years. As a member of the 48th, I am proud to be represented by Senator Patty Kuderer and Representative Vandana Slatter and know they will represent our district ably and powerfully in Olympia.”

“I believe that good government is all about removing obstacles and providing opportunities for people to succeed, and I’m grateful for this opportunity,” Slatter said in the release. “I look forward to serving the vibrant, innovative and diverse community of the 48th District.”

Kuderer told the County Council, “I established a lot of very strong relationships” in the House, “both in the Democratic Caucus and across the aisle…I do think that a lot of this is about relationship building and trust between parties. I think that’s something we could use at the national level and we could continue doing in Olympia.”

Originally appointed to the House in 2015, Kuderer won re-election the following year. She received her law degree from William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota, and heads the Seattle-based Kuderer Law Group.

Slatter has been a trustee of the Overlake Hospital Foundation, volunteer advisor to Bellevue College’s Science Department, and holds a pharmacy doctorate from the University of Washington, plus an M.A. in public administration from UW’s Evans School of Public Affairs.

48th Stands Out

The 48th’s political lineage includes some major names in Washington politics.

Rodney Tom was elected in 2002 to the district’s House Position 2 slot, and served two terms as a Republican. Prior to the 2006 election, he became a Democrat, and was elected to the State Senate. A fiscal conservative, he assumed leadership of the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus in 2013, made up primarily of Republicans. He chose not to run for reelection in 2014, but has played a significant behind-the-scenes role in state politics.

Democrat Ross Hunter held House Position 1 in the 48th from 2002 through 2014, and was appointed in 2015 by Governor Jay Inslee to head the State Department of Early Learning. Prior to his House terms, Hunter spent 17 years as a manager at Microsoft.

Hunter told Lens, “The district has always been a highly educated, urbane district. It used to be a Republican district and like many closed-in suburban districts all over the country, as they become more urban, and the population becomes more dense and college-oriented, they tend to shift their views. I think the 48th has been pretty consistent in that direction.” He added the district’s “values are in favor of education and additional transportation investments.”

Another notable former 48th district lawmaker is Democrat Deb Eddy. She held House Position 2 between 2006 to 2012, and emerged as a prominent voice on transportation and growth management. Last year, Eddy was appointed by Inslee to the state’s Growth Management Hearings Board.

Secretary of State election results over the last two decades show that Republicans held all three legislative seats in the 48th from 1996 to 2002. With Hunter’s election to House Seat 1 in 2002, Democrats began a four-year take-over. Since 2006, they have held all three positions. House Position 2 in the 48th is held by Joan McBride, a former Kirkland Mayor.

The neighboring 45th District will be the real epicenter of a crucial battle for control of the State Senate, in another special election this November, for the seat formerly held by the late Andy Hill. An appointee, former State Senator and gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi, will not seek the position after serving this year. The Majority Coalition Caucus holds a thin, 25-24 Senate majority. In the State House, Democrats hold a 50-48 advantage over Republicans.

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