Yesterday was the filing the deadline for Washington's 2012 political season, and for me the biggest surprise was not who filed but who didn't: state Senator Joe Zarelli (R-Ridgefield), the ranking Republican on the Senate Ways & Means Committee, and the de facto chair during last session's budget coup. I had no idea Zarelli was considering retirement, and didn't even hear about it until Ways & Means (official) chair Senator Ed Murray (D-Seattle) sent out the following conciliatory statement last night:
“Sen. Zarelli’s departure from the Senate means the loss of one of the chamber’s most knowledgeable members, especially on fiscal issues. He advocated for his positions and his caucus strongly, but he was also a leader who knew how to compromise for the good of the state. I am glad that, despite our differences over the years, we have maintained a good relationship. I wish Joe the very best in the future.”
How politic of Ed. Personally, I thought Zarelli and his Republican colleagues were kinda dicks about the whole budget coup thing, but whatever. I don't have to work with them. Ed does.
Regardless, Zarelli's retirement seems strange considering his party stands a reasonable chance of seizing control of both the state Senate and the governor's mansion this November, and possibly even the state House. After 17 years in the legislature, next session might have been the chance for Zarelli—a proud signatory to Grover Norquist's "no new taxes" under even the most urgent circumstances pledge—to finally implement the drown-government-in-a-bathtub budget for which he'd long been striving. Absent some undisclosed illness or offer of a better job, the timing of Zarelli's retirement just strikes me as odd.
Zarelli's departure also kicks off a campaign season that features as many open seats as I can remember in my decade of paying close attention to these sort of things. Let the games begin!