According to rumors first reported on the blog of Renton City Council member Randy Corman, and repeated by credible sources inside and outside Olympia, state senator Margarita Prentice (D-11) may lose her chairmanship of the powerful Ways and Means Committee when the state senate goes through its annual reorganization later this year. Prentice, a Renton Democrat who is being challenged for reelection by Beacon Hill Democrat Juan Martinez, has been in the state legislature for 20 years.

On his blog, Corman wrote that senate leadership was thinking about ousting Prentice because of her ill-fated efforts to build a $500 million stadium for the Sonics in Renton; because she supports tapping the state "rainy day fund" during a tough reelection year for Governor Christine Gregoire, who supported creating the fund; and because she has supported controversial constituencies like payday lenders and casinos. Corman also accused Prentice of "threaten[ing] to cut support for colleges or children's charities" whose board members supported her opponent. "Any citizen ought to be able to endorse whoever they like for office without feeling that [the institution they work for] is going to lose money because of their support of a candidate," Corman says. Asked for the names of specific institutions, however, Corman said he'd been unable to get any of the groups to agree to go on the record.

Prentice did not return a call for comment, but a staffer said the same rumors come up every election year.

The speculation in Olympia is that if Prentice is not reappointed, she'll be tapped to replace Harriet Spanel (D-40), who is retiring after 21 years in the legislature, as head of the Senate Democratic Caucus—a move that would allow Prentice to save face politically while losing power in reality. One potential replacement for Prentice, in that scenario, is her committee's current vice chairman, Craig Pridemore (D-49), who is reportedly already the go-to guy for budget requests, according to several sources.

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Pridemore, contacted via e-mail, denied the rumors. "I can tell you without a doubt that she's going to be chair of Ways and Means for as long as she wants to be," Pridemore said. "I don't know anyone in the caucus who could or would want to take her out of it until she chooses to do something else." However, Pridemore did note that the caucus chairmanship "would be a natural position for her to be interested in."

Although Martinez has received endorsements and financial support from a number of individuals in his district, which stretches from Beacon Hill to SeaTac, incumbent Prentice has far more institutional endorsements and money, with nearly $270,000, as of last Friday, to Martinez's $50,000. recommended