Washington State Capitol. Photo by Emma Epperly, WNPA Olympia News Bureau

Washington State Capitol. Photo by Emma Epperly, WNPA Olympia News Bureau

Interim House speaker takes on challenges of a tough seat

  • Thursday, May 9, 2019 2:06pm
  • Opinion

The Frank Chopp era is over.

Washington’s longest-serving speaker of the state House of Representatives quietly exited last Friday from the seat of power he had occupied through two decades.

The Seattle Democrat, who evolved into one of the most dominant political forces in state history during his reign, submitted a short resignation note to the chief clerk, collected a few last belongings and by early afternoon had cleared out of the office.

And the John Lovick era began.

That same Friday afternoon workers scraped Chopp’s name from the door and put up Lovick’s along with the title Acting Speaker.

Lovick, a Mill Creek Democrat and former Snohomish County executive, moved in Monday, making history the moment he sat down.

He is black, the first person of color to be given the duties and responsibilities of House Speaker. Though the gig is temporary — he’ll serve until January when a new speaker is elected by the full House — it’s no less a barrier-breaking accomplishment.

“I am proud to stand on the broad shoulders of a lot of people who served (in the Legislature) before me,” Lovick said.

Before Chopp departed, the two men spent a couple hours going over the levers of power Lovick would control. On Lovick’s first day, he made a point to meet the men and women employees, partisan and non-partisan, who are the gears of the legislative machinery he’ll be steering.

“There’s so much structure in place,” Lovick said. “This is a well-oiled machine that runs exceptionally well.”

This is not going to be a cakewalk.

Lovick spent part of the first week wrestling with separate reviews of two House members.

One involves Democratic Rep. Jeff Morris of Mount Vernon. A complaint concerning Morris’ managerial manners prompted caucus leaders late last year to launch a fact-finding inquiry and likely contributed to the veteran lawmaker losing a committee chairmanship in the 2019 session.

That report is finished and some of its recommendations are getting implemented. Yet the report, including its findings and recommendations, hasn’t been released despite requests from reporters.

“I want to look at it, read it myself,” Lovick said. He also said he wanted to talk with House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, and caucus Chairman Eric Pettigrew, D-Seattle, on Wednesday about the situation. “I want to be sure this is done properly.”

The other involves an investigation of Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane. This is a little more complicated.

Shea is not accused of any wrongdoing in the workplace. The conservative’s political behavior is inciting the probe.

The Guardian newspaper has reported that Shea engaged in Internet chats in 2017 with three other men proposing to confront “leftists” with a variety of tactics, including violence, surveillance and intimidation.

Recently, 55 Democratic state lawmakers, including Lovick, called on House Republican leaders to reprimand Shea for what they view as his abhorrent action. A few Democrats wanted to vote for Shea’s expulsion in the session — but Chopp didn’t let that happen.

However, before Chopp left, he did make sure Chief Clerk Bernard Dean got the go-ahead to look into what transpired. Dean said he’s evaluating what kind of private investigator to hire since the concerns center on Shea’s actions outside the legislative workplace. It could be weeks before anyone is selected, he said.

Lovick wants to tread cautiously.

“I frankly don’t think there’s any reason not to afford (Shea) his due process,” said Lovick, a retired state trooper and former Snohomish County sheriff.

It’s only been a couple days, but Lovick is relishing his new role. He’s also aware how big the shoes he’s filling.

“Frank’s a good friend,” he said. “Moving into the office that Frank’s been in for 20 years, it’s very difficult for me.”

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@herald net.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.

More in Opinion

Matt Shea is poised for a victory lap

Democrats could, on their own, censure the six-term lawmaker. But they probably won’t. Even a hearing on the content of the report looks very unlikely.

Dams are the Northwest flood busters

We need to remember that that network is saving our bacon

Inslee still hopeful for clean fuels standard

Gov. Jay Inslee badly wants a clean fuels standard in Washington. He… Continue reading

Washington State Capitol Building in Olympia. File photo
Despite ruling on Public Records Act, we need to keep a close eye on Olympia

Washington Supreme Court upholds that state legislators are subject to the Public Records Act.

Continuing to build connections in 2020

What’s ahead for King County Library System

Boeing needs strong tailwinds

Facing headwinds in 2020

Rifts, not gifts: Habib, Republican senators at odds this holiday season

OLYMPIA — Stuck on what gifts to give Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib… Continue reading

Bridges shouldn’t have to sink to be replaced

Bridges shouldn’t have to sink to be replaced. However, at times that’s… Continue reading

Will we feel different when Trump is impeached? Probably not

As a historic vote looms in the House, attitudes of the public are pretty hardened on this subject.

Rep. Drew Stokesbary, R-Auburn. FILE PHOTO
When asked their opinion on contract talks, they were silent

A 2017 law lets lawmakers offer negotiation topics. But a bipartisan panel didn’t do so this week.

Taking time to say thank you to our supporters

As the holidays approach, I would like to take this opportunity to… Continue reading

Initiative impresario, political provocateur — and governor?

Tim Eyman’s candidacy will settle whether voters like him as much as they like his tax-cutting ideas.