And then there's the downside to switching parties: no money. State Rep. Rodney Tom (pictured), D-Medina, made the front pages in March when he moved from the Republican to the Democratic Party and declared he would challenge the 48th District incumbent state Sen. Luke Esser, R-Bellevue. Tom quickly drove out Democrat Debi Golden, who had already announced her candidacy for the same post.
Esser has been raising money hand over fist from his party's big donors (not to mention picking up the endorsement of the Service Employees International Union, the biggest labor union in the state), while the Democrats haven't been shelling out for Tom. The latest reports available from the state's Public Disclosure Commission show Esser has raised $116,129 through May, while Tom has only rounded up $32,625. Where's the love for Rodney? Have hard feelings over Golden's ouster hurt Tom?
The race is one of the key matchups for control of the state Senate where the Democrats control the chamber 26-23 on paper but, since a few conservative D's often vote with the GOP, the Dems find it hard to move their agenda. Tom's move made sense since he is more in sync with the Democrats, and the 48thDistrict, on social issues (pro-choice, pro-gay rights) and fiscal issues (in favor of increased transportation and education spending) than Esser. Tom's switch also seemed like smart political timing: The District has been moving left for years, voting for Democrats John Kerry, Patty Murray, and Dave Ross in the 2004 election, and 2006 is shaping up to be a Democratic year. The Republicans "have drifted far right much like the senator in this district," says Tom. "The party is no longer in the mainstream."
Esser shoots back, "Now that [Tom] has concluded that the district is Democratic, he says he is a Democrat. If he didn't notice that starting with Barry Goldwater the Republican Party is the more conservative party, then he's been asleep in his American political science class."