Finkbeiner's Big Idea

When asked about politics - on just about any level - nearly everyone has a similar response these days: the partisan bickering has reached a level of absurdity that's only matched by its ability to nauseate. Washington State Lieutenant Governor candidate Bill Finkbeiner, a former state senator from Kirkland, has an idea to ease some of the rancor in Olympia - and it involves the most elementary of principles.

Sitting in alphabetical order. Simply put, Finkbeiner thinks Olympia would run smoother if elected lawmakers ditched the divided isles and intermingled a little. Currently politicians in Olympia are assigned their seats according to party and seniority - a longstanding practice which Finkbeiner's campaign says only adds to the political divide that's become so palpable.

As silly as that sounds, Finkbeiner probably has a decent point. Sitting in alphabetical order, or any order that forces the two sides to intermingle even a bit, could only help ... if only because things couldn't possibly get any worse.

Finkbeiner's campaign had this to say on the subject yesterday in a message to supporters (which The News Tribune columnist Peter Callaghan borrowed for a blog post):

The aisle separates the parties, promotes division, and decreases the sense of cooperation. No business would split a team working on its most important policies into two oppositional groups, and we citizens shouldn't allow this either. As Lieutenant Governor, I will make legislators sit in alphabetical order and not separated by party.

As Callaghan points out, Finkbeiner is in the rare position to speak with authority on the prospect of bringing state Democrats and Republicans together - having won legislative elections as both. Finkbeiner's victory as a Democrat came in the early '90s. When he left Olympia in 2006 it was as the Republican Senate Majority Leader.

Finkbeiner is even married to a Democrat. His wife, Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, is executive director of MomsRising, and advocacy group for early-childhood education.

Finkbeiner is battling incumbent Lieutenant Governor Brad Owens for the position this November, along with current Republican House member Glenn Anderson and Clifford Mark Green, who describes himself as a member of the Party of Commons.

The Finkbeiner campaign says the office could become "the Switzerland of the Legislature" under his leadership.

Which, again, sounds a little silly, but ...

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