Tomgate: How Rodney Tom Betrayed Washington

Rodney Tom violated the most basic duty of an elected official, which is to put the voters' interests before the politicians personal interests.


THE 2012 GENERAL ELECTION made at least this clear: Washington voters wanted Democrats, and not Republicans, leading the State. A Democrat was elected to every executive position, except one (Secretary of State), including Governor, Attorney General, and U.S. Senator. And voters reelected enough Democrats to the State Senate to ensure the party’s control. It was, for the Democrats, a sweep.

And yet the Democratic turncoat Rodney Tom took it upon himself to ignore the voters and instead hand control of the Senate over to Republicans. Tom, a Senator from the 48th Legislative District, which includes Bellevue, and Tim Sheldon, Senator from the 35th Legislative District, joined Senate Republicans to establish what they are calling, rather misleadingly, a “majority coalition caucus.”

Now, Republicans control the Senate with 25 members to the Democrats’ 24 members. As a result, Tom will be the Senate’s majority leader, while Sheldon will be the President Pro Tempore (a position that presides over the Senate in the Lieutenant Governor’s absence). And as Senate majority leader, Tom wields great power: he appoints the chair of different committees and also controls the Senate’s schedule.

Tom’s actions offend more than just the voters’ will; his actions offend the base level obligation of an elected official. I am devoutly of the opinion that elected officials should unabashedly place the interests of their constituents over their own; elected officials, after all, are elected to serve the public and not to serve themselves. But Tom disregarded the fact that in 2010 voters reelected him as a Democrat who promised to fight for and uphold the Democratic Party’s progressive values.

The rationale for Tom’s betrayal is apparent: in 2010, Republicans spent nearly $1 million trying to unseat him. It was likely the case that Republicans would take aim at Tom again in 2014. But now Tom has pacified his otherwise Republican challengers and so has dodged what would have been a conservative firing squad. And the Republican money that would have been spent to defeat him will now likely fill his coffers. Put another way, Tom chose to protect his own longevity as an elected politician at the expense of the majority of his voting constituency.

What is most sad about Tom’s about-face is, I think, this: momentum toward comprehensive gun control reformation is finally gaining traction. And yet as Senate majority leader, Tom will more than likely do whatever he can, in a further attempt to appease his now conservative base, to stifle whatever sorely needed gun control changes are proposed, including a possible assault weapons ban.  


 Trent Latta is an attorney and he lives in Kirkland. He can be reached at TrentLatta@gmail.com.

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Edwin January 11, 2013 at 05:30 PM
Gregoire on her way out wants to increase the budget by 1 Billion for education. How exactly will this be done when there is no surplus and in fact a deficit? Maybe Rodney Tom sees the upcoming storm of tax increases and realizes the future of WA is out of balance. Dexterjibs is right Trent and all you progressives who put your party first before the interest of the well being of our State would applaud him as a hero. I think both parties have let this Country down by the negative rhetoric. When someone can explain to me why we can get out of our financial mess with merely taxing the rich I will vote for one of you D progressives. And I will not vote for any R' that is obeying his party before what is in the best interest of his constituents. Until each side really tries to understand and compromise we as a State and Country will go bankrupt
Trent Latta January 11, 2013 at 06:16 PM
Political parties serve an incredibly useful purpose: party affiliation is a shorthand method for identifying a candidate’s values. It is impossible for any one person to know where all his or her elected officials stand on each and every issue. The reality is, therefore, that most people vote in line with party affiliation knowing that, for the most part, the candidate will uphold that party’s values. This method is, by no means, perfect. But it is the one we have got and it is the one that, as time has shown, has worked pretty well as far as democracies go. The crux of Rodney Tom’s betrayal is that he held himself out has someone who, if elected, would uphold one party platform over another’s: whether you think Tom is an “Independent” now, you must be mindful of the fact that he did not have an “I” next to his name when he was reelected in 2010. Instead, he was reelected based on his representation that he most aligned with the Democratic Party’s values. But Tom betrayed the charge of the people who voted him into office by jumping to the Republican Party, all in an effort to protect his own personal interests and not those of the majority of people who voted for him, and in defiance of Washington State’s at-large voting community. Trent
Barbara Manley January 11, 2013 at 06:25 PM
Several of you say that Trent's opinions are biased, not to be taken seriously. Are you saying that only people who do not have strong feelings about what Rodney Tom (and Tim Sheldon) did are entitled to express their thoughts? How typically right-wing! Tom campaigned as a member of the Democratic party, with a definite platform of stands on specific issues. Nothing he said prior to election was out of line with this platform. Donations and volunteer efforts by local and state Democrats contributed to his election as a representative of the people who voted for him and expected him to honor his committment to the Democratic party. By switching sides he betrayed the people who worked and voted for him. The fact that he seems to think this will not affect his political future is a further indication of his lack of respect for WA voters. People who insist in defending his right to stab his previously chosen party in the back might consider - what is to stop him from doing the same, should the Democrats make him a better offer. A turncoat cannot be trusted by EITHER side. Then again, he will be voted out in two years, ending a very short political career that by rights should be considered disgusting by BOTH sides. Yes, party designation DOES matter to people who understand what the parties represent. Anyone who does not understand that very basic principle of the two party system needs to pull their head out of the clouds and grow up.
dexterjibs January 11, 2013 at 06:44 PM
I don't have an issue with his political bias, Barbara, I am questioning his intellectual honesty. If the politcal parties were reversed and Se Tom did this to the Republicans, i know MR Latta would be hailing Sen Tom as a "hero" and as "courageous". It is politics and Mr Latta has more concern for the Democrat Party than he does for the citizens of the State of Washington.
dexterjibs January 11, 2013 at 06:48 PM
Sounds like you are a sensitive little guy, Trent, so i want call you names. Even though you called Sen Toms a turncoat, implied he is acting out of poltical survival and implied he was an appeaser. So, without name calling, just answer my simple question; Would you call Sen Tom courageous, brave and a hero if the roles were reversed and he did this to the Republican Party?
Toby Nixon January 11, 2013 at 07:05 PM
Perhaps Rodney's previous history of switching parties should have been considered as an indicator of his commitment to party loyalty, Barbara. It really shouldn't be a surprise. When I served with him in the House, he was clearly an "independent thinker" who did not consider himself beholden to party leadership, grassroots volunteers, contributors, or anyone else -- he just voted as he personally believed was in the best interests of the people of the state, regardless of what the platform said. In my experience, he is the very embodiment of the principle, seemingly held by many legislators, that "the platform is what stays behind when the train leaves the station!" When he switched from R to D to run for the senate, the Republicans screamed just as loudly then as the Democrats are now. Trent, nothing I've posted in this thread is personal in the least. As an advocate for more transparency and information so that people can assess your comments in context, I just think everyone should know of your party insider role. That's not an attack. And you haven't yet responded to the point that Democrats lost seats in both the state House and Senate in 2012. The fact that the chambers are so evenly divided is an indication to me that the people do not want single-party control (as you assert) but are looking for collaboration and cooperation in solving the problems that face us.
Joe M January 11, 2013 at 07:10 PM
So, dexterjibs, you've made up an unlikely scenario, and in your fertile imagination you decide how Mr. Latta will behave in that situation. And because of that imaginary behavior, you accuse him of lacking intellectual honesty. I do love irony. That phrase, "intellectual honesty" - I do not think it means what you think it means.
Barbara Manley January 11, 2013 at 08:58 PM
Tom's past betrayals should have caused an uproar within the Republican party. If he is such an 'independent thinker,' he should have actually run under the Independent designation and not fraudulently used the financial and volunteer backing of either major party. The average WA voter uses the party of the candidate to make ballot choices and they should be able to expect the candidate to honestly represent that party. While 'many legislators' may feel they do not need to be true to the party platform, most of those have learned, to the detriment of their imagined political careers, that the voters will not tolerate such betrayal. I was surprised at how many people in WA were unaware of the back-stabbing actions of Tom and Sheldon. Thank you, Trent, for further publicizing this and spreading the word.
Edwin January 11, 2013 at 09:16 PM
Trent, It does seem the only ones you take offense to are those who disagree with you. Dexter and I clearly have called you out on your biased view. Mr. Nixon has been very polite and logical. However what I have said is correct. You did not disclose your personal affiliation with the Democrat Party readers of one or your blogs articles did. Iam sorry you are offended being called a Progressive Democrat and political left, who will put the will of his party before that of the people and seems focused on raising taxes as opposed to running government more efficiently. And to be clear I am an independent with no affiliation with either party. Frankly both have let this Country down with excessive spending and I look forward to more fiscal control in our State with Tom's decision
Jerry Gropp Architect AIA January 11, 2013 at 09:17 PM
HowCome so many of these were "Flag(ged) as Inappropriate" ?
dexterjibs January 11, 2013 at 10:28 PM
You again, Joe H, geez you are like a little gnat. Anyway, an unlikely scenario? Have you been reading other posts? Are you aware Sen Tom was a Republican at one time? Well, evidently he saw the future politcal landscape and turned his back on the Republicans and switched teams to the Democrats. Do you think he did this switch for some altruistic reasoning? No he did it for politcal power. It was a politcal move because he is a politcian. What Sen Tom did this year is a brilliant political move. Look at the power he wields now. Unlikely scenario my backside. Have you noticed Trent still hasn't answered my question?
Barbara Manley January 11, 2013 at 10:51 PM
You cannot state an assumption of how Trent or any other intelligent person would react to a politician betraying the party that put him in office. What Rodney Tom did is a heinous affront and insult to all WA voters. That is a FACT and not a biased opinion. Our country's government is based on a two-party political system, with the occasional "Independent" candidate. If you look under the Independent label, you will most often find someone who is a strong proponent of one of the two major parties, but who plays the game well enough to know their only chance of election will be as an "alternative option." Too many problems in our country stem not from either major party, but from those people too busy, too uninformed, too "cool" to commit to one side or the other and work to find solutions. This is what we have; that is how it works. Tom is not an "independent thinker" working for the "best interests of the people." He is solely concerned with his own career and uses unscrupulous methods to advance it.
Venice Buhain January 11, 2013 at 11:07 PM
Jerry, are you talking about the gray "Flag as Inappropriate" located on each comment? That doesn't mean that the comment is flagged. That link is how users can flag comments for review.
John S. January 11, 2013 at 11:18 PM
If Rodney Tom had declared himself to be a Republican, or as some have suggested, an Independent, while campaigning for re-election, there wouldn't be an issue. But he didn't. What he did do, would be equally wrong, self-serving, and cowardly if he had run as a Republican, was re-elected, and then decided to caucus with the Democrats so that he could orchestrate becoming the Senate Majority Leader even though the Democrats only constituted a minority in the Senate. Why anybody would even consider trusting and voting for Rodney Tom in the future is beyond me. Now that he's tricked Democrats and Republicans alike, now and in years past, I hope everybody who has been burned will withhold their votes and financial contributions in future elections.
Jerry Gropp Architect AIA January 11, 2013 at 11:18 PM
Venice- As to your "Jerry, are you talking about the gray "Flag as Inappropriate" located on each comment? That doesn't mean that the comment is flagged. That link is how users can flag comments for review."- just what does that mean? The Editor is to perhaps reject it for whatever reason? JerryG-
Steve Zemke January 11, 2013 at 11:29 PM
Party identification is an important component of understanding the values of candidates running for office. I am a Democrat because I believe the Democratic values expoused in the Democratic platform more closely represent my values than those of the Republican Party. Rodney Tom's actions show how it doesn't matter what Legislative District you live in; his actions and those of Tim Sheldon are now affecting the ability of all the other Democratic legislators elected in the state to carry out the wishes of their constituents. As such Sheldon and Tom have broken their trust with the voters of this state, their fellow Democratic legislators and the voters in thier districts. If they do not want to work with their fellow Democrats, then they should declare themselves as independents or Republicans so voters can know where their priorities are in governing this state. They have broken trust with their constituents by declaring themselves Democrats to get elected and then, once elected, turning the power over to the Republicans to run the State Senate.
Venice Buhain January 11, 2013 at 11:34 PM
That means that users who think a comment is not appropriate -- i.e., defamatory, vulgar, etc. -- can flag a comment for the editors to review. It's not a command to delete a comment just because a reader disagreed with a commenter. The terms of use are at this link, Jerry: http://bellevue.patch.com/terms
Kendall Watson January 11, 2013 at 11:59 PM
A lot of informative comments from a variety of political perspectives. Thank you, all!
rentonben January 12, 2013 at 12:22 AM
Is Trent Latta done clutching at pearls yet? Seems to be such a delicate person.
Mary Hall January 12, 2013 at 12:51 AM
This is a very serious matter and I thank Mr. Latta for bringing it to my attention.
rentonben January 12, 2013 at 01:28 AM
You wouldn't happen to be Mary Hall of the 31st District Democrats? If so, I find it fascinating that you needed this issue to be brought to your attention.
dexterjibs January 12, 2013 at 05:51 AM
Trent is a very delicate, sensitive guy. I am surprised he is married to a lady.
Jerry Gropp Architect AIA January 12, 2013 at 06:03 AM
Venice- Thanks much for the requested explanation. JerryG-
Harborite January 12, 2013 at 01:09 PM
Read most, but not all comments, and Edward makes the most sense :o)
Lisa Thomas January 12, 2013 at 01:38 PM
May Rodney Tom's switch, switch back be a harbinger of good things to come....parties become less relevant and powerful and the elected people become more relevant and powerful. I, for one, am tired of having parties dictate the laws of the land...let's have smart, passionate elected people use their independent thinking to craft the best laws of the land. Honestly, it can't be worse than what we've gotten with party control. And the hypocrisy of both sides is maddening. The Dems here complain...yet they cheered Rodney when he went their way from the Repub side. The Repubs do the same thing when they have someone change (like Lieberman). That, in itself, highlights the bad place parties have taken us.
Barbara Manley January 12, 2013 at 07:08 PM
Should our political system ever get to the point where people do not campaign under a particular party designation, this would be great. However, until that day, their declaration of party affiliation is what most people rely on when making ballot choices. Voters should be able to trust that the candidate is actually a representative of the party they declare and that elects them. To act otherwise is cowardly, dishonest, self-serving, and a perfect reason to oust that person in the next election. I did not cheer when Rodney pulled this before - it is a despicable act no matter which party benefits.
Bradpwa January 19, 2013 at 06:28 AM
David in Bellevue - Is that a joke? Tom was a Republican and switched parties. Pretty clear he was not a party loyalist.
Lise Quinn February 08, 2013 at 01:33 AM
Lise Quinn February 08, 2013 at 01:46 AM
Nope, you are wrong, most people want to see the rich pay an equitable amount of taxes in comparison to the rest of the 98%. Most people want our social services to remain and not to be cut. If you were right, then the peoples would not have elected a democratic president or a democratic majority in the Washington State Senate and Representatives "2012: Republicans lost eight other state executive races, plus all three open U.S. House seats, and barely mounted a challenge to U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell."
Lise Quinn February 08, 2013 at 01:48 AM
In other words - no one should have trusted this flip-flopper or at least only trusted him to flip flop!


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