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Voters are being short-changed by officials who leave office early
News flash: Sen. Rockefeller resigns his Washington state Senate seat; Rep. Rolfes declares immediately she will seek appointment to Rockefeller’s Senate seat. Notwithstanding the higher political aspirations of both legislators, there is something seriously troubling with this political maneuver. On the surface we have two opportunistic politicians moving their way up the political ladder. However, on closer examination we have broken trust.
Neither Sen. Rockefeller nor Rep. Rolfes are term complete. Both legislators have an elected day job for which they actively campaigned, took contributions and made promises to voters on terms of service. Sen. Rockefeller had 19 months to term completion; Ms. Rolfes’ announcement to seek appointment comes with only six months completed in her 24-month term. Personal health issues or family illness would be an acceptable reason to break your contract, not the grass-is-greener new assignment reasons here. Both these two elected officials and the voters knew the terms of employment. The voters are being short-changed.
The news reports and press releases tout the importance of this Gov. Gregoire committee appointment for Mr. Rockefeller. The position may in fact be important but Sen. Rockefeller does not have a singular set of skills that make him the only Democrat in Washington state qualified for the position. Clearly, Sen. Rockefeller has placed his personal interests ahead of those of his 78,000 voting constituents. As to Rep. Rolfes, she can campaign for Sen. Rockefeller’s seat in the 2012 race after completing her full term. Ms. Rolfes has no legitimate reason that compels her to walk away from her current duties. The 23rd Legislative District Democrats can field a different replacement for Mr. Rockefeller. Ms. Rolfes has no singular skill set making her the only person for this interim fill. Again, if Ms. Rolfes resigns, she is placing her personal political ambition ahead that of the 78,000 voting constituents she now serves. Ms. Rolfes may harbor an heir-apparent design on the Rockefeller position, but that should be held in abeyance until she has met her elected obligations.
Elected officials such as Mr. Rockefeller and Ms. Rolfes have entered into a covenant with their constituents — the People — to serve the citizens of the State of Washington honorably, faithfully and to the best of their abilities. Implicit in this covenant is a requirement to serve fully, both day-by-day and full term. Had either individual campaigned publicly announcing they would only serve until a new political opportunity presented itself, voters certainly would have factored that into their November vote. I can find no record of any such disclaimer on terms of employment from either Mr. Rockefeller or Ms. Rolfes. Breaking a covenant -- the oath to serve -- causes a loss in faith of the elected official and the process. Loss of faith also begets cynicism.
What voters are witnessing is a craftily choreographed Democrat maneuver to game the electoral process. We have seen variations of this Democrat maneuver numerous times here in Kitsap County. Democrat politician X resigns by date specific allowing the Democrat organization to do an interim fill giving that person a general-election incumbency advantage. Is this legal? Yes. But it also smacks of a cynical gaming of the process that should trouble voters about this bait-and-switch tactic protecting local Democrat hegemony at all cost.
Voters need to be alert as to how their vote, their wills, can be manipulated by this process of elected officials deserting their posts with follow-on process of appointing non-voter-elected individuals into elected office. Voters will again be given choices in elections in November 2011 and 2012. When that candidate tells you he or she will serve you faithfully, remember what their record really tells. Your vote is sacred and our electoral covenants should not be broken for self-serving reasons.
James M. Olsen