Senate Majority Coalition picks Sheldon for president pro tem, continues bipartisan tradition

Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, wields gavel in Senate as president pro tem.

Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, wields gavel in Senate as president pro tem.

State Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, was tapped Dec. 1 by the Majority Coalition Caucus for a second term as a presiding officer in the Washington State Senate, an important recognition for the longtime Mason County lawmaker.

The decision carries a political significance as well — a decisive confirmation of continued bipartisan leadership in the Legislature’s upper chamber, at a time when Republicans have an absolute numerical advantage. Members of the Majority Coalition Caucus voted unanimously to make Democrat Sheldon their pick for president pro tempore.

The decision must be ratified by a vote of the full Senate on the first day of the 2015 session, Jan. 12.

“The fact that I have been extended this honor two terms in a row makes me very proud,” Sheldon said. “Certainly it shows that my colleagues in the Senate have confidence in my ability to wield a gavel. But it also is an expression of the bipartisanship that has marked the Majority Coalition Caucus since the day it was formed.”

As president pro tem, Sheldon presides over Senate sessions when Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen is absent or is otherwise unavailable. The president pro tem also serves as vice chairman of the Senate Rules Committee.

Though this will be the second time Sheldon has held the prominent leadership position, this new selection carries a subtle but very important distinction. Sheldon was first elected to the post in 2013, a month after he and Democrat Rodney Tom of Medina joined with the 23 Senate Republicans to create the majority coalition. The participation of the two Democrats gave the coalition a 25-24 advantage over the Senate Democratic Caucus.

Since that time the numbers have shifted. In the elections of 2013 and 2014, Tom stepped down and Republicans gained two seats, giving Republicans an absolute numerical majority of 25. Sheldon gives the coalition a 26-23 advantage.

“This recognition I have received from my colleagues is a demonstration of the bipartisan ideals that have governed our coalition since Day One,” Sheldon said. “We always said our chief concerns were jobs, education and the budget, and not partisan politics. This definitely shows it.

“I appreciate the support I have received from both sides of the aisle. And I am looking forward to continuing our tradition of bipartisanship by offering even-handed nonpartisan rulings from the rostrum.”

Sheldon is one of the longest-serving members of the state Legislature. He was elected to the state House of Representatives in 1990 and was elected to the Senate in 1997. His 35th Legislative District covers all of Mason County and parts of Thurston and Kitsap counties.