Politics Blog

Lytton ascends Democratic leadership in Wash. House

Kristine Lytton, the Democrat from Anacortes who is about to enter her third term in the state House of Representatives, likes to remind interviewers that her job description has her as a part-time legislator.

“It’s a 12-month-a-year job,” Lytton said in October, in an interview for an election story in The Bellingham Herald. “We’re a part-time citizen Legislature, but I have the ability to do this full time. ... I’m happy to do it. I love my job.”

Lytton has been spending a significant portion of her time since the last session ended in March working on ways to comply with the McCleary decision of the state Supreme Court, which ruled the Legislature was not adequately funding K-12 education.

Lytton has been traveling the state, meeting representatives and senators from both parties.

“When we’re in the interim, that’s the best time for us to really form our relationships with each other,” Lytton said in an interview before the Aug. 5 primary.

“We cannot be perceived as the other Washington, that can’t get things done. It’s going to take moderates right down the middle of both parties to get things done.”

Good to hear that Lytton, who represents the 40th Legislative District (south Bellingham, Chuckanut Drive, Lake Whatcom, South Fork Valley), likes her work because she’s going to be a little busier next session.

The House Democrats announced on Tuesday, Nov. 18, that Lytton was named majority floor leader, a step up from her role last biennium as deputy majority floor leader.

Lytton described her role as the deputy floor leader in the October interview.

For one, she makes sure people in the Democratic caucus know what they’re voting for. That can mean making sure the chairperson from a bill’s originating committee is available to answer questions.

Being floor leader also means communicating with Republicans.

“It’s a great opportunity for me to work with people across the aisle,” Lytton said. “It’s about fairness, to make sure the needs of their districts are met, too. I will meet with the minority floor leader to find out what bills are important to their members, particularly if they’re bipartisan, and how do we do that.”

“What I brought to the table is the ability to text really well,” Lytton said. When the Democratic caucus was meeting, she’d text with someone in the Republicans’ room, to make sure there were no hangups later.

“We text back and forth to see if there are problems on either side of the aisle, or if amendments are coming. Out of fairness, they need to have that opportunity to weigh in on amendments,” she said.

Working the smartphone isn’t the only thing Lytton will be doing next session. She had four committee assignments in 2014, and she’ll carry most of those with her into the session that begins in January.

“I took an extra committee last session. That was too much,” Lytton said. “I am going to try to focus on education and serve on that committee. I haven’t decided between Finance or Agriculture and Natural Resources. The Appropriations Committee, I want to stay on. I like delving into the details of the policy and the budget.”

This interview was conducted more than a month ago. Lytton may very well have made her mind up on the committees she’d like to work in next session. I left a message for her to call me for this post.

“I would love for people to understand the amount of hours I put in,” Lytton said. “I can only be as good at my job as my understanding of the issues.”

Lytton, who served six years on the Anacortes School Board, including two years as board president, defeated Republican challenger Daniel Miller of Friday Harbor in the Nov. 4 election. She won handily, receiving 70 percent of the vote. Lytton has yet to face stiff competition for state office. As a newcomer during the GOP wave of 2010, Lytton defeated her Republican opponent for the then-open 40th District seat, 62 percent to 38 percent.