Most politicians talk a lot about "reaching across the aisle" during campaign seasons. Bill Finkbeiner wants to get rid of the aisle altogether.
Finkbeiner, a Republican from Kirkland, is running for lieutenant governor -- who presides over voting and debates on the Senate floor -- and said during a Tri-City campaign stop this week that if elected, he'd like to rearrange the Senate to throw Democrats and Republicans into a political melting pot.
"In recent years I've been frustrated with the direction the state is going," he told the Herald. "The culture of politics is breaking down."
In particular, Finkbeiner, 42, has seen a state government bogged down by partisanship -- and while he wouldn't want to see a nonpartisan Legislature, he does think the two parties can do more to work together in the best interests of the state.
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Toward that end, Finkbeiner has a couple of ideas. First, he'd like to rearrange the seating pattern on the Senate floor so that senators are assigned seats either alphabetically or by district.
Right now, the Senate floor is divided along party lines with Democrats on one side and Republicans on the other, unless one party has enough members to spill over into the other section. That was the case a few years ago when Democrats held a wider majority in the Senate.
Finkbeiner said he read an April 25 article on the Washington State Wire website about Sen. Jim Kastama, D-Puyallup, in which he spoke about how sitting with the Republicans allowed him to get to know his colleagues from the minority party.
After leaving the Legislature, he helped start a company operating online high schools.
Although filing doesn't open for the race until Monday, incumbent Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, a Democrat, has said he plans to seek re-election. Rep. Glenn Anderson, R-Fall City, also has declared his intent to run.
So far, Finkbeiner is nearly in a dead heat with Owen in fundraising, with about $94,000 in reported contributions. Owen has raised $102,000. Anderson has raised less than $1,000, according to the Public Disclosure Commission.
The top two vote-getters in the Aug. 7 primary will advance to the November general election.
For more about Finkbeiner's campaign, go to www.billfinkbeiner.org.