The Republican-majority Senate voted to dismiss Washington Secretary of Transportation Lynn Peterson from her position Friday by not confirming her three years after she was appointed to the job by Gov. Jay Inslee.
The Friday afternoon vote was largely along party lines, 21 to 25. Democrats voted to confirm Peterson, while Republicans and one Democrat who caucuses with the GOP voted to remove her. The action is effective immediately, according to the governor’s office.
Inslee criticized the move, saying it was a display of partisan politics by Senate Republicans. “They engaged in a politically-motivated attack on an eminently qualified woman,” Inslee said in a statement.
Republican Sen. Andy Hill spoke on the Senate floor about his frustration over issues with the new I-405 express tolling lanes, describing the situation as “abysmal.”
“This is a very, very serious decision. But I have no confidence that the agency is in a position to fix the problems they have without a change at the top,” Hill said.
Sen. Cyrus Habib, a Kirkland Democrat, said problems with tolling and Good to Go passes are the fault of lawmakers.
“Those are not issues created by an administrator,” he said. “Those were issues put in place by us and by our predecessors here in the Legislature.”
Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, defended Peterson, saying she stepped up quickly when the I-5 Skagit River Bridge collapsed in 2013. “She made sure that bridge was rebuilt under budget and faster than anyone predicted,” he said.
“It is shameful that this body would consider not confirming such an incredible and tireless champion for mobility and public safety in Washington state,” Ranker said.
Republican Sen. Don Benton said the Skagit bridge collapse was the fault of transportation department. “Why did that bridge fail? The bridge failed because the department issues oversize load permits without verifying the routes that those oversize loads are going to take,” he said.
Benton said the vote was “not about a lovely lady who is working over at the Department of Transportation,” but about holding people accountable for competence in government.
Watch the entire floor debate here: