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Lisa Brown's departure has created a political domino effect

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Straight Out of Left Field

Nobody saw this coming, especially supporters who had just received invites to attend her campaign kick-off. Last week, surprising everyone, State Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown stepped aside. Spokane’s most powerful advocate in Olympia said 20 years was enough.

And maybe it is. Maybe it’s time for our elected leaders to stop seeing public office as a destination and start seeing it more as a tour of public duty. It’s less an issue in the statehouse than it is in Congress, where the pay and the perks are better, but Lisa Brown gave us all something to think about.

The Domino Effect

Within minutes of Brown’s announcement last week, Trail Mix’s email started lighting up. First, Andy Billig announced he’d leave his 3rd District House seat to run for Brown’s Senate seat. Then Marcus Riccelli emailed his intentions to compete for Billig’s just-opened seat — then Jon Snyder jumped in, followed by John Waite.

What looked like a sleepy local election cycle a year ago has really heated up, with all the reshuffling in the 3rd District, with Mark Richard stepping aside at the County Courthouse and with local businessman Rich Cowan challenging Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

Spokane Shrinking

But this all kind of stinks. First we fired Tom Foley, then Jim West retired as Senate Majority Leader in Olympia, then George Nethercutt left his plum Appropriations Committee post to challenge Patty Murray, and now Lisa Brown.

Political clout is not easy to come by here; seniority takes time to grow. Spokane just lost an important piece of the local political landscape, and whatever your political party, no one can deny that Sen. Brown’s years of service were a huge net gain.

Brown Hall?

Think about it. Would there be a renovated Fox Theater without Lisa Brown? Who would have better defended the social safety net in the poorest district in the state of Washington? Would the University of Washington have moved parts of its medical school to Spokane’s University District? The med school alone has the potential to be a massive economic game-changer for Spokane and the Inland Northwest.

So to WSU President Elson Floyd, here’s a thought: Sometime in 2013, when it’s time, you should rename one of the Riverpopint Campus buildings.

(Seriously, there’s no excuse: WSU Spokane has the most mind-numbing collection of building names imaginable. The Health Science Building. The Academic Center. And, my favorite, the Phase I Classroom Building. Weak!)

“Lisa Brown Hall.” Now that has a nice ring to it.

— Ted S. McGregor Jr. @InlanderTMX

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