A GOP ‘Freedom Caucus’ Forms in the State Senate


Four far-right Republican members of the Washington State Senate have formed a “Freedom Caucus” to push back against what one calls the “radical agenda” of the Legislature’s Democratic majorities. The quartet’s convener is State Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, co-chair of Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign in the state.  Ericksen has since made headlines working as a lobbyist for Cambodia and vouching for the honesty of foreign elections that many international observers felt were rigged.

Others in the caucus are State Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley; Phil Fortunato, R-Auburn; and Jim McCune, R-Graham. Who are these Freedom Fighters? Fortunato was an also-ran in the 2020 gubernatorial primary.  Padden has sponsored legislation to outlaw dwarf tossing and he was a “faithless elector” long ago in 1976, casting a vote for Ronald Reagan instead of Gerald Ford, who carried the state. Ericksen is known for such proposals as making it a felony crime when non-violent protesters block a railroad or highway.  He has proposed to prohibit vaccination requirements for employment or school admission. Ericksen would roll back mail-in voting in Washington and instead bring back polling places, require ID at the polls, and allow absentee ballots only to those who make an annual request. Not exactly pro-freedom.

The Freedom Caucus says it will fight what Fortunato calls “some of the most radical agendas in Washington history,” pushed by Democrats. McCune added, ”It is a scary agenda that is being presented in Olympia, and we need to get the message out to people far and wide that this is . . . not a good situation for people in the state of Washington, and the Freedom Caucus is ready to fight.” 

The rise of the Freedom Caucus is not exactly “a good situation” for the state Republican Party, though it is certainly a sign of its drift.

Joel Connelly
Joel Connelly
I worked for Seattle Post-Intelligencer from 1973 until it ceased print publication in 2009, and SeattlePI.com from 2009 to 6/30/2020. During that time, I wrote about 9 presidential races, 11 Canadian and British Columbia elections‎, four doomed WPPSS nuclear plants, six Washington wilderness battles, creation of two national Monuments (Hanford Reach and San Juan Islands), a 104 million acre Alaska Lands Act, plus the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area.


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