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Senate Environment chair Carlyle won’t seek reelection

Sen. Reuven Carlyle, chair of the Senate Environment, Energy, and Technology Committee, announced Monday that he won’t seek reelection later this year.

The Seattle Democrat is coming off a historic win after last year’s passage of the Climate Commitment Act, the state’s new cap and trade system for large emitters of greenhouse gases.

Carlyle, 56, whose progressive politics always carried a strong overtone of private-sector capitalism, was among the white male lawmakers in overwhelmingly Democratic Seattle-area districts who might have faced a challenger from the left this year. His 36th District includes Seattle’s Magnolia and Ballard neighborhoods.

That prospect surfaced during the 2020 campaign season when Jim Brunner of The Seattle Times had this scoop about a nascent plan to target moderate Democrats from the left. That story was in the context of the insanely expensive Democrat-on-Democrat challenge to business-friendly Sen. Mark Mullet of Issaquah, which fell just short in the substantially less progressive 5th District in East King County.1

That piece named Carlyle, Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, and Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, as likely targets. Gov. Jay Inslee handily removed Hobbs from the equation by stashing him in the Secretary of State’s office. Pedersen is also up for reelection this year.

However, given that 2021 was something of a banner year for progressives, with big wins on climate, taxation, child care, and other priorities, all of which Carlyle supported, it’s not clear a challenger would have had much to run on. That said, rumors of a challenge persisted this year, and there was a fair amount of subdued cheering from progressive Twitter on Monday.

Carlyle’s departure raises the prospect that he might be succeeded by one of his House seatmates: Rep. Noel Frame, chair of House Finance, and first-term Rep. Liz Berry. Frame in particular is beloved by the left for her advocacy for revamping Washington’s tax structure, which falls heavily on the poor and lightly on the wealthy.

Carlyle becomes the third member of the Democratic caucus to announce his departure. Sen. David Frockt, who represents the Seattle district immediately north of Carlyle’s, is also not seeking reelection. Sen. Jeannie Darnielle, D-Tacoma, stepped down last year to take a job with the Department of Corrections.

Carlyle was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2008, succeeding Rep. Helen Sommers. He succeeded Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles in the Senate in 2015.

  1. For students of vendetta and payback: Mullet’s challenger, Ingrid Anderson, was later exiled to the Eastern Washington-centric 12th District by the redistricting process. []

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