Rep. Hurst to run as 'Independent Democrat'

Not at all happy with the way things have been playing out lately in Olympia, local legislator Christopher Hurst is changing his political label.

Hurst announced Friday during an interview with The Courier-Herald he’ll be running as an “Independent Democrat” when he files for re-election in the fall.

“My feeling is, it’s a better reflection of who I am and how I represent the district,” said the four-term member of the House of Representatives. Hurst, 55, represents the 31st Legislative District, which takes in Enumclaw, Buckley, Bonney Lake, Sumner and part of Auburn.

The Greenwater resident, who spent his youth working in the woods before launching a long law enforcement career with the city of Black Diamond, said the climate has gradually changed in Olympia – and not for the better.

“The polarization of partisan politics has become increasingly distasteful,” he said.

Hurst admits he considered running as an independent but said there’s too much power associated with party politics, especially for a veteran legislator. But a divide within the Democratic Party prompted him to make a political statement and he knows the “Independent Democrat” tag will get plenty of attention.

His frustration stems from the party divide between urban, liberal Democrats and those he views as more middle-of-the-road.

There’s a group of 15 or 16, he estimates, who have formed a loose affiliation that, once discovered, became known as the “roadkill caucus.”

“We’ve been able to exert a lot of influence behind the scenes,” he said, adding that the group is much more business-friendly than the liberal wing of the party.

Adding the word “independent” to his traditional “Democrat,” means a couple of things, Hurst said.

First, it signifies a desire to get away from hard-core partisan politics and include everyone on the decision-making process. “Every major thing that’s happened in America has been a bipartisan effort,” he said, bemoaning the current party-line structure.

Second, he said, “moderate Democrats and conservatives have to exert a significantly stronger voice” to fight the “small number of established, liberal Democrats.”

The recent session of the Legislature, which saw Democrats approve a tax package aimed at filling a huge budget gap, provided the impetus for Hurst’s decision.

“It really was a process where Republicans were excluded from Day 1,” Hurst said. “We could have done far better.”

Hurst eventually voted against the revenue package pushed by the Democratic majority. If the Legislature’s work is challenged and comes to a public vote in the fall, he’ll vote to overturn the decisions made during the long and contentious session.

Hurst said he has told Speaker of the House Frank Chopp about his decision to run as an Independent Democrat in the fall, but has not spoken to state party leaders. He’s anticipating the decision will likely not be viewed favorably.

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