For most of the last decade, the most powerful politician in Olympia has not been the governor. It's been Frank Chopp, the Speaker of the House and the most dominant legislator in more than a generation. It's been Frank Chopp who decides which bills get to the Governor's desk. He seldom gives interviews, so most people are unaware of his immense influence in the State Capitol. That's the way he wants it.
But this year is different. Instead of a compliant counterpart in the State Senate, the new Majority Leader is Democrat Rodney Tom from Bellevue, who was elected with Republican votes - the first time this has happened in half-a-century.
And Rodney Tom, unlike Frank, is no Seattle liberal. He is pushing an agenda of job growth through no additional tax increases, reform of the pension system for public workers, cutting other government costs, and reforming our schools instead of just subsidizing them.
He won't get all these things signed into law. But in 2013, it is Rodney Tom, not Frank Chopp and not Jay Inslee, who will be Washington's most consequential public servant in Olympia.