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News / Politics / Clark County Politics

Benton, Rivers vote to remove transportation secretary

By Lauren Dake, Columbian Political Writer
Published: February 5, 2016, 9:34pm
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Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, and Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, voted Friday to reject the gubernatorial appointment of Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson. In a rare move, majority Republicans and a Democrat who caucuses with them voted 25-21 to not confirm Peterson's appointment, ousting her from the job she has held since shortly after Gov.
Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, and Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, voted Friday to reject the gubernatorial appointment of Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson. In a rare move, majority Republicans and a Democrat who caucuses with them voted 25-21 to not confirm Peterson's appointment, ousting her from the job she has held since shortly after Gov. Jay Inslee took office in 2012. Photo Gallery

Claiming Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson was dishonest about her agency’s involvement with the Columbia River Crossing, Senate Transportation Vice Chairman Don Benton joined his Republican colleagues on Friday by calling for her to be fired.

“Our WSDOT (Washington State Department of Transportation) continued to work with the Department of Transportation in Oregon, encouraging them and helping them do an Oregon-led CRC project,” said Benton, R-Vancouver.

This came, Benton said, despite the Washington Legislature’s decision to end funding for the CRC. Benton and Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, were instrumental in killing the project that would have replaced the Interstate 5 Bridge.

“When we tell the government to stop doing something, then by golly, we expect them to stop it,” Benton said Friday on the Senate floor.

The state Senate voted against confirming Peterson on Friday, effectively firing her. She has held the job since 2012. Republicans cited problems with the state’s Department of Transportation under her leadership, while Democrats said the vote was purely political.

Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, who sits on the Senate Transportation Committee along with Benton, said the vote was a surprise move by Republicans. Cleveland voted to confirm Peterson, who she said received accolades during an earlier confirmation hearing.

“I had always believed our politics here in Washington could be somewhat different from the politics we see in Congress and I have to tell you, that is no longer the case,” Cleveland said.

Democrats said Republicans are attempting to weaken Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee during an election year.

“This is 2016 election-year politics aimed at embarrassing the governor and destabilizing a department that is implementing numerous complex infrastructure investments around the state,” Cleveland said.

The push by Republicans to oust Peterson came with no notice, Cleveland said.

“Can you imagine running your business that way?” she said. “Can you imagine being the person treated that way? One minute you’re working hard at your job, the next minute you’re told to leave with no explanation ahead of time or a chance to address any concerns about your performance. This is no way to conduct the business of our state.”

Benton said the vote against confirming Peterson was not about her personally.

“She’s a lovely person,” he said on the Senate floor. “She’s been helpful to me on many occasions. That’s not what this vote today is about; this is about business and the competent running of the government in this state.”

Rivers, R-La Center, also said the vote wasn’t personal.

“This is not about Lynn Peterson; she’s a nice lady,” Rivers said in a telephone interview. “But I have often found nice ladies don’t often succeed in big business. You need someone who has had their boots on the ground, in terms of engineering.”

According to the state’s website, Peterson holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering, and worked as a highway design and construction engineer for the state of Wisconsin.

Rivers said she voted against confirming Peterson to send a clear message to voters and the governor.

“I voted for reforms (in the state’s transportation package) and I voted for accountability and she’s not delivered,” Rivers said.

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Columbian Political Writer