State Rep. Bill Hinkle resigned Thursday, and his successor, Matt Manweller, might take office in late November.
Manweller, a Central Washington University political science professor and a Republican, defeated Moses Lake Democrat Kaj Selmann in Tuesday’s general election. He would have replaced Hinkle Jan. 14, had the resignation not occurred.
Hinkle submitted his letter of resignation to Gov. Chris Gregoire Oct. 5, and announced his resignation in a press release distributed Friday.
State law says that if a vacancy occurs in legislative office “after the general election in a year that the position appears on the ballot, and before the start of the next term, the term of the successor who is of the same party as the incumbent” may serve once she or he is qualified.
Decision to resign
Hinkle, contacted in Ellensburg late Friday afternoon, said he resigned because he wanted to steer clear of any ethical conflicts in connection with his job as executive director of the Rental Housing Association of Puget Sound, an organization that represents rental property owners in Western Washington.
“Matt (Manweller) wasn’t part of my decision at all,” Hinkle said. “My job requires me to talk to state legislators and contact them about any pending legislation the association is concerned with.”
It would be unethical and against House rules to be an elected legislator and try to influence a fellow state lawmaker in connection with issues related to his job representing the rental association, Hinkle said.
He earlier contacted the attorney for the state House of Representatives for advice on the issue.
“I want to stay away from any and all appearance of impropriety or overstepping any House rules,” Hinkle said.
Hinkle has served in the Legislature since early 2002.
Hinkle said his decision to officially resign as of midnight Nov. 8 had nothing to do with Manweller’s successful election in the 13th State Legislative District.
He decided to resign his elected post, Hinkle said, to also better fulfill his duties with the rental housing association.
Manweller said he became aware of Hinkle’s plans to resign during a phone call less than a week ago.
A news release from the House Republicans said Manweller expected to be sworn into office when lawmakers return to Olympia for committee assembly Nov. 29-30, assuming election results are certified by then.
Shane Hamlin, co-director of elections at the Secretary of State’s Office, said Manweller requested his race be certified early and independently of other Washington races, so he could be sworn in Nov. 29.
When first contacted about the issue Friday afternoon, Hamlin said the Secretary of State’s office does not certify races independently, and Manweller would need to wait until all the races are certified. The deadline for state certification of Washington’s political races is Dec. 6.
Hamlin later said the Secretary of State’s office would take a look at Washington’s statutes to see whether Manweller can be sworn in Nov. 29.
Hamlin said the Secretary of State’s office at first only discussed the procedures to certify elections, and didn’t fully look at the statutes.
“It’s not something we normally do, but we’re going to take a look at how we can do it and if we can do it,” Hamlin said.
Manweller said whatever effect the early appointment might have is lessened by the fact that the Legislature will not be in session until Jan. 14.
“It’s mostly symbolic,” Manweller said of an early entry into office. “It has very little practical effect.”
Getting into office early will give Manweller seniority over other incoming freshman legislators and provide him with access to staff a month early, he said. That means he can get to work writing bills. Manweller says he has been working on ideas for legislation for some months, but has not yet been able to have official discussions with caucus staff.
Hinkle said he has an office in West Seattle and aims to work there at least three days a week. He and his family have no plans to leave their rural Cle Elum home.
Hinkle added he will say goodbye to his lawmaker acquaintances when he chairs the state House Republican leadership reorganization committee meeting Nov. 16 at Suncadia.
He said chairing the meeting is a courtesy and he’ll only be involved in guiding the procedural aspects of the gathering.
“It’s been an honor for me to represent the people of the 13th District for all these years,” Hinkle said.
Hinkle announced in July 2011 that he would not seek reelection.