Community Government

Caldier no longer caucusing with state Republicans

Posted on January 11th, 2023 By:

Michelle Caldier has left the Washington State House of Representatives’ Republican caucus.

“At this time I have some issues with our leader and I’m hoping we can work through these issues and I can return back to the caucus,” she said in a phone interview Tuesday. “Politics is not the prettiest sport.”

J.T. Wilcox of Yelm has been the party leader since 2018.

Caldier, of Gig Harbor, is the dean of 26th District lawmakers after handily defeating Matt Macklin in November, 56.2% to 43.8%, to earn a fifth two-year term. The district stretches from the Tacoma Narrows Bridge to Bremerton.

Caldier continues to identify as a Republican and she is still listed among GOP members on the state House’s official website. Questions arose Tuesday, when a press release about committee assignments didn’t show her serving on any.

Disagreements will be kept in house

She declined to disclose disagreements that prompted her decision.

“Sometimes it’s not in everybody’s best interest to tell all the details,” she said. “I think sometimes you can make a difference by your actions, and you don’t need to explain all the details.”

Caldier left the caucus two months ago, quietly, as she had hoped to return soon. Now she can’t predict when that might occur.

“However long it takes,” she said. “Maybe a month, maybe a year.”

The Legislature convened Monday for the first time since last spring for a regular 105-day session.

“People have been very receptive, both Republicans and Democrats,” Caldier said.

Michelle Caldier

Not serving on committees

Last year, Caldier served on the important Rules Committee, which decides which bills get considered by the House floor, and Appropriations Committee, which determines how to fund state operations. A dentist, she also was the ranking minority member on the Housing, Human Services & Veterans Committee, and assistant ranking minority member of the Health Care and Wellness Committee.

Caldier said she was assigned to committees this year but asked to be removed from them. She can’t introduce or amend bills in committee but can propose amendments and vote on the floor.

“It’s safe to say that both political parties have issues,” she said. “Sometimes it takes a bold move to make a change. I still have very good relationships with almost every member in the Legislature. I’m just wanting to improve how our caucus is run.”

Caldier still identifies as a Republican and intends to vote as she normally would, in what she believes are the district’s best interests.

“I’ve always believed this position is not about me, it’s about the people,” she said. “Every move I make in Olympia, I always think about how it affects the constituents and Washington state.”

“I think things will get better,” Caldier said. “I was hoping it wouldn’t get to this point, but it did.”

Frustration came out during sendoff event

Caldier voiced frustration with state government during a Chamber of Commerce event Jan. 3 at Gig Harbor’s Tacoma Community College campus. The Legislature is much different than when she was first elected in 2015, she said. Though she has never been in the majority, Democrats held just a 50-48 advantage.

“We all had to work together,” she said. “It was very balanced, a very different playing field. I always believe we need balance in Olympia. I always believe we need to hear from conservative people and liberal people. Everybody has a viewpoint.”

Now, Democrats outnumber Republicans 58-40 in the House.

Caldier would like to get back to that former collaboration and remove emergency powers related to the COVID pandemic that Gov. Jay Inslee has held since Feb. 29, 2020.

“The last two years, things shut down. Most of the public has been shut out. We are here to represent you,” she told the sendoff audience. “I’d like to see a change in the governor’s power. One thousand days. That’s a long time to have power. What if Trump was our governor and had power for 1,000 days?”

Constituents come first

“My job is to stand up for the people. The last two years, the public has been shut out and bad bills were passed. We have not educated our children. Our children are suffering.

“It disgusts me how much politics plays into good policy. My goal this year is to put politics aside and restore our state to at least what it was before the pandemic.”

The legislative session that began this week is the first in-person session since 2020. Remote participation will also continue to be available.

“You are my No. 1 priority over everything else,” Caldier concluded at the sendoff. “No matter where you stand politically, I represent everyone.”

Gig Harbor Now sought responses Wednesday morning from Wilcox, House Republican Chief Clerk Bernard Dean and Kitsap County Republicans. None replied by time of publication.