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April 5, 2007

Nature or nurture?

Posted by David Postman at 2:12 PM

Rep. Dan Roach, R-Bonney Lake, showed on the House floor this morning he enjoys the sort of debating theatrics we've seen from his mom, Sen. Pam Roach.

Dan Roach decided to take on House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler by making an allegation about her husband, a trial attorney, and ignoring a warning to watch what he says on the House floor.

Roach was arguing against an insurance bill this morning and claiming that the only people behind it were trial attorneys. He said he asked for evidence of the insurance problems the attorneys say would be fixed by the bill, Senate Bill 5726, but never saw any.

Roach said the chairman of the committee joked to him that the bill was being "railroaded."

Rep. Dan Roach

"I know, Mr. Speaker, this is not for the consumer. It hurts consumers. ... It is a sad day because this is something that has been run through the system."

House Speaker Pro Tem John Lovick gaveled Roach down and warned him to follow House rules that do not allow impugning fellow members.

Roach continued:

"Look out guys, the train is coming through. The Keith Kessler train is coming through and you better get out of the way."

Then Roach made a blowing-the-whistle motion with his arm, pumping it up and down, and made the sound effects, too: "Whoo, whoo!"

Kessler jumped up to demand an apology. The House went at ease, and Kessler — as I watched it on TVW later — strode across the front of the chambers and confronted Roach.

"You insult my husband? What in the world is wrong with you?" she shouted. I couldn't hear what Roach said in response. But Kessler said, "I don't care. ... You insult me. Do not insult my spouse."

Rep. Lynn Kessler

Roach stood later to offer an apology of sorts.

"Obviously in this debate things have gotten very heated. I think people are very emotional on both sides of the issues, maybe me in particular having gone through the whole committee process and see how the issue was worked. However, that is no excuse to disrespect the institution and I want to stand and apologize for that because I do respect the institution and I want to make sure that anyone who I may have offended personally who I brought in, to let them know that I apologize for that as well."

It was not, though, something done in the heat of the moment. Roach told me:

"It was premeditated on my part. I actually wrote some remarks during the amendment part of the debate. I did plan on putting that out there."

He said he did it because he has grown frustrated with how little impact Republicans have had in the House this year.

"We have no voice. I have no way to communicate what is going on. If I didn't do what I did today you wouldn't be calling me right now. I want to be heard and if that's what it takes, to do theatrics on the floor, then that's what's going to happen. These are big, big issues and nobody knows what's happening down here."

Kessler said Roach's apology fell far short. She told reporters:

"I have never in my 15 years heard anyone insult, not just the member — because it was a personal insult to me — but to step over that and go to a spouse or a family member and it was outrageous.

"And his apology was a slap in the face."

She said she called her husband to tell him what happened. He told her he doesn't do insurance law. But soon after the debate ended, Republicans were pointing reporters to the Web site of the firm where Keith Kessler is a named partner, and a page about insurance work.

Rep. Doug Ericksen, the deputy minority leader, said he had collected that material a couple of years ago on another issue and only brought it to the floor after Roach spoke. Ericksen said he didn't know what Roach had planned. Roach also said he hadn't told Republican leaders.

There's no doubt trial attorneys back the bill. It was sponsored by Sen. Brian Weinstein, D-Mercer Island, a successful trial attorney.

Lynn Kessler said Roach is not fit to serve in the House.

"I find him just the epitome of who should not be in the Legislature. If you can't be an adult here then you have no business being here and the rules are set up for a reason and he should abide by them."

Roach is happy with how things worked out today because he got the attention he wanted. But I asked him if he worries about any blowback from having the majority leader ticked off, and others saying he went too far.

"I don't really care. It's bringing the issue to the public."

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