Senate Majority leader Tom bows out of election

Senate Majority leader Tom bows out of election
FILE -- Washington state Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom speaks about a measure to expand state financial aid for college students in the country without legal status, on Friday, Jan. 31, 2014, in Olympia. (AP Photo/Rachel La Corte)
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - Washington state Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom told his caucus Monday that he was dropping his re-election bid.

Tom, a Democrat from Medina, leads the predominantly Republican Majority Coalition Caucus. In an email to colleagues, Tom cited health issues tied to kidney stones he suffered during the end of the legislative session as part of his decision to not run again. He also noted that he wants to help care for his 85-year-old father, who was recently injured when he was hit by a car.

"I have always said that health and family are my No. 1 values, and instead of that being merely a campaign slogan, I really do try to live by them," Tom wrote.

Tom said that it was "an incredible honor" to serve in the Legislature for the past 12 years. Tom, along with fellow Democrat Tim Sheldon of Potlach, helped Republicans take control of the Senate after the formation of the new coalition at the end of 2012. The coalition currently holds a 26-23 majority in the Senate.

About half of the Senate is up for re-election in November, including Tom's seat. Tom, who started his career in the Legislature as a Republican in the House, raised the ire of fellow Democrats when he joined forces with Republicans in the Senate to form the new coalition. Democrat Joan McBride, the former mayor of Kirkland, had already announced she was running against Tom for the 48th legislative district seat.

"It's a tough decision, but it's the right decision," Tom said by phone. "I'm always going to pick family and health first. Life goes on."

Tom said he's weighing job opportunities, but that his first focus was to help his dad through months of physical therapy after the broken femur and injured hip he sustained after he was hit by a car last week while walking in a grocery store parking lot.

Senate Minority Leader Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island, issued a written statement in which she said that while there were times she "vehemently" disagree with him, "I never questioned his conviction or his determination to pursue the policies in which he had an interest."

"Our best wishes are with him and his loved ones as he deals with his family's health issues," she wrote.