Don Benton

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Don Benton
Director of the Selective Service System
Assumed office
April 13, 2017
President Donald Trump
Preceded by Lawrence Romo
Member of the Washington Senate
from the 17th district
In office
January 13, 1997 – 2017
Member of the Washington House of Representatives
from the 17th district
In office
1994–1996
Personal details
Born Donald Mark Benton
(1957-04-08) April 8, 1957 (age 60)
Los Angeles, California
Nationality American
Political party Republican
Residence Olympia, Washington and Vancouver, Washington
Alma mater Concordia University (B.S.)
Website Official

Donald Mark Benton (born April 8, 1957)[1] is an American politician of the Republican Party. He is originally from Santa Clarita, California and was a member of the Washington State Senate from 1997 until 2017, where he represented Washington's 17th legislative district.[2] He served as campaign director for Donald Trump in Washington state in 2016. After that he was appointed as a "senior White House adviser" at the US Environmental Protection Agency for a few weeks, but reportedly did not work well with newly-appointed agency head Scott Pruitt.[3] In April of 2017 Benton was named by President Trump as the 13th Director of the Selective Service System.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Benton received an A.A. from College of the Canyons and a B.S. from Concordia University. At age 19 he co-founded, with his sister, Santa Clarita Temporaries, a temporary employment agency.[5] He later was employed as a district manager for Farmers Insurance and worked as an advertising consultant in southwest Washington.[6]

Career[edit]

Washington State legislature[edit]

Benton was first elected to public office when he won a seat in the Washington state House of Representatives in 1994. In 1996 he was elected to the state Senate and has been re-elected continuously since. In 2012, Benton faced a tight and contentious race, edging Democratic challenger Tim Probst by less than 100 votes.[7] Political scientist James Thurber has described Benton as a "shoot from the hip" lawmaker known for a "bombastic" style and a frequent unwillingness to compromise.[8] In the 2012 legislative session Benton led senate Republicans in introducing a rare procedural motion known as the "ninth order" to push the Republican caucuses budget proposal to a floor vote. The "ninth order" allows any bill to be brought to a vote even if it has not had a public hearing. Democratic lawmakers protested that the maneuver lacked transparency, though three Democratic senators ultimately joined with Benton to help pass the motion.[9] In 2014 Benton and Ann Rivers, another state legislator from Clark County, were both admonished by a Senate committee for verbal sparring in which Rivers called Benton a "piece of shit," and Benton responded by referring to Rivers as a "trashy trampy-mouthed little girl."[10] The same year Benton, along with fellow GOP senator Pam Roach, requested his name be removed from the Republican caucus website. While Benton said he would remain a member of the Republican caucus, he no longer wanted to be publicly associated with it due to the caucus's decision to bring a bill granting illegal immigrants in-state tuition at state colleges to a floor vote.[11]

As of 2014, Benton serves on the Transportation, Government Operations, Rules, and Financial Institutions committees.[12] He is a Washington state leader for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).[13]

Washington State Republican Party Chair[edit]

In 2000, Benton was elected chair of the Washington state Republican Party. His tenure was marked by historical fundraising numbers, though some party members criticized his spending priorities and hiring decisions. After Benton used specific funds he raised to purchase a new headquarters in Olympia without consulting some party leadership, two members of the party's executive board requested his resignation, which he refused to give. The following year Benton lost reelection by three votes.[14]

Clark County Director of Environmental Services[edit]

In 2013 Benton, while still serving in the Senate, was selected as director of environmental services for Clark County. His appointment was controversial as it bypassed standard civil service hiring procedures and Benton had no previous experience in environmental services.[15][16][17][18] Editorials in The Columbian, The Olympian, and The Seattle Times questioned Benton's qualifications[19] and the county was sued for unfair hiring practices by the department's interim director,[20] who claimed she had been denied the opportunity to apply for the position. By November of that year Benton, himself, threatened a suit. His attorney contacted Ed Barnes – a Clark County union activist who had declared Benton unqualified for the job during public comment periods at county commission meetings – claiming defamation, though some legal experts questioned whether Benton, as a public figure, could file such a suit.[21] In the midst of the conflagration, county commissioner David Madore – who had voted for Benton's appointment – declared the hiring was an "accident."[22] The following year, partly as a result of the controversy that engulfed Benton's appointment, Clark County convened a council of freeholders to rewrite the county's charter.[23] Benton's position at Clark County was eliminated when the Department of Environmental Services was dissolved in July 2016.[24] The move to dissolve the department was, ironically, met with criticism and cries of politics at its worst by alt-right Councilor David Madore. After the implementation of the County Charter, hiring and firing decisions for department heads was shifted to the executive County Manager. Benton filed a tort claim, a state requirement before filing suit against the county, in October 2016[25] seeking 2 million dollars from Clark County for wrongful termination.

Director of the Selective Service System[edit]

Benton served as campaign director for Donald Trump in Washington state during the 2016 Presidential election. Benton was initially the leader of the EPA "Beachhead" team, which oversaw the transition within the EPA from the Obama Administration to the Trump Administration. However, his approach to implementing the President's policies clashed with incoming EPA Director Scott Pruitt. On 14 April 2017, Trump named Benton as the 13th Director of the Selective Service System responsible for the United States draft. He is the first Director to be appointed without prior military service.

Political positions[edit]

Abortion[edit]

In 2013, Benton introduced a bill that would require parents to be notified if their minor daughter was having an abortion. Benton stated that "this is a parental rights bill" and not intended to stop abortions. "While minors must have parental permission to get a tattoo or have their ear pierced it is still possible for a young girl to have an abortion without the benefit of their own mother's counseling" said Benton.[26] In a 2012 survey collected by the Life Political Action Committee of Southwest Washington, Benton indicated that he believes life begins at conception, the State has a compelling interest in protecting human life beginning at conception, abortion is never morally permissible, and medical professionals should be allowed to deny service based on their moral, ethical or religious beliefs. In the survey he also said, "To my knowledge, I am the only Senator to ever sponsor and successfully pass parental notification law in the state senate. It was killed in the House."[27]

Crime[edit]

In 2005 Benton introduced the Chelsea Harrison Act, which was eventually enacted and signed into law in 2008. The statute amended the state's three-strikes law to expand the law's repeat offender criteria by including persons convicted of felony sexual assault in other states.[28][29] Benton has previously introduced legislation to apply the death penalty to cases of premeditated murder where the victim is a child.[30]

Gay marriage[edit]

Benton opposes gay marriage and civil unions, saying on the Senate floor that those laws affect "less than a half of one percent of the population."[31]

Higher education[edit]

In 2010 Benton, who served as a student member of the Board of Trustees at California's College of the Canyons,[32] introduced legislation to create a sixth trustee position at Washington community colleges, which would be filled with a student appointment.[33] Benton has voted against proposed tuition increases at state colleges and universities,[34] however, has stated his opposition to offering in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants.[35] In 2008 he broke with the senate Republican caucus and supported legislation to extend collective bargaining rights to research assistants at Washington State University.[36]

Taxes[edit]

Benton supports reducing taxes on small businesses[37] and has also supported efforts to raise the property tax exemption amount for the elderly and disabled. After Washington Initiative 1185 (a measure that required the legislature to submit proposed tax increases to public referendum) was declared unconstitutional by the state supreme court in 2012, Benton stated his support for an amendment to the state constitution that would incorporate the essence of the nullified statute.[38][39] Benton has said he is in alignment with many members of the Tea Party movement.[40]

Transportation[edit]

Benton has been a vocal opponent of the Columbia River Crossing bridge proposal, shown here in a concept drawing.

Benton has been a vocal opponent of the Columbia River Crossing, calling the proposed bridge an unnecessarily expensive replacement for the existing Interstate Bridge.[41] Benton has also expressed concern at tolling plans outlined for the proposed bridge which, he claimed, could cost Clark County residents – many of whom commute to Portland, Oregon daily - $100 per month or more.[42]

While the legislature ultimately approved partial funding on the project, Democratic governor Jay Inslee vetoed the measure, earning praise from Benton.[43] When Oregon attempted to move ahead on the bridge without Washington's support, Benton introduced a measure in the legislature to block Clark County's public transit agency C-Tran from cooperating with Oregon state agencies on the project. C-Tran had previously suggested it might enact eminent domain on properties on the Washington side of the Washington-Oregon border on behalf of Oregon transportation planners.[44]

Personal life[edit]

Benton's father was a former member of the Agua Dulce, California school board.[45] Benton has four children with his wife, Mary, who currently runs his former advertising consultancy.[46][47]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://votesmart.org/candidate/key-votes/3177/donald-benton/2/abortion#.UZCOXKWDpTs
  2. ^ Don Benton Bio
  3. ^ Rein, Lisa and Juliet Eilperin (19 March 2017). "White House installs political aides at Cabinet agencies to be Trump’s eyes and ears". Washington Post. Retrieved 17 April 2017. 
  4. ^ Wilkie, Christina (14 April 2017). "Trump Taps Salesman To Run Military Draft". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 14 April 2017. 
  5. ^ http://ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php/Don_Benton
  6. ^ Thurber, James (2001). The Battle for Congress: Consultants, Candidates, and Voters. 
  7. ^ http://blogs.columbian.com/political-beat/2013/09/26/democrats-michael-king-embezzlement-benton-probst-election/
  8. ^ Thurber, James (2001). The Battle for Congress: Consultants, Candidates, and Voters. 
  9. ^ "Washington Legislature: Partisan debate arises as Republicans push budget to Senate floor". The Oregonian. 2 March 2012. 
  10. ^ "Clean up your language, 2 senators told". Spokane Spokesman-Review. 6 January 2014. Retrieved 30 January 2014. 
  11. ^ "Sen. Benton angry with majority coalition". The Columbian. 12 February 2014. Retrieved 13 February 2014. 
  12. ^ http://donbenton.src.wastateleg.org/about/
  13. ^ http://www.alec.org/about-alec/state-chairmen/
  14. ^ Seattle Times: Vance replaces Benton as GOP chief
  15. ^ Hidle, Erik (May 1, 2013). "County shocker: Benton tapped for top environmental job (with audio): Commissioner Stuart storms out of meeting, alleges cronyism". The Columbian. Retrieved May 13, 2013. 
  16. ^ "In Our View: Benton hire is an Insult, Local environment entrusted to man with virtually no qualifications for the job". The Columbian. May 3, 2012. Retrieved May 13, 2013. 
  17. ^ Editorial Board (May 5, 2013). "Editorial: State Sen. Don Benton for environmental post? Really?". Seattle Times. Retrieved May 13, 2013. 
  18. ^ Editorial Board (May 8, 2013). "Benton appointment shows cronyism is thriving in Clark County". The Olympian. Retrieved May 13, 2013. 
  19. ^ Mathieau, Stevie; Erin Middlewood (September 1, 2013). "Benton's ballyhooed management experience is hazy: Company discloses little of its work beyond that for Benton campaign". Sunday Columbian, p A1. The Columbian. Retrieved October 24, 2013. 
  20. ^ "Unfair hiring complaint names Madore, Mielke: Environmental services employee seeks more than $300,000". The Columbian. October 17, 2013. Retrieved October 24, 2013. 
  21. ^ Hidle, Eric (13 November 2013). "Benton threatens lawsuit against outspoken critic". The Columbian. Vancouver. Retrieved 16 November 2013. 
  22. ^ "Madore deletes FB post on Benton hiring". KOIN 6 News. October 21, 2013. Retrieved January 30, 2014. [permanent dead link]
  23. ^ Erin Middlewood (January 25, 2014). "Freeholders: Add two commissioners". The Columbian. Retrieved January 30, 2014. 
  24. ^ Katie Gillespie (May 11, 2016). "Benton to lose county job as department reorganizes". The Columbian. Retrieved May 11, 2016. 
  25. ^ Jake Thomas (October 28, 2016). "Benton seeks $2 million from county". The Columbian. Retrieved October 28, 2016. 
  26. ^ http://www.tvw.org/index.php?option=com_tvwplayer&eventID=2013020056
  27. ^ LifePAC: Benton answers survey
  28. ^ "Looking back at three-strikes". The Columbian. Vancouver. 10 November 2010. Retrieved 16 November 2013. 
  29. ^ "Benton again pushes "three strikes" bill". The Oregonian. Portland. 15 January 2008. Retrieved 16 November 2013. 
  30. ^ "Death penalty for child killers?". The News-Tribune. Tacoma. 5 February 2007. Retrieved 16 November 2013. 
  31. ^ Stranger: Benton on Marriage and Domestic Partnerships
  32. ^ "Vancouver Republican basks in state Senate majority". Yakima Herald. Yakima. 18 March 2013. Retrieved 16 November 2013. 
  33. ^ http://www.washingtonvotes.org/2010-SB-6687
  34. ^ http://votesmart.org/bill/9316/25375/3177/donald-benton-voted-nay-passage-hb-2344-allowing-tuition-increases#25375
  35. ^ "Capitol Newsmaker, Week 2: Sen. Don Benton". Seattle Metropolitan Magazine. 25 January 2013. Retrieved 16 November 2013. 
  36. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-10-09. Retrieved 2013-11-17. 
  37. ^ Don Benton on the Issues
  38. ^ "What bills are local lawmakers backing?". The Columbian. Vancouver. 23 January 2013. Retrieved 16 November 2013. 
  39. ^ Property Tax Deferral vote
  40. ^ Seattle Times: Don Benton, veteran state senator, seeks to take on Patty Murray in November Archived February 11, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  41. ^ "Columbia River Crossing supporters have no valid arguments left: Guest opinion". The Oregonian. Portland. 15 October 2013. Retrieved 30 January 2014. 
  42. ^ MID-SESSION SPECIAL EDITION [The Impact] (web video). 1:03: TV Washington. 2012. Retrieved 30 January 2014. 
  43. ^ "Benton praises governor for veto of Columbia River Crossing funding". src.wastateleg.org. 21 May 2013. Retrieved 30 January 2014. 
  44. ^ "2014 Washington Legislature: Senator seeks to prevent transfer of eminent domain to agencies from other states". The Oregonian. Portland. 22 January 2014. Retrieved 30 January 2014. 
  45. ^ "Vancouver Republican basks in state Senate majority". Yakima Herald. Yakima. 18 March 2013. Retrieved 16 November 2013. 
  46. ^ The Benton Group
  47. ^ http://www.columbian.com/news/2013/sep/01/bentons-ballyhooed-management-experience-is-hazy-c/