In a noon speech today before the Washington State Senate, longtime Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen announced that he has decided to retire from public life after five terms and won’t seek reelection this autumn.
Owen, who has served as President of the Washington State Senate since January 1997 — also filling in for Governors Gary Locke, Chris Gregoire, and Jay Inslee at times — made his intentions known in a speech from the rostrum.
“Nearly twenty years ago I took a much underused office and with the help of many people that worked in my office over the years, made something significant out of it that I am very proud of,” Owen told the Senate and many assembled guests.
“But now I will be leaving this office when this term is up next January. I will leave it for the next Lieutenant Governor to build upon, to make it even better. Of course I sincerely hope that the voters choose a person that cares as much about the dignity of this place, about this institution, as I do.”
“And most of all I cannot express how important I believe that it is for the person who follows me to carry on what I believe to be the hallmark of my twenty years as President of the Senate, the true unequivocal commitment to nonpartisan running and decision making before this body.”
Wrapping up his remarks, he said: “To all of you here in the senate and across the rotunda in the house, I thank you for the work you do, the commitment and sacrifices I know many of you have to make to be here. I truly thank those that stood by and helped me i n my time of need just as I have steadfastly done for all of you whenever I was asked over the last nearly twenty years.”
“I am very appreciative of the time you have allowed me today to share these thoughts with you. And finally, to the people of the great State of Washington, who put their trust in me as a Shelton City Finance Commissioner, as a member of t he House of Representatives, as a State Senator and finally, as your Lieutenant Governor. It was a rare privilege and a great honor.”
Upon concluding his speech, he was lauded with a standing ovation, and many senators rose on points of personal privilege to thank him for his years of service.
Governor Inslee also paid tribute to Owen in a statement.
“I join seven million Washingtonians in thanking Brad Owen for his longtime service to the state of Washington,” said Inslee. “Starting on the Shelton City Commission and then the House of Representatives and Senate, Brad’s four decades of representing his community have left an impact on our state. As the presiding officer of the Senate for the past twenty years, his steady hand and leadership has helped maintain order and civility in a sea of change.”
“From his work mentoring youth and leading the fight against substance abuse, to promoting economic development to grow our economy, Brad’s dedication and work for the people of his community and all Washingtonians has been paramount.”
“Brad has always hit the bull’s‑eye as an archer and Lieutenant Governor. And after forty years in service to the people of Washington, I’m sure Brad is looking forward to a few more fishing and hunting trips next year. Trudi and I wish him and Linda all the best in whatever their future holds.”
Anticipating Owen’s retirement, four Democratic legislators have already announced their intentions to seek the office he holds. State Senator Cyrus Habib, State Senator Karen Fraser, and State Representative Jim Moeller have active campaigns, while State Senator Steve Hobbs has said he’s exploring a run.
Back in the late summer of 2015, Owen filed paperwork with the PDC for a 2016 campaign, but it appears he only did so in order to be able to accept checks he’d gotten in the mail. Owen did not actively fundraise before the session freeze, even though other Democrats were jumping into the race.
Owen said publicly he would think about his political future and announce a decision after or near the end of the 2016 short session — which he has now done.
Owen will leave office a little less than a year from now with a distinguished legacy.
A stickler for the Constitution and for decorum, Owen has been a dependable ally in the fight against Tim Eyman’s initiative factory.
Owen is one of the few people in the statehouse willing to repeatedly stand up to and discipline the notorious and incredibly obnoxious Pam Roach, an Eyman cohort. Last year, Owen put a stop to Senate Republicans’ attempts to subvert the Constitution by requiring a two-thirds vote to advance revenue bills. Owen struck down a rules change pushed through by Senate Republicans as unconstitutional.
And he courageously banned firearms from the Senate galleries, in a noble effort to keep the Senate a safe workplace and friendly environment for visitors.
We at NPI are greatly appreciative of Brad’s service to our state and wish him well as he enters the next chapter of his life. We’ll miss seeing him behind the rostrum. His successor definitely has big shoes to fill.