Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen
Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen

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.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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