Representative Judy Clibborn with Mia Gregerson
Representative Judy Clibborn with Mia Gregerson

One of sub­ur­ban Wash­ing­ton’s longest-serv­ing Demo­c­ra­t­ic leg­is­la­tors has decid­ed not to seek reelec­tion in 2018, set­ting the stage for a change of lead­er­ship on the House Trans­porta­tion Com­mit­tee and open­ing up a seat on the Eastside.

State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Judy Clib­born (D‑41st Dis­trict: Mer­cer Island, Belle­vue, New­cas­tle) announced today that her cur­rent term will be her last.

“Trans­porta­tion is about build­ing bridges — and not just phys­i­cal ones,” Clib­born said in a news release. “It’s about lis­ten­ing to each oth­er and con­nect­ing each part of our beau­ti­ful state to each oth­er part. I’m proud of how we’ve coop­er­at­ed to improve our high­ways, fer­ries, bus­es and trains dur­ing a time of mas­sive pop­u­la­tion growth in our state. And final­ly, I want to thank my con­stituents for the honor.”

Before com­ing to the Leg­is­la­ture, Clib­born was a Mer­cer Island city coun­cilmem­ber and the exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Mer­cer Island Cham­ber of Commerce.

She first won elec­tion to the Wash­ing­ton State House in 2002, defeat­ing Repub­li­can Mike Wens­man and gar­ner­ing 52.70% of the vote. At the time, most East­side leg­isla­tive seats were held by Repub­li­cans, where­as today, almost none are. The 41st, 45th, and 48th Dis­tricts have all-Demo­c­ra­t­ic del­e­ga­tions, and the 5th Dis­trict has a Demo­c­ra­t­ic sen­a­tor who has won twice consecutively.

Ross Hunter was elect­ed along with Judy Clib­born in the adjoin­ing 48th Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict that same year. Both served one term with pio­neer­ing State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Lau­ra Rud­er­man, who left the Leg­is­la­ture in 2004 to unsucess­ful­ly run for Sec­re­tary of State against Sam Reed. (Rud­er­man was suc­ceed­ed by Lar­ry Springer, who con­tin­ues to rep­re­sent the 45th Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict today.)

“There are few leg­is­la­tors serv­ing here who have had such an impact on the lives of Wash­ing­to­ni­ans as has Judy Clib­born,” said Speak­er Frank Chopp.

“In her role as chair of the Trans­porta­tion Com­mit­tee, she has craft­ed bud­gets that cre­at­ed tens of thou­sands of pub­lic works jobs, improved our roads and high­ways, invest­ed in tran­sit, and kept our freight sys­tems func­tion­ing. Per­haps most impor­tant­ly, she did all this while work­ing across the aisle in a bipar­ti­san fash­ion. We in the Leg­is­la­ture will miss her exper­tise and leadership.”

Clib­born, who suc­ceed­ed Ed Mur­ray as House Trans­porta­tion Chair, played a sig­nif­i­cant role in craft­ing the 2015 Con­nect­ing Wash­ing­ton high­way invest­ment plan ten years after the Leg­is­la­ture enact­ed the land­mark 2005 Trans­porta­tion Pack­age, which the right wing attempt­ed to over­turn with Ini­tia­tive 912.

Con­nect­ing Wash­ing­ton also autho­rized new sources of rev­enue for Sound Tran­sit, enabling the agency to put a Phase III pro­pos­al before vot­ers in 2016.

Though not con­sid­ered to be one of the cham­ber’s more pro­gres­sive Democ­rats, Clib­born has nonethe­less helped pro­gres­sive caus­es in the Leg­is­la­ture on many occa­sions. For exam­ple, she has repeat­ed­ly deflect­ed numer­ous attempts to sab­o­tage Sound Tran­sit’s gov­er­nance (includ­ing one by Ed Mur­ray in 2007).

It is no exag­ger­a­tion to say that were it not for Judy Clib­born, Sound Tran­sit might have been sub­ject­ed to a hos­tile takeover by road war­riors years ago.

Clib­born also been a vocal advo­cate for leg­is­la­tion to help fos­ter chil­dren. She walks her talk, hav­ing served as a fos­ter par­ent herself.

We at NPI thank Judy for her many years of pub­lic ser­vice and wish her well in her future endeav­ors. The post of House Trans­porta­tion Chair is a very impor­tant one, and after the House reor­ga­nizes lat­er this year, we hope to see it filled by a leg­is­la­tor who is com­mit­ted to tran­sit for all and free­dom of mobility.

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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