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Judy Clibborn (D-41st District: Mercer Island, Bellevue) to retire from the state House

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.

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