NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, December 31st, 2020

Congratulations to NPI’s Gael Tarleton on concluding thirteen years of public service

Marked by short days and — at least for some of us — time off from school or work, the year end hol­i­day peri­od lends itself espe­cial­ly well to deep thinking.

At NPI, we are con­stant­ly look­ing ahead. There are many pro­found lessons from this year we can car­ry into the next. We’d like to see our region become bet­ter pre­pared: for the pan­dem­ic recov­ery, for an almost entire­ly remote leg­isla­tive ses­sion, for once-in-a-decade redis­trict­ing, and so much more.

The end of the year is also an oppor­tune time to be grate­ful for our bless­ings. There is one remark­able per­son in par­tic­u­lar who we’d like to rec­og­nize, cel­e­brate, and con­grat­u­late for a remark­able career in pub­lic service.

Next month, after five years on the Seat­tle Port Com­mis­sion and eight years in the State House, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Gael Tar­leton will retire from pub­lic service.

Gael, who is also a senior board­mem­ber for NPI, will be sore­ly missed in the Leg­is­la­ture. She was a leader in the House Demo­c­ra­t­ic cau­cus, serv­ing as Major­i­ty Floor Leader for three years, then wield­ing the House Finance gav­el for two.

We resolved not to let 2020 end with­out say­ing thank you to Gael and reflect­ing on the pro­gres­sive change she has helped bring to our region.

Putting togeth­er this ret­ro­spec­tive was very ful­fill­ing. We hope you enjoy it.

Portrait of senior NPI boardmember Gael Tarleton

Senior NPI board­mem­ber and State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Gael Tar­leton (Pub­lic­i­ty pho­to from Gael’s final cam­paign for elect­ed office)

Gael Donelan grew up north of Boston and earned her master’s and bachelor’s degrees at George­town Uni­ver­si­ty in the oth­er Wash­ing­ton. Pro­fi­cient in Russ­ian, she began work­ing at the Pen­ta­gon as the Sovi­et era drew to a close in the 80s.

Dee Ritchie, a pub­lish­er who now lives in Hans­ville, first met Gael while work­ing togeth­er at the Depart­ment of Defense as research analysts.

“[In those days,] there were pre­cious few women in tech­ni­cal and pol­i­cy posi­tions. The char­ac­ter­is­tic I admire most about Gael is that when she tack­les an idea, nev­er intim­i­dat­ed by its size, scope, or com­plex­i­ty, she reminds me of an Amer­i­can eagle, which once it locks its talons on its tar­get it can­not let go.”

“This is how Gael operates.”

When the Sovi­et Union col­lapsed, Gael moved to the pri­vate sec­tor, work­ing as an inter­na­tion­al busi­ness direc­tor for a tech­nol­o­gy company.

There, she “worked hard to help Russ­ian sci­en­tists find ways to use their exper­tise fol­low­ing the col­lapse of the Sovi­et Union,” accord­ing to Car­ol Vip­per­man. “Gael and I both worked very hard to help bring the new Rus­sia into the world com­mu­ni­ty, to make it a bet­ter place for its cit­i­zens, and to find con­struc­tive use of their tech­nol­o­gy and expertise.”

Years lat­er, they would both be sad­dened when Vladimir Putin came to pow­er, dash­ing hopes that Rus­sia might soon become more free and democratic.

Nei­ther Car­ol nor Gael were sur­prised, how­ev­er, when it became clear that Rus­sia had inter­fered in the 2016 Unit­ed States pres­i­den­tial election.

“They had been doing that long before in Europe, and we were next,” Car­ol told NPI. “Gael’s focus on using dig­i­tal tech­nol­o­gy to com­bat the influ­ence is the right strat­e­gy and some­thing that we still need to strengthen.”

Gael would lat­er run for Sec­re­tary of State empha­siz­ing that exact need to mod­ern­ize our elec­tion sys­tems to com­bat the dig­i­tal threats of the 21st century.

The con­vic­tions under­pin­ning her most recent can­di­da­cy were rein­forced over the course of four decades of work in the pub­lic and pri­vate sectors.

Gael’s first bid for office came in 2007, when she ran for one of the seats on the five-mem­ber elect­ed com­mis­sion that gov­erns the Port of Seattle.

Gael Tarleton with Lynn Allen and Joel Connelly

Future NPI board­mem­bers Gael Tar­leton and Lynn Allen dis­cuss Port pol­i­tics with future NPI con­trib­u­tor Joel Con­nel­ly and Nicholas Beau­drot over drinks (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

The Port had acquired a rep­u­ta­tion for dys­func­tion and crony­ism, sym­bol­ized by a seem­ing­ly unend­ing series of dis­as­trous head­lines (back when the P‑I was still a dai­ly news­pa­per!). King Coun­ty vot­ers were in the mood for change.

A des­per­ate two-term incum­bent Repub­li­can Com­mis­sion­er Bob Edwards went neg­a­tive in Octo­ber after trail­ing Gael by five points in the pri­ma­ry election.

Yet Gael emerged vic­to­ri­ous as the returns came in on Novem­ber 6th, and so began a remark­able career in pub­lic office in Wash­ing­ton State.

Jason Ben­nett, a con­sul­tant on her first cam­paign, remem­bers fond­ly Gael’s metic­u­lous­ness when explor­ing this first run for office.

“[She was] thor­ough and dili­gent in her data col­lec­tion and analy­sis, seek­ing input from var­i­ous polit­i­cal lead­ers and inter­view­ing a selec­tion of cam­paign con­sul­tants to help guide her first run for pub­lic office,” Ben­nett told NPI.

NPI founder Andrew Vil­leneuve met Gael ear­ly on dur­ing that cam­paign, and inter­viewed her for an episode of NPI’s 2006–2008 pod­cast series.

“Meet­ing Gael was one of the high points of the 2000s for me,” said Villeneuve.

“I kept think­ing to myself, what a great can­di­date. What an excep­tion­al per­son. This is some­one worth know­ing and build­ing a rela­tion­ship with.”

“I could imme­di­ate­ly see Gael had a strate­gic mind and real­ly under­stood the pow­er of long term think­ing and invest­ing. I was so hap­py to be able to vote for Gael in one of my first gen­er­al elec­tions as a young voter.”

“Not long after, I start­ed work­ing to put togeth­er NPI’s inau­gur­al Board of Direc­tors, and I asked Gael to be on it. I felt instinc­tive­ly that the board would ben­e­fit from her expe­ri­ence and wis­dom. And it has. Tremendously.”

“Work­ing with Gael is a joy and a priv­i­lege. She’s smart. She’s com­pas­sion­ate. She’s both a good lis­ten­er and a pow­er­ful speak­er. She brings this incred­i­ble mix of seren­i­ty, ener­gy, and prac­ti­cal focus to any con­ver­sa­tion that she’s part of. Her lead­er­ship has been essen­tial to NPI’s growth and suc­cess these past ten years.”

Gael has served con­tin­u­ous­ly on NPI’s board from its found­ing to the present.

NPI's Gael Tarleton and Andrew Villeneuve

Gael Tar­leton and Andrew Vil­leneuve at NPI’s 2013 Spring Fundrais­ing Gala. The duo are NPI’s longest-serv­ing lead­ers. (Pho­to: Lin­coln Potter/Samaya LLC for NPI)

The Port of Seat­tle nat­u­ral­ly also ben­e­fit­ed from Gael’s expe­ri­ence and wisdom.

In her five years on the Com­mis­sion, Gael helped lead the Port out of scan­dal. She brought unglam­orous but need­ed reforms to King Coun­ty’s eco­nom­ic engine.

Brady Walkin­shaw, a for­mer state rep­re­sen­ta­tive who served in the Leg­is­la­ture along­side Gael, told us how these expe­ri­ences shaped her as a legislator.

“I’ve always felt that her work and her wis­dom are deeply root­ed in val­ues of fair­ness and jus­tice, and she brings a pas­sion and know-how about eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment that’s root­ed in the hands-on exper­tise of her career.”

“Gael’s work before she came to pol­i­tics and elect­ed office, on intel­li­gence and inter­na­tion­al devel­op­ment, always makes her per­spec­tives all the rich­er and nuanced. With Gael’s back­ground in the ports, her exper­tise on mar­itime issues made her a sought after source of coun­sel among leg­isla­tive colleagues.”

Reduc­ing emis­sions, end­ing crony­ism, pro­tect­ing fish­eries, and build­ing bet­ter rela­tion­ships with oth­er ports and local gov­ern­ments were among Gael’s goals as a Port Com­mis­sion­er. She was eas­i­ly reelect­ed to a sec­ond term in 2011.

When Mary Lou Dick­er­son announced her retire­ment from the Leg­is­la­ture at the end of the 2011-12 ses­sion, Gael decid­ed to run for her seat in the 36th LD.

The 36th, a dis­trict that cur­rent­ly encom­pass­es Bal­lard, Phin­ney Ridge, Fre­mont, and Bell­town, is syn­ony­mous with pro­gres­sive val­ues and leadership.

Gael’s fel­low board­mem­bers and the NPI staff were very excit­ed about her can­di­da­cy. By that point, Gael had become NPI’s President.

While NPI refrains from mak­ing endorse­ments or engag­ing in elec­tion­eer­ing on behalf of any can­di­date, staff were proud to see Gael come first in the August Top Two elec­tion and go on to earn 55% of the vote in November.

We knew well that in Gael, an effec­tive leg­is­la­tor was head­ed to Olympia.

Gael Tarleton takes her first oath of office as a legislator

New­ly-elect­ed State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Gael Tar­leton (cen­ter) takes her first oath of office as a state leg­is­la­tor on Jan­u­ary 14th, 2013 (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Wash­ing­ton’s state­house was some­thing of a mess when the 63rd State Leg­is­la­ture was sworn in on Jan­u­ary 14th, 2013.

Two trai­tor­ous Democ­rats in the Sen­ate had gift­ed Repub­li­cans con­trol of the cham­ber despite vot­ers send­ing a Demo­c­ra­t­ic tri­fec­ta to Olympia.

The House and Sen­ate had to write leg­is­la­tion to meet the Supreme Court’s McCleary orders while also agree­ing on a series of bud­gets to keep the state’s pub­lic ser­vices func­tion­ing dur­ing a peri­od of slug­gish eco­nom­ic activity.

And to top it all off, there was a new chief exec­u­tive, Jay Inslee, who had just pre­vailed over Rob McKen­na in a hot­ly con­test­ed guber­na­to­r­i­al race.

Amidst these new dynam­ics, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Tar­leton was care­ful with what she got involved with that ses­sion, only spon­sor­ing three bills. Instead, she spent her time devel­op­ing rela­tion­ships with Democ­rats and Repub­li­cans alike.

“As a per­son, she’s so gen­uine and has a gift for work­ing across the aisle and devel­op­ing rela­tion­ships,” said Michelle Nance, Gael’s leg­isla­tive assis­tant dur­ing the 2013 ses­sion. “One of her room­mates was a Repub­li­can dur­ing that first ses­sion. It clear­ly showed because her bills would pass unanimously.”

“It’s just not the par­ti­san pol­i­tics you see in Congress.”

Gael’s first bill spon­sor­ship was leg­is­la­tion that amend­ed the Land­lord-Ten­ant Act to require land­lords to safe­guard dupli­cate keys.

Nance recalled the sto­ry behind the bill.

“There was this hor­ri­ble sit­u­a­tion where a main­te­nance work­er got a hold of the keys to a rental unit and bru­tal­ly raped the ten­ant. She and her attor­ney brought this to Gael, and Gael made this her first spon­sor­ship. It spoke to her heart.”

“She was pas­sion­ate for help­ing oth­er women. It appealed to her sense of jus­tice. We were told it would be very dif­fi­cult to get it passed because the land­lord lob­by was very opposed to more regulations.”

So Gael got to work, using her new rela­tion­ships to build up bipar­ti­san sup­port for the bill. To bor­row Dee’s ear­li­er anal­o­gy, she was like an eagle with locked talons.

Not sur­pris­ing­ly, House Bill 1647 passed the House 98–0, the Sen­ate 42–5, and was signed into law that sum­mer by Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee.

Gael Tarleton on the House floor

Gael Tar­leton on the House floor (Leg­isla­tive photo)

First sworn in as part of the 63th Leg­is­la­ture in Jan­u­ary 2013, Gael quick­ly found her­self ris­ing up the ranks with­in House Demo­c­ra­t­ic Lead­er­ship. She became Major­i­ty Floor Leader in 2016, mid­way through her sec­ond term.

A pre­cise and nuanced thinker, she was keen­ly in touch with what was going on in the world and shared her exper­tise with her colleagues.

“Some of my favorite moments with Gael were our debriefs at the end of the day — as the ear­ly spring sky grew dark, we would unpack the news of the day and Gael would share her insights (she and I worked togeth­er in 2016, so there was always news to dis­cuss),” said Elka Peter­son Horner, anoth­er for­mer leg­isla­tive assis­tant who worked with Gael mid­way through her House years.

“What is remark­able about Gael is that she was always inter­est­ed in hear­ing how I saw things, or how I approached a prob­lem. I know that I am not alone in this expe­ri­ence, and that she has gen­er­ous­ly shared her time and feed­back with many others.”

Dur­ing her third term in the Leg­is­la­ture, there was increased inter­est in improv­ing cyber­se­cu­ri­ty in Olympia from all four corners.

Rus­si­a’s med­dling in the 2016 elec­tions and the Trump regime’s hos­til­i­ty to net neu­tral­i­ty pro­vid­ed an open­ing. When the oppor­tu­ni­ty came to take action, Gael’s past work expe­ri­ence and rela­tion­ships with oth­er leg­is­la­tors real­ly counted.

In 2017, Sub­sti­tute House Bill 2200, which reaf­firmed con­sumer pri­va­cy pro­tec­tions from broad­band com­pa­nies, passed the House 87–10.

In 2018, House Bill 2678, which sought to strength­en cyber­crime laws, drew sup­port from 97 out of 98 representatives.

“She was real­ly gift­ed at con­nect­ing peo­ple with under­ly­ing ideals,” said Michelle Nance, remem­ber­ing Gael’s abil­i­ty to mar­shal large coali­tions of law­mak­ers to vote for sen­si­ble (and often, sur­pris­ing­ly sim­ple) pro­gres­sive ideas.

Gael was also a strong sup­port­er of good pay­ing mar­itime jobs and high­er edu­ca­tion dur­ing her time in the Legislature.

She worked as a research advis­er at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton while serv­ing as a Com­mis­sion­er for the Port of Seat­tle. The ship­yards of Inter­bay and the Hiram M. Chit­ten­den Locks also anchor the 36th LD.

Elka Peter­son Horner recalled Gael’s expert advo­ca­cy for this wor­thy cause.

“In 2017, she intro­duced a remark­able piece of leg­is­la­tion (HB 1154) which sup­port­ed the mar­itime and fish­ing indus­try through tax incen­tives. The bill passed out of the House in 2018 with near unan­i­mous support.”

“This pas­sion also took the form of sup­port­ing com­mu­ni­ty and tech­ni­cal col­leges across the state. She was con­sis­tent­ly able to demon­strate how a strong mar­itime indus­try has ben­e­fit statewide. And by lever­ag­ing the nexus between high­er edu­ca­tion sys­tems and eco­nom­ic growth, Gael was able to affect a great deal of change and build strong coali­tions across par­ty lines.”

Gael was also cho­sen to rep­re­sent Wash­ing­ton on the gov­ern­ing body of PNWER, the Pacif­ic North­West Eco­nom­ic Region. PNWER is “a statu­to­ry public/private non-prof­it cre­at­ed in 1991 by the states of Alas­ka, Ida­ho, Ore­gon, Mon­tana, Wash­ing­ton, and the Cana­di­an provinces of British Colum­bia, Alber­ta, Saskatchewan, and the Yukon and North­west Territories.”

Gael cur­rent­ly serves as PNWER’s Vice President.

2020 leadership of the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region

The cur­rent lead­er­ship of the Pacif­ic North­West Eco­nom­ic Region includes Gael Tar­leton, its Vice Pres­i­dent (Screen­shot)

At the begin­ning of the 66th Leg­is­la­ture in 2019, Gael took the gav­el of the influ­en­tial House Finance Com­mit­tee (which has juris­dic­tion over rev­enue bills) for what turned out to be her last term in the House. From that influ­en­tial perch, Gael shep­herd­ed through the Leg­is­la­ture one of its most sig­nif­i­cant recent achieve­ments: the com­pre­hen­sive cli­mate action pack­age of 2019.

The bills con­tained a lot of sig­nif­i­cant pro­vi­sions. The state com­mit­ted itself to ful­ly aban­don­ing dirty fos­sil fuels, elec­tri­fy­ing our trans­porta­tion infra­struc­ture, and mak­ing build­ings and appli­ances much more ener­gy efficient.

“What made Gael so effec­tive in Olympia is her abil­i­ty to cre­ate a long-term leg­isla­tive plan and do the polit­i­cal work to see it enact­ed,” said Jacob Thor­pe, who served as Gael’s leg­isla­tive assis­tant from August 2017 until Decem­ber 2019.

“When I first start­ed work­ing for Gael, one of my first tasks was to sched­ule stake­hold­er meet­ings for that land­mark bill to tran­si­tion Washington’s elec­tri­cal grid to 100% clean ener­gy,” Thor­pe recalled.

“Gael spent dozens of hours that ses­sion craft­ing and refin­ing that sore­ly need­ed leg­is­la­tion. By the end of ses­sion, even though it was unlike­ly to pass, I’d see Gael sit­ting alone on the House floor work­ing on that bill before I left for the day.”

“It did not receive a floor vote dur­ing that bien­ni­um, but Gael patient­ly laid the ground­work for it to become a pri­or­i­ty bill for the cau­cus. Many leg­is­la­tors moved on, but Gael kept the momen­tum going with a new bill in the next cycle and got leg­is­la­tion passed that is con­sid­ered a mod­el for a green future.”

Get­ting so many bills through many dif­fer­ent com­mit­tees quick­ly was tricky but nec­es­sary. House Finance was involved with many of the bills in the pack­age, and Gael per­son­al­ly spon­sored one of the com­pan­ion Sen­ate bills in the House.

When the pack­age was final­ly signed into law in May 2019, Gael her­self authored a post on the Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate to cel­e­brate and com­mem­o­rate the occasion.

“Build­ing momen­tum takes more than a ses­sion. It takes patience and per­sis­tence to build a broad base of sup­port,” she observed.

NPI's Gael Tarleton speaks at signing of five pollution fighting bills

Gael speaks at sign­ing of five pol­lu­tion fight­ing bills (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/Northwest Pro­gres­sive Institute)

Gael’s seat­mates cit­ed the 2019 cli­mate action pack­age and her advo­ca­cy for good pay­ing mar­itime jobs as her top accom­plish­ments in office.

“It has been a priv­i­lege to serve along­side Gael Tar­leton on behalf of the 36th Dis­trict for five of her eight years rep­re­sent­ing our dis­trict,” said fel­low State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Noel Frame, who has been cho­sen by their col­leagues to suc­ceed Gael as Chair of the House Finance Com­mit­tee next year.

“Gael is one of hard­est work­ing peo­ple I know, with the sun­ni­est dis­po­si­tion a per­son could have. Gael has served as an elect­ed offi­cial these last ten plus years, but her career of pub­lic ser­vice stretch­es over decades.”

“Whether as a Port Com­mis­sion­er or State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive, Gael’s ded­i­ca­tion to eco­nom­ic and work­force devel­op­ment, par­tic­u­lar­ly with­in the mar­itime indus­try that is so crit­i­cal to our leg­isla­tive dis­trict, has been admirable.”

“Rep­re­sen­ta­tive-elect Liz Berry and I have big shoes to fill when it comes to advo­cat­ing for this crit­i­cal indus­try and for advo­cat­ing for diverse path­ways in high­er edu­ca­tion! Most impor­tant­ly, Gael has gone out of her way to men­tor and empow­er oth­er women in pub­lic office, includ­ing me.”

“Gael and I have run against each oth­er sev­er­al times and she has won every time — ha! But in vic­to­ry, Gael has not only been gra­cious, she has used her posi­tion to advo­cate for good pub­lic pol­i­cy and pro­vide a path­way for me and oth­ers to step into lead­er­ship roles. For that, I will for­ev­er be grateful.”

“The insight and per­spec­tive that I would share about Gael is dri­ven by her pro­found respect for the insti­tu­tion of rep­re­sen­ta­tive democ­ra­cy,” said Sen­a­tor Reuven Car­lyle, who was Gael’s seat­mate in the House before mov­ing over to the Sen­ate after Jeanne Kohl-Welles’ elec­tion to the King Coun­ty Coun­cil. (Frame was cho­sen as Car­lyle’s suc­ces­sor by the Coun­cil, on the advice of Demo­c­ra­t­ic Party.)

“She sim­ply trea­sures the good­ness of our con­sti­tu­tion­al repub­lic, the role of pub­lic ser­vice, the dig­ni­ty of poli­cies that help peo­ple and the sense of decen­cy that comes from hard work. In my expe­ri­ence, she brings the same work eth­ic of dig­ging deep into an issue that she and her fam­i­ly brought to gen­er­a­tions of hard-work­ing folks on the shores of New England.”

“I had the great hon­or of work­ing close­ly with Gael on a wide range of issues in our ser­vice togeth­er. She has the abil­i­ty and desire to lis­ten deeply to the real issues that sur­face in a bat­tle, and to hear voic­es from diverse inter­ests, and walk through the com­plex­i­ty with great care and resolve.”

“Togeth­er we tack­led so many issues on behalf of the good peo­ple of the 36th Dis­trict and statewide, and I am so grate­ful for her partnership.”

“In 2019, our work togeth­er on the state’s 100% clean ener­gy bill was his­toric in scope. Togeth­er every step of the way, we craft­ed a win-win bill that is now wide­ly seen as the strongest 100% clean ener­gy bill in the nation.”

“Impor­tant­ly to me, it’s also the one major bill that util­i­ties were able to sup­port since they have to imple­ment the pol­i­cy. So it’s a gen­uine win-win for the envi­ron­ment and for ratepay­ers,” Car­lyle explained.

“Gael is a deeply car­ing per­son. She val­ues diverse think­ing, ideas and people’s lived expe­ri­ences. Gael has served the peo­ple of Wash­ing­ton with extra­or­di­nary dig­ni­ty that rep­re­sents the best of ser­vant leadership.”

“It’s been an hon­or to be her part­ner in service.”

Gael Tarleton with Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Noel Frame, and Reuven Carlyle

The mighty 36th Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict Demo­c­ra­t­ic del­e­ga­tion: State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Gael Tar­leton, King Coun­ty Coun­cilmem­ber and for­mer State Sen­a­tor Jeanne Kohl-Welles, State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Noel Frame, and State Sen­a­tor Reuven Car­lyle, pho­tographed after PCOs nom­i­nat­ed Car­lyle to take over for Kohl-Welles, and after Frame was nom­i­nat­ed to take over for Car­lyle (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

In 2019, Gael also put her hat in the ring to suc­ceed Frank Chopp as Speak­er of the House as one of four female can­di­dates for the cau­cus’ top job. Though she cam­paigned vig­or­ous­ly, the cau­cus chose anoth­er can­di­date, Lau­rie Jink­ins (D‑27th Dis­trict), who sub­se­quent­ly became Wash­ing­ton’s first woman Speak­er, one hun­dred years after the pas­sage of the Nine­teenth Amendment.

In 2020, Gael again shep­herd­ed two bills on elec­tion secu­ri­ty through both cham­bers of the Leg­is­la­ture with very lit­tle opposition.

(They were House Bill 1251, con­cern­ing dig­i­tal elec­tion infra­struc­ture, and House Bill 2421, on reim­burs­ing elec­tion costs.)

These bills reflect her decades of expe­ri­ence work­ing in the nation­al secu­ri­ty indus­try defend­ing her coun­try. They are emblem­at­ic of the same ideals that spurned her to run for Sec­re­tary of State in 2020.

Gael ran a spir­it­ed cam­paign, chal­leng­ing incum­bent Repub­li­can Kim Wyman to aggres­sive­ly respond to Don­ald Trump’s dan­ger­ous attacks on the integri­ty of our vote-at-home sys­tem — which Wyman most­ly refused to do.

Gael brought her expe­ri­ence to the table as part of her cam­paign. Too lit­tle nation­al secu­ri­ty exper­tise is cur­rent­ly tapped when elec­tion secu­ri­ty deci­sions are made, result­ing in sys­tems prone to mal­func­tion and vul­ner­a­ble to attack.

While Gael was unable to break the Repub­li­can stran­gle­hold on the Sec­re­tary of State’s office that has last­ed since the pres­i­den­cy of Lyn­don B. John­son, her cam­paign laid down a new high water mark for Democrats.

Out of the eleven attempts to unseat incum­bent Repub­li­can sec­re­taries of state since 1968, Gael’s cam­paign won the high­est share of the vote for any Demo­c­ra­t­ic chal­lenger. (We checked.) In the mid­dle of a pan­dem­ic. Against an incum­bent receiv­ing boat­loads of most­ly-pos­i­tive media cov­er­age, both nation­al and local.

That per­for­mance is a tes­ta­ment to her out­stand­ing qual­i­fi­ca­tions, pow­er­ful cam­paign work eth­ic, strate­gic focus, and com­mit­ment to pub­lic service.

While putting togeth­er this appre­ci­a­tion, many of Gael’s friends and for­mer col­leagues sent us reflec­tions hon­or­ing Gael’s remark­able career, some of which we have already quot­ed from above. Here are a few more reflections.

“I adore Gael. She has embod­ied pub­lic ser­vice and led on pro­gres­sive pub­lic pol­i­cy­mak­ing. I look for­ward to see­ing what comes next for her in her out­stand­ing career.”

– King Coun­ty Coun­cilmem­ber Kohl-Welles (4th District)

“Gael told me many years ago that she had always want­ed to work in pub­lic ser­vice and to run for office. She believed strong­ly in pub­lic ser­vice and the impor­tance of a strong democ­ra­cy. It was years lat­er that she actu­al­ly decid­ed to run for the Port Com­mis­sion fol­lowed by her run for the WA State leg­is­la­ture. I think her intel­li­gence, com­pas­sion for oth­ers, hard work and knowl­edge of the issues, and her com­mit­ment to doing what’s best for the com­mu­ni­ty made it easy to con­nect to voters.”

– Car­ol Vipperman

“Much to my delight, in 2013, Gael suc­ceed­ed me in rep­re­sent­ing the 36th Dis­trict in the Leg­is­la­ture. She was a thought­ful, strate­gic, and effec­tive leader whose pol­i­cy work ben­e­fit­ed not only the 36th Dis­trict, but the entire state. Her leg­is­la­tion on issues affect­ing cli­mate change and her efforts to cre­ate a more pro­gres­sive tax base have been significant.”

– Gael’s pre­de­ces­sor Mary Lou Dick­er­son, D‑36th District

“My friend and polit­i­cal col­league (Gael) and I have been close since we ran our first cam­paigns in 2007 — over thir­teen years ago — and polit­i­cal friend­ships can be rare indeed. Gael is that rare indi­vid­ual who pos­sess­es the abil­i­ty to be an excel­lent retail politi­cian and down-to-earth at the same time.”

– Mo Judge, long­time friend and can­di­date for State Sen­ate, 41st LD (Mer­cer Island, New­cas­tle, Sam­mamish) in 2012

“I was work­ing as a cam­paign man­ag­er and my can­di­date and Gael were good friends, so our paths would often cross and we would vis­it. I loved get­ting to know Gael and was an instant super-fan. She was smart, mea­sured, fun to be around and pur­pose­ful­ly dri­ven to serve her com­mu­ni­ty and our state. In oth­er words, she knew why she was run­ning for office.”

– Gael’s suc­ces­sor Liz Berry, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive-elect, D‑36th District

“I remem­ber many eleventh hour bud­get pro­vi­sos where she was a pas­sion­ate advo­cate for the plan­et and envi­ron­men­tal pri­or­i­ties. We’ll miss Gael in elect­ed office, but I’m sure she’ll either be back again soon or dis­cov­er new ways to move moun­tains toward a bet­ter, more just future!”

– Brady Walkinshaw

“I feel lucky to call Gael a good friend, but in many ways, a soul sis­ter. Togeth­er we have fought hard to make the world a lit­tle bet­ter. Along the way, she has taught me that it’s pos­si­ble to be a brave and kind war­rior even when faced with com­plete betray­al. Gael has always tak­en the high­er road and always treat­ed her staff and vol­un­teers with integri­ty and respect. Her abil­i­ty to make you per­son­al­ly feel like a super­hero in the cause, is her super pow­er. She will always be my shero.”

– Sue Evans, friend and consultant

“If Con­gress was com­prised of Gael Tar­letons, it would be a much bet­ter system.”

– Michelle Nance

“G is for Grat­i­tude. Gael approach­es her work with humil­i­ty and a the desire to serve. She respects all points of view. She is kind and fair. A is for Astound­ing. The work that Gael in tax reform has done has made our state able to with­stand COVID and her com­mit­ment to clean ener­gy will serve gen­er­a­tions. E is for Excep­tion­al. Gael works hard. She is an hon­est bro­ker and stays pos­i­tive in the most chal­leng­ing of sit­u­a­tions. She sets an exam­ple for oth­ers. L is for Love. Gael is deeply loved by her com­mu­ni­ty, her col­leagues and the peo­ple of Wash­ing­ton State. Thank you for the love that you have shown to us, Gael!”

– State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Amy Walen, Gael’s vice chair (D‑48th District)

Gael Tarleton speaking at NPI's 2018 Winter Holiday Party

Found­ing NPI board­mem­ber and State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Gael Tar­leton speaks at NPI’s 2018 Win­ter Hol­i­day Par­ty (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/Northwest Pro­gres­sive Institute)

Gael, on behalf of the staff at NPI, con­grat­u­la­tions on con­clud­ing an incred­i­ble career in pub­lic ser­vice. We are hon­ored and thank­ful to have you as our most senior board­mem­ber, and glad to have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to con­tin­ue to ben­e­fit from your wis­dom and guid­ance as our coun­try moves out of the Trump error.

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  1. Thank you for tak­ing the time to reach out to Gael’s col­leagues and friends to pro­vide us with this recog­ni­tion that has brought tears of joy. It is grat­i­fy­ing to read that she has cre­at­ed such a sup­port­ive net­work of mar­velous peo­ple in her cho­sen home; I rec­og­nize names from con­ver­sa­tions Gael and I have shared over the years. While we on the East Coast miss our sis­ter ter­ri­bly, espe­cial­ly dur­ing this pan­dem­ic, we con­tin­ue to be so very proud of the work our “Amer­i­can eagle” has done/is doing and we can’t wait to see what’s next!

    # by Susan Burke :: January 1st, 2021 at 6:46 AM
  2. Excel­lent trib­ute to a ded­i­cat­ed pub­lic ser­vant. It was a priv­i­lege to have served with Rep. Tarleton.

    # by Cindy Ryu :: January 1st, 2021 at 5:02 PM
  3. There are few peo­ple who live a life­time and accom­plish what Gael accom­plished and are writ­ten about in such a dis­tin­guished way. I am hon­ored to know some­one who gen­uine­ly works for the peo­ple as Gael does. I am lucky to have her as a sister-in-law!

    # by Madeleine Tarleton :: January 4th, 2021 at 4:32 PM
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