Senator Doug Ericksen
Senator Doug Ericksen (Washington Senate Republican caucus photo)

A promi­nent right wing Repub­li­can state sen­a­tor who co-chaired Don­ald Trump’s 2016 cam­paign in Wash­ing­ton State and was an ardent boost­er of Tim Eyman’s destruc­tive ini­tia­tives has per­ished after con­tract­ing the nov­el coro­n­avirus (SARS-CoV­‑2) while abroad in El Sal­vador, his fam­i­ly dis­closed today through a bul­letin pub­lished by Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate’s Repub­li­can caucus.

The cause of death is unknown at this time.

Erick­sen, fifty-two, rep­re­sent­ed the 42nd Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict, which cur­rent­ly encom­pass­es much of What­com Coun­ty, includ­ing por­tions of the City of Belling­ham. The 42nd is a swing dis­trict that has vot­ed for both Repub­li­can and Demo­c­ra­t­ic rep­re­sen­ta­tion in recent elec­tion cycles.

“We are heart­bro­ken to share that our hus­band and father passed away on Fri­day, Decem­ber 17th. Please keep our fam­i­ly in your prayers and thank you for con­tin­u­ing to respect our pri­va­cy in this extreme­ly dif­fi­cult time,” read a short mes­sage dis­sem­i­nat­ed by the cau­cus from Tasha, Elsa, and Addi Ericksen.

The Sen­ate Repub­li­can cau­cus stat­ed in an adden­dum to that mes­sage that it will “release addi­tion­al infor­ma­tion as it receives it.”

Top Sen­ate Repub­li­can John Braun was asked last Wednes­day at Re-Wire 2021 by the Wash­ing­ton State Wire’s DJ Wil­son what Erick­sen’s con­di­tion was. Braun for the most part demurred, say­ing he want­ed to respect Erick­sen’s privacy.

“I am deeply sad­dened by the news that Doug passed away yes­ter­day,” said Braun in a state­ment pub­lished by the cau­cus. My prayers and thoughts are with his wife, Tasha, and his daugh­ters. Doug could be larg­er than life and our cau­cus will miss him great­ly. He was pas­sion­ate about his duties as a mem­ber of the Leg­is­la­ture and ded­i­cat­ed to his constituents.”

“I wish peace and com­fort for Sen­a­tor Ericksen’s fam­i­ly. His pass­ing at such a young age is trag­ic,” said Sen­ate Major­i­ty Leader Andy Bil­lig in a statement.

“I served with Sen­a­tor Erick­sen for more than a decade, and got to know him well over that time. While we often dis­agreed on pol­i­cy, I respect­ed his long ser­vice to his com­mu­ni­ty. My col­leagues and I in the Sen­ate Demo­c­ra­t­ic Cau­cus mourn tonight with his fam­i­ly and friends.”

We do not know if Erick­sen was vac­ci­nat­ed against COVID-19 or not, but we do know that he issued a plea for help after get­ting sick in El Sal­vador last month. In an email sent to his col­leagues, Erick­sen explained his predicament:

I took a trip to El Sal­vador and test­ed pos­i­tive for COVID [SARS-CoV­‑2] short­ly after I arrived. […] I can­not get back home, and it’s to the point that I feel it would be ben­e­fi­cial for me to receive an iv of mon­o­clon­al anti­bod­ies (Regen­eron). I have a doc­tor here who can admin­is­ter the iv, but the prod­uct is not avail­able here.

[…] Do any of you have any ideas on how I could get the mon­o­clon­al anti­bod­ies sent to me here. Ide­al­ly, I would like to get it on a flight tonight so it would be here by tomorrow.

Erick­sen was sub­se­quent­ly mede­vaced out of El Sal­vador to Flori­da, and was described as in sta­ble con­di­tion fol­low­ing his arrival in the Sun­shine State.

Since then, there have been no updates on his con­di­tion. Recent attempts by jour­nal­ists (includ­ing at the Belling­ham Her­ald) and polit­i­cal observers to inquire about his health and wel­fare have been unsuccessful.

Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee released a brief state­ment to the press after hear­ing the news, which read: “Tru­di and I send our deep con­do­lences to Doug’s fam­i­ly, friends and col­leagues. Our hearts are with them.”

Erick­sen had been a harsh crit­ic of Gov­er­nor Inslee’s efforts to com­bat the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic, denounc­ing vac­cine man­dates and dis­sem­i­nat­ing anti-sci­ence talk­ing points. Pho­tographs from social media show Erick­sen at events where no one appears to be wear­ing a mask, him­self includ­ed. Vac­cines, masks, and phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing are the most effec­tive tools for avoid­ing COVID-19.

In accor­dance with the Wash­ing­ton State Con­sti­tu­tion, a new state sen­a­tor for the 42nd will need to be appoint­ed soon to fill the vacan­cy left by Erick­sen’s death. The new sen­a­tor will be a Repub­li­can, like Erick­sen, as required by the Con­sti­tu­tion. The Repub­li­can Par­ty will be tasked with draw­ing up a list of three nom­i­nees to suc­ceed Erick­sen. Then, the What­com Coun­ty Coun­cil will have to select one of those three nom­i­nees as Erick­sen’s successor.

Who­ev­er is appoint­ed will serve out the remain­der of Erick­sen’s term. The posi­tion was already due to be reg­u­lar­ly con­test­ed in next year’s midterms.

Erick­sen’s Demo­c­ra­t­ic col­league Sharon Shew­make, who has twice been elect­ed to the House from the 42nd, announced pri­or to the onset of the annu­al leg­isla­tive ses­sion fundrais­ing freeze that she would be run­ning for the seat Erick­sen has held in 2022. It seems like­ly that Shew­make will face whichev­er Repub­li­can is appoint­ed to take over for Erick­sen in the com­ing weeks, assum­ing that the What­com Coun­ty Coun­cil does not appoint a caretaker.

We at the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute are sad­dened to hear of Sen­a­tor Erick­sen’s death. We did­n’t agree on much, but we were hop­ing Sen­a­tor Erick­sen would beat COVID-19 and return to Wash­ing­ton State. Sad­ly, he has passed on. We extend our con­do­lences and sym­pa­thies to his fam­i­ly and friends.

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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