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.