Washington State Representative Drew Hansen will soon be on the other side of the rotunda in Olympia, having been chosen today to take the place of former Senator Christine Rolfes, who is now a Kitsap County Commissioner.
The three-member commission — which now includes Rolfes — exercised its constitutional authority to fill the vacancy created by her resignation by choosing Hansen from a list of three nominees presented by the Kitsap County Democratic Central Committee. The party’s two other nominees were Brynn Felix, who serves as the general counsel and medical-legal partnership director at Peninsula Community Health Services, and Chris Cancialosi, a retired servicemember who created gothamCulture and Gotham Government Services management.
Hansen was not immediately sworn in, but with the Legislature not expected to reconvene for its next session until January, that didn’t need to happen today. Hansen will be able to plan a nice ceremony if he wishes.
“I’m grateful to be able to continue serving our community in the Senate,” Hansen said in a statement sent by the Washington Senate Democratic caucus. “It’s been an extraordinary honor to serve in the House for the past decade and open up opportunities for people in Kitsap County to get trained for good jobs that support their families. The partnerships we have built with Olympic College, Western Washington University, our apprenticeships and more have transformed peoples’ lives, and I look forward to continuing to work on these issues in the Senate.”
Rolfes and fellow Commisioners Charlotte Garrido and Katie Walters held interviews with the three nominees last week and this week prior to making their decision. They were widely expected to pick Hansen, who has years of legislative experience, as mentioned. Hansen’s seatmate Tarra Simmons also pondered seeking the Senate appointment, but ultimately decided to remain in the House.
“Hansen has chaired the House Civil Rights & Judiciary Committee since 2020; before that, he chaired the House Higher Education Committee from 2014 to 2020,” the Senate Democratic caucus noted. “Hansen has led efforts on historic legislation in recent years, including this year’s Shield Law (HB 1469) to protect those who pursue or provide legal reproductive care in the state.”
“Hansen also sponsored Washington’s landmark free college tuition law and the nation’s first state-level net neutrality law. He also led efforts on the New Hope Act, a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill that helps people who have spent time in prison rebuild their lives, the DREAM Act 2.0 to protect state financial aid eligibility for DACA students, and the Public Broadband Act, which opens up opportunities for public broadband networks in Washington State.”
Hansen must leave the House to serve in the Senate, which will create openings there. A special nominating caucus of Democratic PCOs from the 23rd Legislative District convened by the Kitsap County Democrats will need to meet again soon to draw up a list of three nominees to succeed Hansen through 2024.
Then, the Kitsap County Commission will appoint one of them to be a new State Representative from the 23rd District, which is located entirely within the county, encompassing Bainbridge Island, Bremerton, Poulsbo, and the tribal reservations of the Suquamish and the Port Gamble S’Klallam. (See map.)
In addition, the House Democratic caucus will need to pick a new Judiciary Chair for the upcoming short session. That’s a powerful and important committee that hears bills pertaining to topics like gun safety and criminal justice reform.
In the Senate, Christine Rolfes’ departure will also prompt some reshuffling. Rolfes was the Chair of Ways & Means, the Senate’s most powerful and influential committee, so the Senate’s Committee on Committees will have to pick a new Chair. The Democratic majority controls that committee and may select Senator June Robinson to take Rolfes’ place. Robinson is one of the two current Vice Chairs of Ways & Means; the other is Mark Mullet, a gubernatorial hopeful.
Aside from chairing Ways & Means, Rolfes was also a member of Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks, chaired by Kevin Van De Wege (D‑24th District: Olympic Peninsula), who is running for Commissioner of Public Lands.
Hansen’s Judiciary experience would seemingly make him a good candidate for the Senate’s Law & Justice Committee, chaired by Senator Manka Dhingra, who is running for Attorney General. Hansen himself was briefly a candidate for Attorney General four years ago until Governor Inslee deicded to seek a third term.
Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig says he’s happy to have Hansen on board.
“I am pleased with this appointment,” said Billig. “Senator Hansen is an experienced leader and has been a pleasure to work with over the years on a variety of issues. He is someone who will be able to step right in and get to work in the Senate on behalf of the people of the 23rd Legislative District.”