Senator Sam Hunt chairing a committee meeting
Senator Sam Hunt chairing a committee meeting during the 2023 legislative session (Photo: Washington State Legislative Support Services)

One of Wash­ing­ton State’s longest serv­ing and most beloved state leg­is­la­tors has decid­ed against seek­ing reelec­tion and will retire at the end of this term.

Sen­a­tor Sam Hunt (D‑22nd Dis­trict: Olympia) informed his col­leagues and the pub­lic of his deci­sion today, say­ing he feels it’s time to pass the torch.

“The time has come to let some­body else face the chal­lenge of being a state sen­a­tor,” Hunt said. “I would like to thank the many leg­is­la­tors with whom I have served, as well as the bright and ded­i­cat­ed staff who enable the Leg­is­la­ture to do its work. With­out civil­i­ty among mem­bers work­ing togeth­er and the excel­lent staff, Wash­ing­ton would not be in the great shape we find it today.” 

Hunt was first elect­ed to the House in 2000 and moved over to the Sen­ate in 2016, after Karen Fraser’s retire­ment. He has spent much of his time in the Leg­is­la­ture work­ing on vot­ing jus­tice and access to democracy.

“Dur­ing Hunt’s tenure as chair of the House State Gov­ern­ment and Trib­al Affairs Com­mit­tee and as chair of the Sen­ate State Gov­ern­ment and Elec­tions Com­mit­tee, Wash­ing­ton passed land­mark elec­tion leg­is­la­tion,” the Sen­ate Demo­c­ra­t­ic cau­cus not­ed in Hunt’s retire­ment announcement. 

“Uni­ver­sal vote-by-mail, the Wash­ing­ton Vot­ing Rights Act, the Native Amer­i­can Vot­ing Rights Act, online and elec­tion day vot­er reg­is­tra­tion, paid return postage for mailed bal­lots, secure state-fund­ed bal­lot drop box­es were all reforms brought about on Hunt’s watch. He also spon­sored and passed leg­is­la­tion to mod­ern­ize Washington’s elec­tions, switch­ing our state from a cau­cus to pri­ma­ry system.” 

“I am par­tic­u­lar­ly proud that under my guid­ance, we have the most secure, accu­rate, and acces­si­ble elec­tion sys­tem in the coun­try,” Hunt said. 

“Wash­ing­ton is a mod­el for oth­er states to fol­low.” 

In a Dear Col­league let­ter, Hunt elab­o­rat­ed on his deci­sion to retire, explain­ing that he has been serv­ing the pub­lic for more than forty years.

My career in Olympia began in 1980 when I came to work for the Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate,” Hunt wrote in his let­ter. “I also worked for Gov­er­nor Booth Gard­ner and the Depart­ment of Infor­ma­tion Ser­vices (now part of DES) before being elect­ed to the House of Representatives.”

“Dur­ing my leg­isla­tive tenure I also served on the House Appro­pri­a­tions, Nat­ur­al Resources, Rules, Labor, and K‑12 Edu­ca­tion Com­mit­tees and Sen­ate Ear­ly Learn­ing & K‑12 Edu­ca­tion and Ways & Means Committees.”

“In addi­tion, I served 11 years as the chair of the House Demo­c­ra­t­ic Cam­paign Com­mit­tee, start­ing what is the longest con­sec­u­tive time as the major­i­ty par­ty in the House. I was involved in advo­cat­ing for con­sid­er­able civ­il rights mea­sures, includ­ing the state’s land­mark mar­riage equal­i­ty law.”

“We have seen impres­sive increas­es in fund­ing for edu­ca­tion from preschool through high­er edu­ca­tion, includ­ing the Elson Floyd School of Med­i­cine at Wash­ing­ton State Uni­ver­si­ty (Go Cougs!), the sec­ond Taco­ma Nar­rows Bridge, a wider Inter­state 5 between Olympia and Seat­tle and improve­ments to I‑90 across Sno­qualmie Pass. The list of major accom­plish­ments is, indeed, very long.

“I would like to thank the many leg­is­la­tors with whom I have served, as well as the bright and ded­i­cat­ed staff who enable the Leg­is­la­ture to do its work. With­out civil­i­ty among mem­bers work­ing togeth­er and the excel­lent staff, Wash­ing­ton would not be in the great shape we find it today.

NPI does a lot of work on elec­toral reform and rev­enue reform because these have pos­i­tive ben­e­fits for a long list of crit­i­cal issues, so we have had many oppor­tu­ni­ties to work with Sen­a­tor Hunt over the years. He is one of the kind­est and most thought­ful leg­is­la­tors we know — an exem­plary lawmaker.

Impor­tant­ly, Sen­a­tor Hunt stood with us in our effort to get rid of Tim Eyman’s mali­cious push polls, which Eyman false­ly called “advi­so­ry votes.”

Thanks to Sen­a­tor Hunt and our prime spon­sor Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Kud­er­er — who has also worked with Hunt for many years as a mem­ber of the Sen­ate State Gov­ern­ment & Elec­tions Com­mit­tee — we were able to get that leg­is­la­tion out of the Sen­ate twice. Last year, with the help of our cham­pi­on State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Amy Walen and State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Joe Fitzgib­bon, we got the bill to Gov­er­nor Inslee’s desk and it was signed into law last spring.

Fit­ting­ly, Sen­a­tor Hunt was with us for the bill sign­ing.

He will be missed in the statehouse.

His good humor and good sense is wide­ly appre­ci­at­ed and admired. Sen­a­tor Hunt is a trea­sure, and we wish him the very best as he begins his next chapter.

The 22nd Dis­trict is a pro­gres­sive bas­tion, so the par­ty should have no dif­fi­cul­ty keep­ing the seat in Demo­c­ra­t­ic hands this autumn. Both of Hunt’s House coun­ter­parts are Democ­rats: Jes­si­ca Bate­man and Beth Doglio. One of them may now switch to run­ning for the Sen­ate to take over for Hunt in 2025.

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.

Adjacent posts

2 replies on “Sam Hunt to retire from the Washington State Legislature after many decades of service”

  1. Sam was orig­i­nal­ly a teacher in the Tri-Ciites area. He ran for state house in ’72, vying against a 19 year old Demo­c­rat who, at the time, was the stu­dent body pres­i­dent at Wal­la Wal­la Com­mu­ni­ty Col­lege. I was liv­ing in Wal­la Wal­la at the time and helped cam­paign for the 19 year old, whose name was Bob Barnes.
    Sam beat Barnes in the pri­ma­ry and would lose in the gen­er­al to Repub­li­can Jeanette Hayn­er, who would go on to a long career in the leg­is­la­ture, even­tu­al­ly serv­ing in the state senate.
    Sam, like me, even­tu­al­ly moved to the West side of the state, where he would serve
    in the leg­is­la­ture and also, even­tu­al­ly serve in the senate.

Comments are closed.