Senator Karen Keiser
Senator Keiser presides over a session of the Washington State Senate on Saturday, April 13th, 2019 (Photo: Legislative Support Services)

Less than twen­ty-four hours after Sen­ate Major­i­ty Leader Andy Bil­lig announced he’s decid­ed against seek­ing anoth­er term in the Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate, Sen­ate Pres­i­dent Pro Tem­pore Karen Keis­er joined him, say­ing that after near­ly three decades, she is ready to bid the state­house adieu.

“It has been my priv­i­lege to serve the peo­ple of the 33rd Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict and the peo­ple of the State of Wash­ing­ton for the last twen­ty-nine years,” said Keis­er, who revealed her deci­sion on the Sen­ate floor. “I am in awe at the amaz­ing progress we have made togeth­er in this insti­tu­tion over the last few decades.”

“Appoint­ed to fill an open seat in the Wash­ing­ton State House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives in 1995, Keis­er ran and won her first elec­tion in 1996,” not­ed a news release from the Sen­ate Demo­c­ra­t­ic cau­cus. “She served there until 2001, when she was appoint­ed to a seat in the Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate, where she has been re-elect­ed six times. Since 2018, Keis­er has served as Pres­i­dent Pro Tem­pore, pre­sid­ing over the Sen­ate when the lieu­tenant gov­er­nor has been unavailable.”

“The Sen­ate won’t be the same with­out Karen Keis­er,” said Billig.

“She has been a leader in so many areas. Because of her unceas­ing per­sis­tence over many years, work­ing fam­i­lies in Wash­ing­ton are so much bet­ter off today than when she joined the Leg­is­la­ture. And her gen­er­ous men­tor­ship of new mem­bers ensures that her exper­tise will live on in this institution.”

“Sen­a­tor Karen Keis­er has been noth­ing less than a gen­er­a­tional leader on behalf of work­ing peo­ple,” added Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor Den­ny Heck in a state­ment. “Lead­ers like Karen do not come around often. She will be deeply missed in the Sen­ate. I wish her well in her retirement.”

Keis­er says her work on imple­ment­ing the Patient Pro­tec­tion Act is a top accom­plish­ment of her years in the Legislature.

“Among oth­er key bills, she spon­sored the leg­is­la­tion estab­lish­ing the Wash­ing­ton Health Ben­e­fit Exchange, which has since pro­vid­ed more than 1,900,000 Wash­ing­to­ni­ans with health care cov­er­age,” not­ed the Sen­ate Demo­c­ra­t­ic cau­cus. “While imple­men­ta­tion of the far-reach­ing act was slowed and hin­dered by numer­ous glitch­es in oth­er states, Wash­ing­ton expe­ri­enced far few­er prob­lems and was looked to as a nation­al model.”

“The effec­tive imple­men­ta­tion of the [Patient Pro­tec­tion Act] helped dri­ve the state’s unin­sured rate down from 14.2 per­cent in 2010 to 4.7 per­cent as of 2022.”

And then there’s her hero­ic work on paid fam­i­ly and med­ical leave.

“In 2017, Keis­er capped a ten-year effort when Wash­ing­ton became only the fifth state in the coun­try to offer com­pre­hen­sive paid fam­i­ly and med­ical leave insur­ance for all work­ing peo­ple. Since the Paid Fam­i­ly and Med­ical Leave pro­gram began pay­ing out ben­e­fits in 2020, almost 470,000 Wash­ing­ton work­ers have tapped its ben­e­fits to bond with new­born babies, care for ail­ing rel­a­tives, or take time off for their own med­ical conditions.”

Kesi­er has been a stal­wart and thought­ful pro­gres­sive through­out her time in the state­house. Known for being cheer­ful and even-keeled, she recent­ly authored a book about how to serve effec­tive­ly — Get­ting Elect­ed Is The Easy Part — which our Lit­er­ary Advo­cate David Kobrin reviewed.

​We have been hon­ored to have Sen­a­tor Keis­er join us for many NPI events over the years and look for­ward to see­ing her at more. Con­grat­u­la­tions on a great run serv­ing the peo­ple of Wash­ing­ton State, Sen­a­tor Keis­er. You’re a treasure!

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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