This Washington

Democratic Senate Leader Lisa Brown Will Not Seek Reelection

By Josh Feit May 3, 2012

State Sen. Lisa Brown (D-3, Spokane), the senate majority leader since 2005 and the Democratic senate leader since 2003, announced this morning that she is not going to run for reelection.

As recently as the 2009 session, Brown, a candid liberal who was outspoken about Washington State's regressive tax system, was once rumored to be thinking of running for governor. However, her stock fell a bit as the conservative bloc of Democrats in the senate known as the Roadkill Caucus was able to flex its muscle more and more, culminating in this session's GOP budget coup.

Here's Brown's full statement:
I have decided not to seek re-election to the 3rd district Senate seat this fall.  Returning home two weeks ago, I began taking stock of my twenty years in the Legislature, reflecting on what I have been able to achieve with the help of colleagues and supporters. I decided that, though it is still immensely gratifying to serve Spokane and the state of Washington in this capacity, I am ready for new challenges.

During my tenure in the Legislature we have created in Spokane a health sciences education and research campus, which will be a centerpiece of our regional economy and will educate thousands of pharmacists, nurses, dentists, doctors, and other health professionals. The building that will house the University of Washington medical school and the Washington State University pharmacy received its final funding in this year’s capital budget.

I have also championed the clean-up and protection of the Spokane river, Spokane’s aerospace cluster, our film and video industry, and spearheaded the funding of the Fox Theater, the MAC, the refurbished YMCA/YWCA facilities, and numerous non-profits in Spokane, such as Crosswalk, the Northwest Autism Center and Sally’s House.

At the state level, I am most proud of my work to create mental health parity legislation, and my work on the state budget to enhance childcare and healthcare for working families.  I am equally proud of my efforts to protect the state’s partnership with numerous non-profits who serve vulnerable people across the spectrum: abused and neglected children, the elderly, homeless people, and people with disabilities, and of our fourteen year fight to pass a simple majority plan for school levies.

Given the challenges of the recession and the reductions in the alternate budget proposed by the Senate Republicans, I am particularly pleased with this year’s final budget, which protected not only vital human service programs, but also made no further reductions to K-12 education or higher education.

I have been involved in the promotion of women’s rights and civil rights throughout my life and legislative career.  This year’s path-breaking marriage equality and human-trafficking laws are two examples of the kind of legislation that originally motivated me to run for office. Serving as Ways and Means chair and then as the leader of my caucus for ten years has given me a tremendous opportunity to be deeply involved in all the major public policy issues facing our state and to work with talented elected officials and advocates.

I would like to thank Gov. Chris Gregoire and Speaker Frank Chopp for their leadership and for the productive relationship we have enjoyed for eight years. In particular, I appreciate the governor’s unwavering commitment to the economic future of Spokane and I want to thank the speaker for his dedication to the most vulnerable people in our state.

I will miss the incredibly dedicated staff of the state Senate and many of my colleagues in both chambers and on both sides of the aisle. In particular, I appreciated working with Sen. Jim Hargrove on mental health and human service funding, Sen. Ed Murray on marriage equality and the budget, Sens. Tracey Eide and Rosemary  McAuliffe on simple majority, Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles on gender equity, Sen. Derek Kilmer on economic development initiatives, Sen. Joe Zarelli on the Rainy Day fund constitutional amendment, Rep. Ruth Kagi on childcare and early learning, and my seatmates Timm Ormsby and Andy Billig on numerous Spokane initiatives.

Senate Democrats are well-positioned to continue to lead the state.  I look forward to watching the careers of our seasoned members as well as our emerging leaders.

The people of Spokane have given me the tremendous honor of representing and serving them for twenty years. My son, Lucas, and many dear friends have accompanied me and supported me on this journey.  I am immensely grateful to all of them.

From the Cola archives, here's a sit-down Q&A Sen. Brown did with me in 2009, just as the new normal of recessionary budgets was starting to take hold in Olympia.

One thing Brown did not mention in her statement was her priority to change I-937, the voter-approved renewable energy initiative, which she felt was too inflexible when it came to defining renewables such as biomass hydro power, a big deal for Spokane's power company Avista. I-937 was tweaked this year to include some old biomass to count as renewable energy.
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