Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown announced Thursday that she won’t run for re-election and will leave her seat in the state Legislature after her term expires at the end of the year.
The Spokane Democrat said that after 20 years in the Legislature, she is ready to move on.
Brown, 55, said that she’ll keep her part-time position teaching classes at Gonzaga University in Spokane, but otherwise is going to “wait and see what comes along.”
“It wasn’t something I was planning to do, it was just one of those epiphanies,” she told The Associated Press.
She said that even after a tough legislative session followed by two special sessions, she had felt good about the work she and other senators had accomplished. Brown said she had fully expected to run again this year, and only made the decision to not seek re-election this past weekend, while taking a walk around a lake during a visit to a friend’s cabin.
“It just felt like the right time, while I can still be open to other challenges,” she said.
She said she’s not running for any other office this year, but wouldn’t rule out future campaigns for a statewide office, like governor.
“I’m not ruling anything out for the future,” she said. “I’m just going to give myself some time to think about what would be the best next steps to take.”
In a statement issued Thursday, Gov. Chris Gregoire called Brown a “true champion and true fighter for the people of Washington.”
“Spokane is losing one of its most influential leaders,” Gregoire wrote. “I’m proud to have served with her these many years.”
Brown has served as Senate majority leader for eight years, and before that she was minority leader for two years. Prior to that, she served in the House.
She is the second female majority leader in the Senate. The first was Republican Jeannette Hayner of Walla Walla, who retired in 1992 and died in 2010.
Democrats hold a 27-22 advantage in the Senate, but this year, three Democrats crossed the aisle to work with Republicans on a key budget vote, essentially giving Republicans leverage on budget-related issues.
About half of the Senate is up for re-election this year. Brown already had one Republican challenger to her 3rd District seat lined up, Spokane councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin. Brown insisted she was not concerned about her re-election chances, or that Democrats would lose the majority.
Democratic Rep. Andy Billig of Spokane announced Thursday that he would run for Brown’s seat, and she immediately endorsed him.
Spokane voters first elected Brown to the state House in 1992, and she joined the Senate in 1996. In 1993, she touched off a minor debate about working motherhood when she brought her then-toddler son, Lucas, onto the House floor during an evening session when her day care center closed.