Politics blog

Sen. Paull Shin retires from state Senate, citing Alzheimer's diagnosis

OlympianJanuary 8, 2014 

Democratic Sen. Paull Shin of Edmonds announced his immediate retirement from the state Senate Tuesday, saying his “recent health problems and a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease make it impossible for me to represent my constituents in the manner they deserve.” Always a kindly and thoughtful presence in the Senate, Shin is the fourth Senate Democrat to leave or announce a plan to retire since the November election.

Shin joined the Senate in 1999 and said in his announcement:

"It is with the deepest regret that I resign from the Senate … I have loved this place and the work we do here on behalf of the people of Washington. Unfortunately, I have determined with the assistance of my family that recent health problems and a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease make it impossible for me to represent my constituents in the manner they deserve.”  

The Everett Herald reported that state Rep. Marko Liias, D-Mukilteo, is likely to be appointed to fill Shin’s position. Liias had been an announced candidate for the 21st district seat after Shin said last year he would not seek another term.

Shin was a unique member of the Senate, having grown up an orphan in Korea and coming to the U.S. as a child adopted by an American soldier. He earned a doctorate in education, taught in the state’s higher-education system for 31 years, and joined the Senate in 1999 where he advocated for higher education, funding for disability programs and foreign trade.

In a letter of resignation sent to Gov. Jay Inslee, Shin also wrote:

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for your help and support over the years. It has been a tremendous privilege to be a member of the State Senate and work with such wonderful colleagues. I am grateful for the camaraderie, the work we accomplished, and the valuable lessons learned. I would also like to thank my wife and children for their love, support, and shared belief in the importance of service. Most of all, I would like to express my thanks to the citizens of the 21st Legislative District, who placed their trust in my stewardship for all of these years; it has been my honor and privilege to serve them for the past 17 years. I look forward to assisting the Senate in making this transition as smooth as possible.

His departure follows that of several Democrats – first with appointed Sen. Nathan Schlicher of Gig Harbor losing the 26th district seat to Republican Rep. Jan. Angel in November’s election. Then Sen. Ed Murray, the Democratic leader, left after winning election as Seattle mayor. Everett Sen. Nick Harper then resigned and soon joined Murray’s staff. Last week, Sen. Adam Kline, a longtime civil rights champion, announced he’ll retire at the end of the year and not seek re-election. 

The Democrats, who after the 2012 election had a majority of 26 seats in the Senate, soon found themselves in the minority last year after two members defected from the caucus and formed a majority coalition with 23 Republicans in January 2013. The coalition now enjoys a 26-23 majority with Angel’s victory.

New Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson of Maury Island put out a statement about Shin, calling him:

“one of the most honorable legislators I have ever had the pleasure to serve with. He has been a valuable member of the Senate and an outstanding advocate for the people of the 21st District and of the Korean-American community throughout our state. Sen. Shin’s story is truly American. With the help of a heroic and empathetic G.I., he overcame a childhood of significant obstacles, arrived in America following the Korean War and served his adopted home with distinction as both a teacher and legislator for many years. This is a tremendous loss for the Senate. We all wish him only the best.”

The Legislature returns to Olympia on Monday for a 60-day session expected to focus on finding a transportation funding plan and passage of a supplemental budget. 


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