Pierce County is set to gain some political influence.
State Rep. J.T. Wilcox of Yelm was elected by his colleagues Thursday to be the next Republican Leader in Washington’s House after outgoing Rep. Dan Kristiansen announced his retirement this week.
Kristiansen has been the Minority Leader in the House since April of 2013 but stepped down after announcing Tuesday he would not seek re-election in November.
Wilcox, who lives on his family farm in rural Pierce County, had been the GOP’s Floor Leader. He currently serves on the House’s two fiscal committees.
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Wilcox told reporters on Thursday he is focused on building “a great economy all around the state.”
“We’re super lucky to have a global hot spot in Seattle, and we just want to replicate that elsewhere,” he said.
Wilcox’s election to the top spot in the House comes at a pivotal time for local Republicans. On one hand, the party has 48 members in the House, their highest vote count since 2002. In 2008, they had sunk to a low of 35 members.
On the other hand, Republicans still are down 50-48 and face a 2018 election year in which backlash against President Donald Trump could inspire high turn out from Democratic voters.
Every House seat is up for election in 2018.
Wilcox has been heavily involved in elections already as a member of the leadership team for the House Republican Organizational Committee, the campaign wing of House Republicans.
“Well they always think it’s a blue wave, and I never make predictions,” said Wilcox when asked how he believes November will go.
He added: “I do know that they’re going to try and nationalize every election, and we’re going to try to localize every election.”
Wilcox serves the 2nd Legislative District, which includes parts of Pierce and Thurston counties. In the 2000s, he worked in various top roles for Wilcox Farms, which primarily produces eggs.
He was first elected in 2010.