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This longtime Tri-City legislator won’t seek re-election

State Rep. Larry Haler, left, talks with employees including Bob Dutton, general counsel, as Energy Northwest marked the 30th anniversary of Columbia Generating Station in this 2014 photo.
State Rep. Larry Haler, left, talks with employees including Bob Dutton, general counsel, as Energy Northwest marked the 30th anniversary of Columbia Generating Station in this 2014 photo. Herald file

Longtime Tri-City Rep. Larry Haler won’t seek re-election to his state House seat.

The Richland Republican, who’s represented the 8th Legislative District for 14 years, made the announcement Tuesday.

“It’s been an honor to serve the Tri-Cities region and the citizens of the 8th Legislative District,” he said in a statement. “There are many ways to give back and serve the communities we value. I consider myself extremely blessed to have served for so long in this capacity. However, it is time for someone else to step forward and bring fresh ideas, new energy and a unique perspective to the state House of Representatives.”

In his announcement, Haler, 67, didn’t expand on the reasons behind his decision and he couldn’t be reached by the Herald for an interview.

The lawmaker isn’t stepping down right away. He will finish his current term, which expires at the end of the year.

haler mug
Larry Haler

​Bill Berkman, chairman of the Benton County Republican Party, said he’s disappointed Haler isn’t running again.

“But a book has chapters, and there’s a reason that it has chapters. We wish him the very best of success in the next chapter,” Berkman said.

He said the community has benefited from Haler’s years of hard work in Olympia.

“Throughout his time (in the Legislature), Larry’s quiet demeanor but absolute commitment has served us well,” he said. “We’re lucky to have had him.”

In the House, Haler has championed topics from education to health care. He’s also known as an expert on Hanford, drawing on his years of experience working at the site.

I consider myself extremely blessed to have served for so long in this capacity. However, it is time for someone else to step forward and bring fresh ideas, new energy and a unique perspective to the state House of Representatives.

Rep. Larry Haler

He celebrated a recent victory in the passage of House Bill 1723, which will make it easier for Hanford workers to claim certain conditions under the state's industrial insurance program.

The bill, sponsored by Haler, is awaiting Gov. Jay Inslee’s signature.

Haler’s other legislative successes have ranged from a bill addressing the primary care shortage in rural and underserved areas by helping to expand medical residencies, to legislation making it illegal for school workers to have sex with students up to 21 years old.

That bill, which closed a legal loophole, came after a sexual misconduct charge against a former Richland teacher was dismissed because the student was 18.

haler voting forum
State Rep. Larry Haler, R-Richland, left, and attorney Fran Forgette, a regent for Washington State University, attend a WSU Tri-Cities student voting. The forum in this 2011 photo. Herald file

“I always tried to favor the average citizen over the media’s perception, the desires of other elected officials or the wants of special interests,” Haler said in his statement. “I’ve taken some shots over the years for this. And that’s OK, it’s part of the job. But I want the citizens in the 8th District to know that it was their voices that I listened to. They are the reason I wanted to serve in the state Legislature in the first place.”

Working for those citizens “has been the privilege of a lifetime,” he said.

He’s drawn some criticism, too.

Just this session, he sponsored a nepotism bill that would have barred candidates from running for public office if they have a near relative in the same agency. The proposal drew the ire of Benton County Commissioner Jerome Delvin and his wife, Josie, the elected Benton County clerk, as well as Benton County's father-son assessor and treasurer, Bill Spencer and Ken Spencer.

And at the start of the session in January, a bill that would have stripped away the power of voters to OK or reject sales tax increases for things like a performing arts or convention centers also was sharply criticized by some Tri-City officials.

I always tried to favor the average citizen over the media’s perception, the desires of other elected officials or the wants of special interests. I’ve taken some shots over the years for this. And that’s OK, it’s part of the job.

Rep. Larry Haler

Haler had a long career in local politics before he joined the state House, serving nearly 15 years on the Richland City Council. He was mayor from 1996 to 2000.

Haler left the city council in 2004 to take the House seat.

The lawmaker also logged roughly four decades in the nuclear industry, working in nuclear plant operation, personnel, safety training and community relations.

The 8th Legislative District covers northern Benton County, including Kennewick, Richland and West Richland.

A Kennewick City Council member already has announced his intention to run for Haler’s seat. Matt Boehnke said he’ll file for the post, with a news conference planned next week.

Sara Schilling: 509-582-1529, @SaraTCHerald

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