Dayton Rep. Terry Nealey has joined a growing list of House Republicans who won’t seek re-election to the Washington State House of Representatives this fall.
The former Columbia County prosecutor and coroner said Tuesday he will not run for a fifth term representing the 16th District. The district extends from Prosser to Pasco to Dayton, following the Washington-Oregon border to the south of Kennewick.
“After a great deal of soul searching, I have decided it is best to retire from the Legislature at the end of my term in January and spend more time with my family,” said Nealey, who was first elected in 2009.
Nealey’s decision set off speculation about who might run for the open seat in both Republican and Democratic circles.
As of Tuesday afternoon, though, no one had stepped forward with an official announcement.
Key dates for the forthcoming election include May 14-18 (filing week), Aug. 7 (primary) and Nov. 6 (general election).
Sen. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla, praised her district-mate as a man of “tremendous integrity.”
“He is focused on family and the joy in his face is obvious when he talks about his grandkids. He has endured much adversity in the time he has served and though his decision to step down saddens me greatly, it also shows that he has his priorities in order,” she said during a break in Senate proceedings in Olympia.
Nealey is the second Mid-Columbia Republican who plans to leave office this year. Last week, Rep. Larry Haler of Richland said he will not seek a new term representing the 8th District last week.
Kennewick City Councilman Matt Boehnke is running for Haler’s spot. Richland City Councilman Phillip Lemley plans to run against Rep. Brad Klippert for the other 8th District House seat.
Washington House Democrats says it knows of no members who have said they won’t seek re-election.
Nealey called it an honor and an adventure to serve in the House.
He said he first considered running for office out of frustration with the state’s operating budget and his belief it was not putting money into reserves during economic boom times.
“I knew this state could do a better job managing the budget,” he said, praising the $1.8 billion rainy day fund and the billions the Legislature has redirected to K-12 education to comply with the state Supreme Court’s McCleary ruling.
In 2017, he served on the House Appropriations Committee during the McCleary funding negotiations.
Nealey was named the ranking Republican on the House Finance Committee in 2012 and joined the Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council as the House Republican representative.
He has also focused on energy, water and agricultural issues.
“Between the budget, energy policies and bringing a perspective to Olympia from the standpoint of a rural attorney and businessman, I hope I’ve been able to make a positive difference for the district,” he said.