State senator for part of Tri-Cities won’t run again. Others are eyeing her seat

Sen. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla, will not be running for re-election next year, she said on Thursday.

She became a state representative in the Legislature in 2005, taking the seat of Rep. Dave Mastin after serving as his legislative assistant since 1993. She won election to the Senate in 2016.

“It’s been a long, wonderful career,” she said. “But sometimes you have to say it is enough.”

She will finish her term, which ends in January 2021.

In anticipation of the announcement that she would not run for another term, there is already interest in her legislative seat.

Rep. Bill Jenkin, R-Prosser, said on Friday that he planned to run for the 16th Legislative District seat in the Senate next year after serving two terms in the House.

The Walla Walla Union Bulletin also reports that Perry Dozier, a Republican and former Walla Walla County commissioner, plans to run.

After Walsh. 58, leaves the Legislature, she will see what opportunities present themselves and also wants to do some traveling with her life partner, she said.

Sen. Maureen Walsh Washington State Legislative Support Services

She sees her legacy as being able to reach across the aisle to do what’s right for the state and her district.

She has been “more interested in rolling up my sleeves and focusing on policy than on the partisan back-and-forth,” she said.

Walsh’s speeches went viral

She thought she was committing political suicide in 2012 when she gave a heartfelt speech in support of legalizing same-sex marriage and voted her conscience.

The video of the speech went viral on the internet and continues to be shared by those who agree with her.

She talked about the bond she shared with her late husband and her desire for all couples to be able to experience that kind of connection. She also spoke about her love for her gay daughter and her wish to someday throw her a wedding.

A comment she made in 2019 also went viral, but without the same positive results.

She said that nurses in small, rural hospitals had time to play cards, as she argued to exclude hospitals that have less than 25 beds from some legislation for uninterrupted breaks and mandatory overtime.

Angry nurses across the nation flooded the Capitol’s mail room with packages of playing cards.

She still thinks excluding small hospitals like Dayton General Hospital would have been the wise choice.

Among the work she’s proudest of is her instrumental role in establishing the state’s Department of Early Learning, which she later advocated to become part of the new Department of Children, Youth and Families.

The goal is to get families the help they need early and help prevent problems.

Senior staff writer Annette Cary covers Hanford, energy, the environment, science and health for the Tri-City Herald. She’s been a news reporter for more than 30 years in the Pacific Northwest.