Stevens announces retirement, Pearson plans to run for her seat

OLYMPIA — March 29 marked a changing of the guard in more ways than one, as 16-year Republican state Sen. Val Stevens of Arlington announced her retirement, and 12-year state Rep. Kirk Pearson of Monroe announced his own plans to run for Stevens' open seat in the 39th Legislative District.

Stevens was first elected to the House of Representatives 20 years ago, and then elected to the state Senate in 1996, so Pearson's move is not without precedent in the history of that seat.

Stevens has served parts of rural Snohomish, Skagit, Whatcom and King counties in the 39th Legislative District, in addition to serving on a number of Senate committees, notably the Senate Human Services and Corrections Committee. She cited the policies that she's worked on to regulate the safety of children and to help keep them in their homes, even when their parents may have needed guidance, to maintain the family structure.

"Two decades in the Legislature has given me the opportunity to work with many wonderful people and to be their voice when they needed help navigating the burdensome morass of government regulations," Stevens said. "Families are the building block of society, and that is why I have devoted my legislative career to family law, while understanding that stability builds strength within the family, and that the purpose of government is the protection of their freedom to enjoy the fruits of their labor."

Stevens had not raised any money for a re-election campaign in the fall, and while she'd previously promised to announce her plans at the end of the regular session, she delayed that announcement until the end of the special session. Pearson had already been aware of Stevens' plans, but delayed his own announcement as a courtesy to her, and assured her supporters that he'd received her permission to run for her open seat.

"I have loved making time for my constituents and hearing their thoughts about what we could do to make the district and this state a better place in which to live," Stevens said. "Looking forward, this is now the time to step aside and dedicate my undivided attention to my family and grandchildren."

Pearson was effusive in his praise for Stevens, describing her as "a strong voice for our community," one whom he credited with championing responsible budgets and lower taxes. He noted that, while a switch from the House to the Senate would mean working with new colleagues in the Legislature, he would continue to serve many of the same local constituents.

"I think I could be a stronger voice in the Senate than I've been able to be in the House, not in the least because there are fewer members," said Pearson, who currently serves as the ranking Republican on the House Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Committee. "Just this past year, I've pushed a number of bills in the House that haven't gotten through."

At the same time, Pearson pledged to his own supporters that the causes he's championed in the House, from public safety to credit card rate caps, would continue in the Senate.

"Good legislation takes time," Pearson said. "I'm still going to focus on protecting our most vulnerable citizens."

If elected to the Senate, Pearson also plans to prioritize jumpstarting the economy by creating living wage jobs.

"I believe this starts by creating an environment friendly to job creation, and extends to building great schools and investing in our communities," said Pearson, who also criticized state government spending that he blamed for bringing about defects and cuts to critical services. "Right now, our communities can't afford higher taxes and wasteful spending. We must do more with less, as families all across our district are doing."

Democrat Eleanor Walters, who had run unsuccessfully for Rep. Dan Kristiansen's seat representing the 39th Legislative District two years ago, had already filed to run against Stevens for her Senate seat. On April 4, Monroe Mayor Robert Zimmerman officially announced his own intentions of running for the empty seat.

Stevens will continue to serve during the special session and through the remainder of her term. Her successor will be sworn in on the first day of the 2013 legislative session, in early January.

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