OLYMPIA – Republican state Rep. Mike Hope resigned Thursday after it was revealed he’s been registered to vote in two states, Washington and Ohio, since last summer.
Hope informed Gov. Jay Inslee in a one-paragraph letter that makes no mention of the circumstances prompting his exit.
“It has been an honor to serve in the Washington State House of Representatives. It has also been an honor to serve during your term,” he wrote. “However, I can no longer serve the remainder of my legislative term.”
His decision creates a vacancy which Republicans might be able to fill, even briefly, before the November election. Hope, who was not seeking re-election, planned to retire at the end of his term. He had endorsed Republican Mark Harmsworth for the job.
Wednesday night, Hope emailed Barbara Baker, chief clerk of the House of Representatives, informing her he intended to step down. But he did not provide a date.
The two had been talking because a Snohomish County resident had contacted Baker alleging the now ex-lawmaker had become a voter and maybe a resident of Ohio.
It was true. Hope, who last lived in Mill Creek, became a registered voter in Lake County, Ohio, in August 2013 through the state’s motor-voter law. He doesn’t recall doing it and has never voted there.
“I had no idea that I was ever registered somewhere else,” he said. “I had no clue that’s what I did.”
Hope is an Ohio native and his mother lives in the state. He said Thursday morning that he intended to settle there when he completes training for a career in financial services.
If Hope had not resigned, he could have been forced out by state and county election officials who were considering the process for canceling his registration.
State law requires an elected official remain a registered voter in the district or jurisdiction that they serve. If they are not a registered voter, they are immediately removed from office.
Hope is still legally registered to vote in the 44th Legislative District that he’s served since 2008. However, he’s been on inactive status since last year.
In the meantime, Hope could be pressed to reimburse the state for the money he’s earned as a state lawmaker since he registered in Ohio.
Deputy Chief Clerk Bernard Dean said Thursday that House lawyers and the state Attorney General’s Office have been asked to determine whether Hope became an unqualified lawmaker when he registered in Ohio and, if so, what actions can be taken in response.
The wheels started churning this week when Mark Hintz, a Democratic activist in Snohomish County, contacted Baker’s office about Hope’s status as a voter.
Hintz said there should be consequences.
“I think we did get duped by him and should have to pay it back,” he said. “He sold his house, registered in Ohio and continued to take taxpayers’ money to represent people in Washington while living in Ohio. That’s unconscionable.”
Hintz, who is chairman of the 44th Legislative District Democrats, said the vacant seat should not be filled before November.
Hope announced in December that he would not seek a fourth term representing the 44th Legislative District, which includes Mill Creek, Lake Stevens and Snohomish.
A former Seattle police officer, he now works as a financial adviser with Morgan Stanley. He’s in the midst of a three-year training program that has him traveling to Ohio and New York.
He said he does not have a permanent residence in Snohomish County. When in Washington, he said, he stays with a brother in Snohomish.
Hope entered office by ousting Rep. Liz Loomis, D-Snohomish, in 2008 in an election decided by a hand recount. He won re-election by comfortable margins in 2010 and 2012. In between, in 2011, he ran for Snohomish County executive and lost.
A political moderate, he was the lone Republican supporter of a bill to require background checks on most private sales of handguns in 2013. A year earlier, following the murder of four Lakewood police officers, he sponsored the constitutional amendment passed by voters giving judges discretion to limit bail for the most dangerous repeat criminals.
When the House paid him tribute earlier this year, however, they didn’t focus on legislative accomplishments. Rather they chided the muscular Hope for his acting aspirations and beefcake photos posted on his IMDB site.
Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; firstname.lastname@example.org