OLYMPIA — Republican state Rep. Mike Hope of Mill Creek won’t seek re-election next year in order to pursue a career as a financial adviser and a life outside of politics.
“While I feel I have been useful and have worked hard for the people of my district, I always knew that I would only serve as a citizen legislator for a time, not forever,” Hope wrote in an email Thursday.
“The time has come for me to move on to other things in my career and in life,” he wrote.
Hope said he will serve the remaining year of his third term then “retire” as representative in the 44th Legislative District, which includes Mill Creek, Lake Stevens and Snohomish.
Mill Creek City Councilman Mark Harmsworth, a Republican, immediately declared his candidacy Thursday for the seat and received Hope’s endorsement.
Hope’s decision ends months of speculating on the 38-year-old lawmaker’s intentions in 2014.
Earlier this year, he talked of running for Snohomish County sheriff. Later, he hinted at possibly challenging state Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens.
But in the summer, after two special sessions of the Legislature, he also said he might get out of politics because he was struggling to find enough hours each day for family, work, legislating and pursuits such as acting.
In those extra sessions, he often was absent and missed dozens of votes. Some absences were due to his work as a Seattle police officer and others because he vacationed with his wife and son.
In August he quit the Seattle Police Department and began a new career as a financial adviser with Morgan Stanley, he said. The new job requires much travel outside the state. He said he intends to be registered to do advising in Washington, Indiana and Ohio.
Hope entered political 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 moderate, he stood out earlier this year as a co-sponsor and lone Republican supporter of a bill to require background checks on most private sales of handguns. Though the bill failed, it is now embodied in a 2014 ballot initiative.
For his efforts, Washington CeaseFire, the state’s largest gun control organization, named Hope its Civic Leader of the Year.
In the email sent Thursday, Hope cited the signing of one of his first bills, Eryk’s Law, as an important step to protecting children. The law bars those convicted of first-degree assault of a child from working or volunteering where they are in charge of children under the age of 13.
The death of four Lakewood police officers was one of his saddest moments, Hope said. That tragedy led him to be a sponsor of the Lakewood Police Officers Memorial Act, a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2010 giving judges the authority to limit bail for the most dangerous repeat criminals.
“I have enjoyed serving my community the past five years,” he said in his announcement. “It has been one of the high points of my life.”
Hope’s departure creates an open seat in a district known for electing Democrats and Republicans.
Harmsworth is the early choice of Republican Party leadership and has received $500 so far from the political arm of the House Republican Caucus.
No Democrat had taken steps to challenge Hope. With an open seat, the Democratic Party is certain to find a candidate to run.
Harmsworth was elected to the Mill Creek City Council in 2007 and re-elected in 2011. This will be his second try for the state Legislature. He lost in 2012 to state Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish.
Harmsworth, 44, and his wife are natives of England. They moved to Washington in 1995 and became citizens about a decade later, he said. The couple has three daughters and has lived in Mill Creek for about 10 years, he said.
He is a principal program manager for Amazon and former principal service engineer for Microsoft Corp. He said he will use what he’s learned in the tech sector to devise fresh approaches for attacking wasteful spending in state government and freeing up funding for education and other public services.
“Here in Washington, we have always led the world in innovation and ideas. Unfortunately, that spirit of innovation has not found its way into state government,” he said. “If Olympia doesn’t change priorities then we will go the way of Europe. I didn’t leave there 20 years ago just to go back to that.”
Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; firstname.lastname@example.org