Ellen Craswell, former legislator who ran for governor, dead at 75

POULSBO — Ellen Craswell, a born-again Christian and conservative Republican stalwart who served in both houses of the Washington Legislature and ran for governor, is dead at 75.

Craswell, an avid mountain climber who scaled Mounts Rainier, Baker and St. Helens, died Saturday evening at Martha &Mary Health Care Center in Poulsbo, where she was fighting her third battle against cancer, relatives told the Kitsap Sun newspaper.

“We’re just happy that she wasn’t in a lot of pain over the last few days,” said Jim Craswell, one of her four sons. “We know she’s celebrating up in heaven right now.”

Craswell, a native of Bothell, served two, two-year terms in the state House in Olympia and three, four-year terms in the state Senate. In 1987, five years after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer, she became the first woman in Washington state history to be chosen Senate president pro tem.

She earned the nickname “Senator No” because of her steadfast opposition to increasing taxes.

In 1996, four years after retiring from the Senate, Craswell won the GOP nomination for governor, focusing her campaign on moral issues and her belief in what she felt was God’s plan for state government. She left politics after losing to Democrat Gary Locke in the general election.

Shortly after that election, she was diagnosed with sarcoma in her leg, but the cancer was declared in remission until last November, when a tumor was discovered wrapped around the carotid artery in her shoulder.

She and her husband, Bruce, a dentist, were active in Breidablik Baptist Church in Poulsbo, where she taught Sunday school to fourth, fifth and sixth graders.

Bruce Craswell was chief of staff to then-King County Executive Ron Dunlap in the early 1980s and ran unsuccessfully for Congress with the American Heritage Party in 1998. His candidacy was a factor in the loss of incumbent Rep. Rick White, a Republican, to Democrat Jay Inslee.

The family is planning a life memorial.

Information from: Kitsap Sun, http://www.kitsapsun.com/

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