By WARREN CORNWALL
Just weeks after winning a fourth term for the state House, Mukilteo lawmaker Renee Radcliff announced her resignation from the Legislature Thursday.
The move opens the door for local Republicans to select a slate of replacements, with the final choice made by the Snohomish County Council. Had Radcliff, a Republican, resigned earlier, the party could have been forced to find a replacement to run in the election.
The 41-year-old businesswoman and former president of the Everett Area Chamber of Commerce offered few details about why she was stepping down, saying in a news release only that "unfortunately, a number of very important personal circumstances have arisen that require my full attention."
Republican lawmakers close to Radcliff were tight-lipped about what was behind her decision, saying they would leave that explanation to her. Radcliff could not be reached for comment.
Her letter suggested she had decided to resign before she was re-elected Nov. 7.
"Toward the end of October, it became apparent that due to some very pressing issues in my life, I would not be able to serve in my current capacity," Radcliff wrote in a resignation letter to Gov. Gary Locke.
Radcliff’s resignation takes effect Jan. 10.
In mid-October, Radcliff resigned her post at the Chamber of Commerce, saying she had other job opportunities.
Kent Hanson, chairman of the Snohomish County Democrats, wondered whether the timing of Radcliff’s announcement was designed to avoid risking the loss of a seat in the election. The House is evenly split with both parties.
But if it was, he wasn’t troubled by it.
"I don’t have any terribly bad feelings. It’s a method both parties have used in the past," he said.
In Olympia, Radcliff earned a reputation as a thoughtful lawmaker able to reach across party lines in a closely divided Legislature. She held a spot on the eight-member leadership team in the House Republican Caucus, as caucus vice chair. And she established herself as an active lawmaker on issues such as transportation.
"I’m certainly going to miss her … and I think it’s a loss for the state and the institution," said Dave Mastin, R-Walla Walla, who worked with Radcliff on the caucus leadership team. "She was the classic kind of legislator. She was a stateswoman."
She will be sorely missed at a time when lawmakers face the challenge of running a House that will likely be evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, said Jerry Miller, chairman of the Snohomish County Republican Party.
"She’s very conciliatory, gets things done. She’s a consensus builder," Miller said.
Her announcement leaves little time for Republicans to field a replacement. The party’s precinct committee officers in her 21st District will forward a list of three possible candidates to the county council, which will then choose the new lawmaker. The seat will then be contested in a primary and general election in 2001.
Miller said he has received numerous inquiries from people interested in the position, but declined to name them. He said the selection of the top three would come some time after a Dec. 13 party meeting.
Democrats already are talking about winning the seat next fall and taking over the majority, state Democratic Chairman Paul Berendt said.