OLYMPIA — House Minority Leader Rep. Dan Kristiansen, of Snohomish, announced Tuesday he will not seek re-election this fall.
Kristiansen won his seat in the 39th Legislative District in 2002 and has led the Republican caucus since April 2013, during which time he’s built its ranks to a near majority of 48 members. He said he will complete his term.
Kristiansen told his caucus Tuesday afternoon and said in an interview that he anticipates a new minority leader will be chosen before the session is scheduled to end Thursday.
He insisted nothing is driving him to leave the Legislature other than he’s ready for a new challenge.
“It was just time,” he said. “It’s been something I’ve been considering for quite a while. I’d rather leave on my terms.”
Kristiansen, 55, first ran in 2000 and lost to then Democratic Rep. Hans Dunshee. Two years later, the tall and lanky conservative won an open seat in the district, a sprawling Republican-friendly legislative territory encompassing swaths of Snohomish and Skagit counties and a sliver of King County.
He’s been re-elected seven times and would have easily won again this fall.
A long career for a guy who said he got talked into politics by two well-known Republican elected officials, Val Stevens and John Koster.
“I never wanted to be a legislator,” he said. “I got into the Legislature with no agenda other than to best serve the public I represent.”
For the past 14 years, he said, he’s held a position in caucus leadership. He was serving as caucus chairman in the 2013 session when Richard DeBolt stepped down as minority leader.
At that time, Kristiansen said he was contemplating retiring from office when his term ended. But when 40 of the other 42 members of the caucus asked him to take the helm his family said it was an opportunity he should not pass up.
“I’ve been thrilled to serve in this capacity,” he said.
Though he’s served his entire career in the minority, he played a key role the past five years as a mediating voice between the Republican-led coalition in the Senate and the Democrat majority in the House.
In the 2013 session, his colleagues joked that his office served as a neutral space, like Switzerland, for sometimes arduous negotiations.
On Tuesday, House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, issued a statement saying, “I’ve enjoyed working with Dan. We have had our policy differences over the years, but we’ve always managed to work together to solve important issues affecting the state. I wish him the best in his future endeavors.”
And Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-University Place, reacted on Twitter, saying, “Loss of a fine public servant whose led the House Republican Caucus well.”
Kristiansen is the latest Republican House member to pass on re-election. Prior to Tuesday, GOP Reps. Melanie Stambaugh of Puyallup, Jay Rodne of Snoqualmie, Terry Nealey of Dayton, Larry Haler of Richland and Liz Pike of Camas had indicated they would not be running again.
Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@herald net.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.
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