Sen. Pearson of Monroe resigns to join Trump administration

The Republican legislator and staunch supporter helped bring a campaigning Trump to Everett in 2016.

Republican state Sen. Kirk Pearson of Monroe.

Republican state Sen. Kirk Pearson of Monroe.

OLYMPIA — Republican state Sen. Kirk Pearson of Monroe is resigning from the Legislature this week to take a job in the administration of President Donald Trump.

Pearson, a state lawmaker in the 39th Legislative District since 2000, has been chosen to be state director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development office. His first day is next Monday.

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the appointment in a news release Friday.

For Pearson, it means joining Trump, the candidate for whom he strenuously campaigned in 2016. Pearson had a hand in steering Trump to Xfinity Arena in Everett for an August rally that drew nearly 10,000 people.

“The Trump train is coming through Everett,” he exclaimed at the time. “All aboard.”

Now he’s on board, heading an office which provides federal financial aid and technical assistance to rural communities.

The USDA Rural Development provides loans to businesses through banks, credit unions and community-managed lending pools, according to its website. The agency also offers technical assistance to agricultural producers and cooperatives, and communities.

Pearson is the second ex-lawmaker from Washington to join the Department of Agriculture. Brian Dansel, former Republican state senator, resigned in January to take a job as special assistant to Perdue. On Friday, Dansel was named state director for the USDA Farm Service Agency.

“These state directors will help ensure that USDA is offering the best customer service to our farmers, ranchers, foresters and agricultural producers across the country,” Perdue said in the release. “Our goal is to help rural America prosper, and these state leaders will be of great assistance in that task.”

Pearson, a staunchly conservative Republican, is well-liked because of his kind and quiet manner. He’s toed his party’s line in a 17-year career but was never the instigator of partisan brawling that’s become a hallmark of a divided Legislature.

He is currently chairman of the Senate Natural Resources & Parks Committee and a member of the powerful Rules Committee. He also serves on the Agriculture, Water, Trade and Economic Development Committee.

Pearson won a House seat in 2000, defeating Democrat Liz Loomis by 298 votes. He was re-elected five times before winning the state Senate seat in 2012. He ran unopposed for a second term in 2016.

He will leave office with three years remaining in his term. The sprawling rural district encompasses portions of Snohomish and Skagit counties and a slice of King County. The person chosen to succeed him will serve through the 2018 election.

Because the district takes in parts of three counties, the elected council members and commissioners in all of them will have a say in who is appointed.

Pearson’s departure means a Republican-led coalition in the Senate will have 24 members, the same number as Democrats. That tie is only temporary until a Republican is appointed to fill the seat.

Also, the balance of power could be shifted by Tuesday’s special election for an open seat in the 45th Legislative District in east King County. If the Republican candidate wins, the GOP will retain power and if the Democratic candidate wins it will give the Democratic caucus a majority of 25 members.

This is the second time this year a Republican in the 39th Legislative District has left the Legislature for a government job. John Koster resigned from the state House this summer and now leads a small state agency.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield @herald Twitter: @dospueblos.

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