Washington House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, file)

Washington House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, file)

House Speaker Frank Chopp to step down as leader next spring

He is the longest-serving speaker in Washington and the second longest-serving state speaker in the U.S.

By Rachel La Corte / Associated Press

OLYMPIA — Longtime Washington state House Speaker Frank Chopp announced Tuesday that he will step down from his leadership post next spring, but will continue to serve in the chamber.

The Seattle Democrat is the longest longest-serving speaker of the House. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Chopp is the second longest-serving House speaker in the nation, second only to Speaker Michael Madigan in Illinois.

In a statement Chopp said that it was “time to step aside so that I can focus more energy on the issues that matter most and are priorities for the caucus.”

He cited work he was proud of during his time as speaker, including the passage of paid family leave and money allocated for affordable housing programs.

“It’s been an honor to serve as the state’s Speaker and to work with so many dedicated legislators on both sides of the aisle,” Chopp wrote.

A new speaker will be chosen by the caucus and voted on by the full chamber sometime before the end of the 105-day legislative session that begins in January, spokesman Jim Richards said.

Chopp, 65, was first elected to the House in 1994. He became minority leader in his second term. After Democrats won more seats in the chamber and pulled into a tie, he became co-speaker, sharing the gavel with Republican Clyde Ballard of East Wenatchee. Democrats won a special election in 2001, and Chopp was installed as speaker.

While Chopp had a narrow majority when he first started as sole speaker, he saw his majority increase dramatically over the next several years, until it reached its high mark of 63 seats in 2008. But he saw his party’s advantage in the chamber dwindle in following elections, so much so that this past year his majority matched the one he first oversaw as sole speaker: 50-48.

His decision to step aside comes after an election cycle that increased the Democratic majority in the House by seven seats.

Chopp won his own November re-election bid to the 43rd District in Seattle with 89 percent of the vote. The district, among the most liberal in Washington, takes in Capitol Hill, the University District and Wallingford.

Over the past decade, the only race in which Chopp captured less than 80 percent of the vote was in 2012, when he beat socialist Kshama Sawant — now a member of the Seattle City Council — with 71 percent of the vote.

Rep. J.T. Wilcox, the Republican leader in the House, said Chopp was a “historic figure.”

“I’ve learned a lot from watching him,” Wilcox said. “One of the things I admire about Frank is that he is kind of the last link to the Democratic party that really represented people clear across the state. He was concerned about looking at things statewide.”

Talk to us

More in Northwest

Feds scrap plans to reintroduce grizzlies to North Cascades

An environmental group was disappointed by the decision but did not think it was the final word on the bears.

Mary Kay Letourneau, teacher jailed for raping student, dies

After prison, the Seattle teacher married her former student and they raised two daughters together.

Driver who hit protesters on I-5 charged with 3 felonies

Dawit Kelete, 27, is accused of vehicular homicide, vehicular assault and reckless driving.

11-year-old boy in Yakima shot twice in three days

The second time, his 9-year-old sister was also shot. Both survived.

Siberia wildfire smoke reaches Southcentral Alaska, islands

The wildfire smoke also has been reported in western Oregon and Canada.

3rd victim recovered from plane crash over Lake Coeur d’Alene

2 more bodies have been located at the bottom of the lake. 3 others are still missing.

Two die during Fourth of July celebrations in Skagit County

In one case, a kayaker was hit in the chest by a firework he ignited and fell into the water.

Seattle City Council approves new tax on big business

The council voted 7-2 on the measure, which is expected to raise more than $200 million per year.

$1.2 million bail for driver that hit 2 Seattle protesters

The Seattle man was the owner of the Jaguar and was alone in the car, according to a Washington State Patrol.

Most Read