In this 2019 photo, Washington Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib presides over the Senate at the Capitol in Olympia. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

In this 2019 photo, Washington Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib presides over the Senate at the Capitol in Olympia. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

Washington’s lieutenant governor leaving for the priesthood

Cyrus Habib’s decision to forgo re-election creates a rare opening this year for a statewide office.

OLYMPIA — Washington Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib said Thursday that he is not running for re-election and will join the Jesuit order of the Catholic Church to start the process of becoming a priest.

Within hours, one Democratic state senator from Snohomish County said he will seek the job while another said he is seriously considering it.

Habib, the state’s first blind lieutenant governor, said the decision comes after “two years of careful and prayerful discernment.”

A Democrat who has served in the position since 2017, Habib previously served in the state House and Senate. He said he understood why many constituents and supporters may be surprised and wondering why he “would trade a life of authority for one of obedience.”

“But over the past couple of years, I have felt called to a different vocation, albeit one that is also oriented around service and social justice,” he wrote in a statement in America, a Jesuit magazine.

“I have felt a calling to dedicate my life in a more direct and personal way to serving the marginalized, empowering the vulnerable, healing those who suffer from spiritual wounds and accompanying those discerning their own futures.”

The second highest position in the state, the lieutenant governor is best known as the president of the Senate and presides over that chamber during the legislative sessions, ensuring that protocol is followed and weighing in on parliamentary questions that arise during debate.

Habib’s decision creates a rare opening this year for a statewide office. A crowded field of candidates could quickly form especially among Democrats.

Two Republicans had already begun their campaigns for the office — Joseph Brumbles, who lost to Democratic U.S. Rep. Denny Heck in 2018, and Ann Sattler, who ran unsuccessfully for a Seattle City Council seat in 2019.

On Thursday, state Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, launched his campaign. He ran for the same post in 2016 and lost to Habib in the primary.

Hobbs, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, is midway through his fourth term. He said he’s well-versed with the people, politics and procedures of the chamber.

“I have the experience to wield the gavel, he said.

A moderate, he’s worked with Republicans and business interests on some policies — sometimes too closely for progressive Democrats. The past two sessions, for example, he’s bottled up legislation for a clean fuels standard in the transportation committee.

“We need strong leadership,” he said. “As someone who can work across the aisle to get things done and who is not afraid of political controversy, I’m ready to be that leader.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood, said Thursday he’s “seriously thinking” about running after receiving “a lot of encouraging messages from supporters.”

Liias is the Senate Majority Floor Leader. He ran for state treasurer in 2016 and finished third in the primary.

Senator Marko Liias, D-Mukilteo, seen here in 2017, said he is “seriously thinking” about running for Lt. Governor. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Senator Marko Liias, D-Mukilteo, seen here in 2017, said he is “seriously thinking” about running for Lt. Governor. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

In 2016, when then Democratic lieutenant governor Brad Owen retired, 11 candidates competed in the primary, including three Democratic state senators — Habib, Hobbs and Karen Fraser of Olympia.

Habib won the primary and went on to defeat Republican Marty McLendon.

When Habib joined the House in 2013, he was given a Braille reader and software on his laptop that provided both Braille and text-to-speech translation for the multitude of bills, emails and news stories he reads daily. He was elected to the Senate in 2014, and before he was sworn in as lieutenant governor in January 2017, the Senate underwent a makeover that incorporated Braille into that chamber’s floor sessions.

The desks of 49 senators got upgraded with a system that allows Habib to know by the touch of his finger which lawmaker is seeking to be recognized to speak.

Habib, 38, completely lost his eyesight to cancer at age 8. He went on to become a Rhodes Scholar and an editor of the law review at Yale before becoming an attorney.

Gov. Jay Inslee called Habib’s life and career “an inspiration to many.”

“While the news was unexpected, anyone who knows Cyrus is not surprised by his commitment to faith,” Inslee said in a written statement. “I have no doubt his future in the Jesuit priesthood will bring much good to a world that needs it right now.”

Talk to us

More in Northwest

NO CAPTION. Logo to accompany news of King County.
2 workers killed after trench collapses in Shoreline

The slope was too unstable to recover their bodies Monday so efforts will resume Tuesday.

The Supreme Court in Washington D.C. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Supreme Court limits EPA in curbing power plant emissions

This impacts how the nation’s main anti-air pollution law can be used to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

NO CAPTION. Logo to accompany news of Washington state.
Washington state license plates prices increase July 1

The price of a new plate will rise from $10 to $50, and replacing a lost plate will increase from $10 to $30.

Hundreds gather to listen to a lineup of guest speakers during Snohomish County’s “Bans Off Our Bodies” rally Saturday, May 14, 2022, outside the county courthouse in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade; states can ban abortion

The decision is expected to lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states.

FILE - In this photo provided by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, a crane and boats are anchored next to a collapsed "net pen" used by Cooke Aquaculture Pacific to farm Atlantic Salmon near Cypress Island in Washington state on Aug. 28, 2017, after a failure of the nets allowed tens of thousands of the nonnative fish to escape. A Washington state jury on Wednesday, June 22, 2022, awarded the Lummi Indian tribe $595,000 over the 2017 collapse of the net pen where Atlantic salmon were being raised, an event that elicited fears of damage to wild salmon runs and prompted the Legislature to ban the farming of the nonnative fish. (David Bergvall/Washington State Department of Natural Resources via AP, File)
Jury awards $595,000 to Lummi tribe for salmon pen collapse

The tribe sued, saying the pen owner had not reimbursed the tribal government for its clean up effort.

FILE - Alaska Airlines planes are parked at gates with Mount Rainier in the background at sunrise, on March 1, 2021, at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle. A union has reached a deal Wednesday, June 22, 2022, with Seattle-based Alaska Airlines for a two-year contract extension that provides substantial raises for 5,300 gate agents, stores personnel and office staff, as well as for ramp workers who load cargo. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Alaska Airlines reaches contract deal with some workers

Raises for gate agents, stores personnel, office staff, as well as ramp workers who load cargo.

NO CAPTION. Logo to accompany news of Seattle.
Seattle facing $117 million revenue shortfall in 2023

The city’s budget chief says there’s no easy way to bridge the gap.

A view from the lower undeveloped part of the Flowery Trail neighborhood looking at spots where slash piles have been burned - outside Chewelah, Wash. (Erick Doxey / InvestigateWest)
Growing sprawl in state’s woods comes with high wildfire risk

Policymakers and homeowners are scrambling to manage the so-called “wildland-urban interface” to mitigate the threat.

The kids thought it was milk. It was actually floor sealant

In Juneau, containers of the chemical were stacked on the same pallet as boxes containing pouches of milk.

NO CAPTION. Logo to accompany news of Seattle.
Initiative to change Seattle elections heads toward ballot

The initiative would alter the way Seattle elects mayors, city attorneys and City Council members.

Lynnwood
Lynnwood climber supports first all-Black Mount Everest summit bid

Fred Campbell was part of the historic expedition, but got sick and had to turn back before the submit.