Zarelli to step down after 17 years as 18th District state senator
OLYMPIA… Sen. Joseph Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, has decided not to seek re-election to the state Senate.
“As the Bible tells us ‘to every thing there is a season.’ It’s time for my season as a senator to end,” Zarelli said. “I will move forward with no regrets, only a lot of fond memories, many strong friendships and the hope that I’ve left state government better than how I found it.”
Zarelli said he will give up the 18th Legislative District position feeling optimistic that the incoming Legislature and governor will continue to build on the reforms he and other Senate Republicans have advocated in an effort to “reset” state government.
The Navy veteran and small-business owner, who became a senator in 1995 and won election to his first full term the following year, would not speculate about whether he will find himself in some other state government-related position down the road.
“The past few years in particular have been wearing, although they’ve also been rewarding. I will wind up 17 years in the Senate without having accomplished every single thing that was on my list, but at the same time, I’m not leaving just so I can sign up for something else.”
Zarelli had been known mostly for being Senate Republican budget leader since 2004, for spearheading the 2008 constitutional amendment that created the state’s rainy-day fund, and for a periodic and well-read series of policy papers he called “Budget Tidbits”.
Then, two years ago, his reputation for proposing thoughtful government reforms grew through the Senate Republican “Reset Washington” campaign. In 2011, Zarelli and the Senate Democratic budget leader, Sen. Ed Murray of Seattle, set a precedent by working in concert to produce the first truly bipartisan budget to be passed by the Senate. Last year Zarelli proposed another successful constitutional amendment, to save excess state revenue in the rainy-day fund.
Zarelli’s work to reform state-government policies and spending reached new heights this year. He was among the leaders of the Senate Republican “reform before revenues” approach and, in early March, of a bipartisan coalition that dramatically formed in the Senate to adopt a reform-laden budget package.
He became the driving Senate Republican force behind lawmakers’ passage in April of three landmark reforms: one that will reduce the cost of public pensions, another aimed at making health coverage more affordable for K-12 education employees and a third requiring the state’s budget to be balanced across four years instead of two.
“A lot of work is still needed to get the state’s finances under control, but I think we opened the door this year in a way that will bring more progress next year. I’m satisfied to leave with that,” Zarelli said.
Shortly after the 5 p.m. deadline to file for office passed Friday, State Sen. Joe Zarelli issued a news release announcing his plans to step down after 17 years representing the 18th District.
Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, has been the Senate Republicans’ budget leader since 2004.
“As the Bible tells us, ‘To every thing there is a season.’ It’s time for my season as a senator to end,” Zarelli said. “I will move forward with no regrets, only a lot of fond memories, many strong friendships and the hope that I’ve left state government better than how I found it.”
Zarelli, a business consultant, said Friday that the time off will give him a chance to support his wife’s endeavors and devote more time to his firm, JP Zarelli Inc.: “There’s no reason I’m leaving other than I think it’s a good time to leave.”
He said he plans to “see where life takes me next.”
Zarelli took office in 1995, and he said he’s noticed that he’s matured as a legislator.
He also gained “an understanding of how government works, which is kind of like a slug most of the time — and for good reason,” he said. “If things happen too quickly, you’re always fixing things.”
Zarelli said he’s especially happy with the fiscal reforms passed by the Legislature during the past few years.
In the aftermath of Zarelli’s decision, State Rep. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, filed for the 18th District Senate seat. Ralph Schmidt of Camas, a Democrat, also filed.
Vancouver resident Brandon Vick, chairman of the Clark County GOP, and Battle Ground City Councilor Adrian Cortes, also a Republican, filed for Rivers’ Position 1 House seat.
Outside of the 18th District shake-up, another Friday surprise was the fact that Clark County Commissioner Tom Mielke drew a fourth opponent. This time, the opponent comes from within the Republican party and county government: Darren Wertz, the clerk to the Clark County Board of Equalization, who is in his second term as a Ridgefield city councilor.
Also Friday, U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler drew a second opponent, Norma Jean Stevens of Ocean Park. Stevens, an independent, ran for Congress in 2010. Vancouver Democrat Jon Haugen filed earlier in the week.
In the 49th District, Debbie Peterson, a Vancouver Republican who ran unsuccessfully in 2008, filed to run against state Rep. Sharon Wylie, D-Vancouver.
An open seat on the Clark Public Utilities Board of Commissioners drew the most interest this week, with seven people filing to replace Carol Curtis, who opted not to seek re-election.
Commissioners earn $1,800 a month, and receive $104 a day while on utility business. The maximum amount of pay a commissioner may receive annually is $36,160. Not bad for part-time work, especially considering commissioners also receive the insurance benefits the utility provides its employees, including medical, dental and vision coverage.
The candidates: Jim Malinowski, Julia Anderson, Philip Parker, Helen Nowlin, Jim West, Sherry Erickson and David Campos.
All ten Clark County Superior Court judges will be on the ballot this fall, but only two of them drew opponents. David Gregerson filed to run against Judge John Wulle; Josephine Townsend filed to run against Judge Diane Woolard. Judges Dan Stahnke, John Nichols, Greg Gonzales, Rich Melnick, Barbara Johnson, James Rulli, Robert Lewis and Scott Collier will be unopposed.
State Sen. Craig Pridemore, D-Vancouver faces three challengers in his bid to become state auditor: James Watkins, R-Kirkland; state Rep. Troy Kelley, D-Tacoma; and state Rep. Mark Miloscia, D-Federal Way.
Auditor Brian Sonntag decided not to seek another term.
In the 17th Legislative District, state Rep. Tim Probst, D-Vancouver, opted to challenge Republican state Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver.
Competing for Probst’s Position 1 seat: Democrat Monica Stonier and Republicans Julie Olson and Matthew Homola, all of Vancouver.
State Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, will face Democrat Jim Gizzi of Vancouver to keep his Position 2 seat.
In the 49th District, Democrat Annette Cleveland and Republican Eileen Qutub will compete for Pridemore’s Senate seat, and Republican Carolyn Crain filed to run against state Rep. Jim Moeller.
In the 18th District, the Position 2 seat — which opened up after State Rep. Ed Orcutt was redistricted out — will be filled by either Republican Liz Pike of Camas, Democrat David Shehorn of Vancouver or Democrat Ryan Gompertz of Camas.
In the 20th District, Orcutt, R-Kalama, is running against Republican John Morgan of Rochester.
Two of three Clark County commissioners are up for re-election, and candidates will run districtwide in the primary. The top two vote-getters in the Aug. 7 primary will run countywide in the Nov. 6 general election. Mielke, a Republican who lives in the Battle Ground area and represents District 1, faces competition from Wertz, Democrats Joe Tanner of Ridgefield and Ron Barca of Battle Ground and Bob Freund of Battle Ground, an independent.
Commissioner Marc Boldt of Hockinson drew three challengers who want to represent District 2: former Vancouver City Councilor Pat Campbell, an independent, Republican David Madore and Democrat Roman Battan.
To see a list of people who filed for 222 Republican and Democratic precinct committee officer positions, go to http://clarkvotes.org.