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Legislature honors Booth Gardner

Cadet honor guard carries the state flag to the Senate rostrum during joint session to honor Gardner.

OLYMPIA – With his family in the gallery and flags outside lowered to half-staff, Booth Gardner was eulogized Friday in the Senate chamber where he once served, as a champion of children, education and personal choice . . .

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A special joint legislative session honored Gardner, who died a week ago, with speeches and anecdotes about the former Pierce County executive and state senator who served as Washington’s 19th governor from 1985 to 1993.

As governor, he led campaigns to ban smoking in the workplace, start a Basic Health plan, the Running Start program for high school students to get college credit and the Growth Management Act, legislators recalled. Years out of office, while dealing with Parkinson’s disease, he campaigned for an initiative to allow the terminally ill to receive assistance with suicide.

“He took that pain (of Parkinson’s) and thought about how he could help other people,” said Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, who added Gardner lived an adage made famous by Robert F. Kennedy: “He dreamed of things that never were, and asked ‘Why not?’”

He didn't take a poll before embarking on a project, Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, said. “He believed you did what you did because it was the right thing to do.”

 And he did most of it with a smile, an easy quip or a joke. Rep. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, a former Gardner aide, repeated an ego-deflating story the governor himself liked to tell, of a stop at a Wenatchee burger joint where he asked the teens behind the counter if they knew who he was. They huddled briefly, and came back with an answer, just not the right one.

“You’re Brock Adams,” one said, confusing him with the state’s junior senator at the time.

Because Gardner had a sense of humor, he might have smiled at the fact that some of the legislators in the chamber who were applauding the speeches aren’t huge fans of some of his favorite programs like Growth Management, and some strongly opposed the Death With Dignity initiative. An adept politician, he might have also enjoyed the bit of jockeying for the privilege of making one of those speeches and the fact that House Republicans assigned the job to Rep. Jan Angel, of Port Orchard, who plans to seek Gardner’s old Senate seat, running against Nathan Schlicher, the Democrat appointed to it earlier this year.

A public memorial service is planned for Gardner next Saturday in Tacoma.


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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

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