OLYMPIA – For two longtime Eastern Washington lawmakers, this year’s legislative session was their last.
State Reps. Lynn Schindler and Bob Sump, two outspoken conservatives, will retire at the end of the year.
Sump, a native Texan who lives in Republic, plans to become a pastor. Schindler, a mother of 10, says she wants to spend more time with her husband and family.
Both drew praise from their colleagues last week as they got ready to press their voting buttons for the last time. Several candidates are vying for the open seats.
The two served during some difficult years for the Legislature. There was a clunky three-year tie between House Democrats and Republicans. An earthquake drove lawmakers from the capitol in 2001 and into cramped, hot quarters in a temporary building erected atop a capitol parking lot.
“It’s bittersweet,” Schindler said last week as lawmakers wrapped up the 2008 session. “There are an awful lot of people here who want to do the right thing.”
Elected in 1998, Schindler represents the 4th Legislative District, an eastern Spokane County district that includes Spokane Valley, Millwood, Trentwood, Liberty Lake and the area around Mount Spokane, up to the Pend Oreille county line. Schindler lives in Otis Orchards.
A Milwaukee native, she moved to the Spokane area in 1982. A one-time weather reporter and talk-show host, she and her husband Jim manage commercial and investment properties.
Lawmakers in both parties said they’ll miss Schindler.
“When things get out of hand, Lynn can quiet the room with a look,” said Rep. Doug Ericksen, R-Bellingham.
Schindler gained a reputation as a frequent voice for small business, more money for the North Spokane corridor, and local issues like trying to head off mandatory sewer connection for mobile home parks. Mobile homes are critical affordable housing and should be kept affordable, she argued year after year.
“There’s no one here on the House floor who’s worked harder for their constituents,” said Rep. Geoff Simpson, D-Covington.
She came to Olympia at the start of a highly unusual three-year tie between Democrats and Republicans. Since then, Schindler and her fellow Republicans have been outnumbered and often overruled by the House’s Democratic majority.
“When you’re in the minority, it’s like you’re getting stomped on,” she said. “I won’t miss that.”
But that’s not why she’s leaving, she said. She and her husband are building a home and want to spend more time with each other, their children and nine grandchildren.
Several lawmakers said the decision to step down was difficult for Schindler, who has long enjoyed politics. Some lawmakers announce their retirements with glee, House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt said.
“Lynn came in and was pensive,” said DeBolt, R-Chehalis. “It was hard for her.”
Schindler said she’ll miss the statehouse but that she’s looking forward to not being away from her family for several months a year.
“It’s time,” she said.
Sump, elected in 1996, says he has no second thoughts about stepping down. After working for years to get a bachelor’s degree from Sound Baptist Bible College, he feels a higher calling: the ministry.
“When I’m driving away from Olympia, I won’t be shedding a tear,” the 63-year-old Sump said, “because I know I’ll be doing something I ought to be doing.”
He hopes to become assistant pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Republic.
Sump represents the sprawling 7th District, comprised of Ferry, Stevens, Lincoln and Pend Oreille counties and parts of Spokane and Okanogan counties.
He came to Washington from Texas in 1966 and operated service stations in Olympia. He later became a mining equipment mechanic, a position he held for 26 years. He moved to Eastern Washington in 1988.
A staunch social conservative who often spoke up on rural natural resource issues, Sump said his proudest moment in Olympia was his 1997 vote for the “Defense of Marriage Act,” limiting marriage to a man and a woman. This year, when the GOP wanted someone to speak in opposition to expanding same-sex domestic partnerships, Sump was that person.
Sump drew high praise from lawmakers, including one of the state’s half-dozen openly gay legislators. “I don’t think I’ve ever worked with a more honest man, someone who knows who he is and knows his beliefs,” said Rep. Dave Upthegrove, who is gay. “I also don’t know if I’ve ever met anyone who’s more respectful to people.”
When Sump’s views clashed with fellow Republican Ed Orcutt’s on an issue, the two spoke their peace on the House floor, after which Sump shook Orcutt’s hand.
“That’s a true gentleman,” said Orcutt, R-Kalama, “and I will never forget that.”