Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Civic Elder: Pain and politics (Lois Stratton)

Lois Stratton served as a Washington state legislator for more than a dozen years. 
 (Rajah Bose / The Spokesman-Review)
The Spokesman-Review

Lois Stratton served in the Washington Legislature, first in the House and then in the Senate, from 1979 to 1992. The 3rd District Democrat was known as a conservative maverick, unafraid to buck party lines. Stratton retired from public life after an unsuccessful run for Spokane mayor in 1993. Stratton is 81 and enjoys time with her five children, 10 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. Here are some of her reflections, as told to editorial board member Rebecca Nappi.

“King Cole (Expo ‘74 president) was having a hard time keeping a secretary. My boss at Kaiser said, “I’ve got just the lady for you, and I’ll loan her to you.” My daughter Karen was a senior in high school, and she ran my house. I worked from 8 in the morning to 8 every night. It was the greatest experience of my life.

“I was one of 12 children. I have six sisters living yet. My brothers are all gone. My oldest brother, my mother’s first child, was 18 months old. The county assessor came to the house. The kid ran out behind the horse and was trampled to death. My second brother was killed in a hunting situation. My third brother died in a hunting accident. My fourth brother was killed in an airplane crash. The last brother died of cancer. Those early experiences of grief make you more compassionate.

“I spent one night on the streets of Spokane with street kids. If I had a little daughter like the girl who took me around, I wouldn’t sleep at night. You have to see it and feel it to fight for things.

“My husband, Allen, was on the City Council. Between us we put in 23 years of public service.

“When you first go to the Legislature, they give you this malarkey about “we’ll write a bill for you and help you get re-elected.” I couldn’t support the bills they wrote for me. So I got off to a bad start.

“I got the reputation of working with Republicans. To get anything done for Eastern Washington, I had to. I think we accomplished a lot.

“I had a granddaughter who was 14, and I’d never been to her birthday party because her birthday was in January. I was ready to quit. It was time. I was 65.

“I should never have run for mayor. My heart wasn’t in it. I would have followed Vicki McNeill and Sheri Barnard. I door-belled a little man on North Monroe. He said, “Honey, I followed you through your whole career, but if you were the Virgin Mary, I wouldn’t vote for another woman for mayor.”

“I worked on Hillary’s campaign. Hillary certainly understood the real political world. It’s not a glamorous, lovely, beautiful world. It’s a hardworking, mean, nasty business.

“Believe in what you do. If you believe strongly enough and don’t get carried away with power, you can accomplish plenty.