Ellen “Lynn” Schindler was a force to be reckoned with in Spokane-area politics, running campaigns, running for office and serving in the Legislature.
Schindler, who died this week at age 74, stuck to her strong Christian conservative values when backing candidates for local, state and national office. She did the same during her 10 years in the Legislature representing the Spokane Valley.
“You never worried or wondered where she was at on an issue,” said Senate Minority Leader Mark Schoesler, who served in the House with Schindler for part of her tenure there. “She was one of the most principled conservatives and principled Christians I ever knew.”
She stuck to those principles without making enemies, former seatmate Larry Crouse, a fellow Republican, recalled.
“She was liked and respected by both sides of the aisle because she was such a nice person and always willing to help,” he said.
Most weekends, when the House wasn’t going to be in session, Crouse said they’d travel back to Spokane together to spend time with their families, alternating who would drive. Schindler and her husband Jim’s 10 children were grown by then but family was still very important to her, he said.
Having such a large family gave her what Schoesler said was a special insight into education issues. Some of her children were home-schooled, some went to public schools, some went to parochial schools.
“She had experience in every area of education,” he said.
She was always smiling, conservatively but immaculately dressed, with never a hair out of place, Schoesler recalled. She served as House Republican whip in her final term in the Legislature.
Sen. Mike Padden, who occupied the House seat before Schindler, said legislative veterans and staffers still sometimes ask him about Schindler, some 10 years after she retired.
As a Republican activist, she worked hard for like-minded candidates even in some long-shot campaigns. She backed one candidate for statewide office in 1992, who narrowly lost the primary to another Republican who lost the general. Sometime between the primary and the general, Schindler and the GOP nominee were at the same event in Spokane, and in a conversation she allowed as how she’d done her darnedest to get his primary opponent elected.
“I recall that your darnedest was pretty darn good,” he replied.
Jim Robinson, a fellow activist, said her values came from her strong Catholic beliefs, but she got along with people of all political stripes.
“She loved everyone in spite of their political beliefs,” he said.
When the Spokane County Republican Party was sharply divided between establishment conservatives and Christian conservatives, Schindler was part of a coalition put together to bring the two factions together. She was county GOP vice chairwoman; George Nethercutt, who would later win the area’s congressional seat, was the chairman. They made the coalition work.
“It was contentious, but probably not as contentious as it is today,” Robinson said.
In 1996, she backed Republican firebrand Pat Buchanan in his run for the presidency. Sen. Bob Dole won the GOP nomination, but Buchanan had enough strength in Washington that the delegates were split between the two candidates. Schindler and Robinson went to the national convention for Buchanan, Nethercutt, by then a congressman, went for Dole.
Before her election to the Legislature in 1998, she was a member of the Spokane Regional Health Board, a president of Spokane Valley Republican Women and a president of Spokane College Women. She was a partner, with her husband, in Schindler Electric Supply Co., and later in managing their commercial and personal investments.
She is survived by her husband of 51 years, Jim Schindler, and nine children. One son, Patrick, died in a car accident in 1995. A funeral Mass is scheduled for 10 a.m. Dec. 13 at Mount St. Michael’s Church, with a rosary at the church at 7 p.m. on Dec. 12.
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