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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Chopp to step down as speaker after 2019

OLYMPIA – House Speaker Frank Chopp, left, confers with Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, on the edge of the House floor during last year’s special session. Chopp announced Tuesay the 2019 session will be his last as speaker. (Jim Camden / The Spokesman-Review)

OLYMPIA – Frank Chopp, a liberal Seattle Democrat, has been House speaker longer than anyone in state history, but the 2019 session will be his last in the chamber’s top spot.

Chopp, 65, has been speaker since January 2002 and co-speaker for three years before that, when the House was evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. He was named speaker-designate Tuesday by House Democrats, needing only the formality of a vote after the session opens Jan. 14 to stay in the post.

It’s a formality, because Democrats will have a 57-to-41 majority in the new session, after several years when their majority was two seats.

At the end of the year, Chopp will step down from the speaker’s post but remain in the House. Democrats will pick a speaker for the 2020 session to provide what he called “an orderly leadership transition.”

Among the accomplishments Chopp cited that occurred during the time Democrats held the House majority are the Apple Health program, more money for public schools, paid family leave, marriage equality and the Voting Rights Act.

“It’s been an honor to serve as the state’s speaker and to work with so many dedicated legislators on both sides of the aisle,” he said in a news release announcing his decision.

Many of the other House Democratic leaders will return to their positions. Pat Sullivan, of Covington, was re-elected majority leader; Eric Pettigrew, of Seattle, was re-elected caucus chairman; and Marcus Riccelli, of Spokane, was re-elected majority whip. (Editor’s note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated Rep. Pettigrew’s caucus position.)