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Originally published Wednesday, April 17, 2013 at 6:14 PM

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Health issues force DeBolt to quit leadership role in House

Longtime House Republican Leader Richard DeBolt stepped down from his leadership post on Wednesday because of ongoing health problems.

Seattle Times Olympia bureau

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OLYMPIA — Longtime House Republican Leader Richard DeBolt stepped down from his leadership post on Wednesday because of ongoing health problems.

“I haven’t been feeling very well lately and I was in the hospital and I looked at my life,” DeBolt, R-Chehalis, said in a brief speech from the rostrum on the House floor. “Two years ago I had some severe health challenges, and now I’m going to face some new challenges. I know I’m going to be fine, but it’s time for me to step aside.”

DeBolt, 47, who was first elected in 1996, said he plans to finish his two-year term in the House. He served a one-year stint as the Republican leader in 2004 and then was elected by his caucus again in 2006 and every year since.

Republicans have been in the minority in the House since 2002 and currently hold 43 seats. Democrats, who control the chamber, hold 55 seats.

DeBolt did not release details on his health problems. Lisa Fenton, chief of staff for the House Republican Caucus, said DeBolt has had various health issues and is taking medication.

“What they are telling him is avoid stress and avoid coffee and the long hours,” said Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, who is now the acting Republican leader in the House. “This place is all about coffee and pizza right now and massive stress. It’s the things he should not be around.”

In a statement, DeBolt said that “two years ago, my doctor recommended that I step down from my position as leader. I didn’t take that advice and should have. Sometimes people take their health for granted and feel invincible, but then they are confronted with reality. That’s where I find myself today.”

Democratic House Speaker Frank Chopp released a statement applauding DeBolt for his service. “I have worked with Richard for many years and have immense admiration for him,” Chopp said.

Andrew Garber: 360-236-8268 or agarber@seattletimes.com

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