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May 18, 2012 at 5:46 PM

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Republican State Sen. Joe Zarelli won't seek re-election

Sen. Joseph Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, the ranking Republican on the Senate Ways and Means Committee, sent out a surprise announcement Friday afternoon that he won't seek re-election.

Zarelli, who spent 17 years in the Legislature, played a lead role in the controversial, but successful GOP effort earlier this year to take control of the Senate budget with the help of three conservative Democrats.

"As the Bible tells us 'to every thing there is a season.' It's time for my season as a senator to end," Zarelli said in a statement. "I will move forward with no regrets, only a lot of fond memories, many strong friendships and the hope that I've left state government better than how I found it."

Zarelli in his statement said "the past few years in particular have been wearing, although they've also been rewarding. I will wind up 17 years in the Senate without having accomplished every single thing that was on my list, but at the same time, I'm not leaving just so I can sign up for something else."

You can read his full statement on the jump.

Zarelli to step down after 17 years as 18th District state senator

OLYMPIA... Sen. Joseph Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, has decided not to seek re-election to the state Senate.

"As the Bible tells us 'to every thing there is a season.' It's time for my season as a senator to end," Zarelli said. "I will move forward with no regrets, only a lot of fond memories, many strong friendships and the hope that I've left state government better than how I found it."

Zarelli said he will give up the 18th Legislative District position feeling optimistic that the incoming Legislature and governor will continue to build on the reforms he and other Senate Republicans have advocated in an effort to "reset" state government.

The Navy veteran and small-business owner, who became a senator in 1995 and won election to his first full term the following year, would not speculate about whether he will find himself in some other state government-related position down the road.

"The past few years in particular have been wearing, although they've also been rewarding. I will wind up 17 years in the Senate without having accomplished every single thing that was on my list, but at the same time, I'm not leaving just so I can sign up for something else."

Zarelli had been known mostly for being Senate Republican budget leader since 2004, for spearheading the 2008 constitutional amendment that created the state's rainy-day fund, and for a periodic and well-read series of policy papers he called "Budget Tidbits".
Then, two years ago, his reputation for proposing thoughtful government reforms grew through the Senate Republican "Reset Washington" campaign. In 2011, Zarelli and the Senate Democratic budget leader, Sen. Ed Murray of Seattle, set a precedent by working in concert to produce the first truly bipartisan budget to be passed by the Senate.

Last year Zarelli proposed another successful constitutional amendment, to save excess state revenue in the rainy-day fund.

Zarelli's work to reform state-government policies and spending reached new heights this year. He was among the leaders of the Senate Republican "reform before revenues" approach and, in early March, of a bipartisan coalition that dramatically formed in the Senate to adopt a reform-laden budget package.

He became the driving Senate Republican force behind lawmakers' passage in April of three landmark reforms: one that will reduce the cost of public pensions, another aimed at making health coverage more affordable for K-12 education employees and a third requiring the state's budget to be balanced across four years instead of two.

"A lot of work is still needed to get the state's finances under control, but I think we opened the door this year in a way that will bring more progress next year. I'm satisfied to leave with that," Zarelli said.


Most Popular Comments
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Good and soon the repuds will all be gone and dems can rest easy. MORE
Good riddance! MORE
He provided a much necessary counterbalance to the taxaholic democrats. He will be... MORE
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