Washington House Elects Its First Female Speaker

Jan 13, 2020

New Washington state House Speaker Laurie Jinkins speaks after her swearing in as her wife listens.
Credit TVW

The Washington legislature opened its 2020 session today [Monday] in Olympia.

House members chose Rep. Laurie Jinkins (D-Tacoma) as their new leader, replacing longtime speaker Frank Chopp. Jinkins is the first woman to serve in that role.

After her swearing in, she talked about the road trip she took last fall to visit nearly every House member in their district. And she vowed to work with her colleagues on problems that affect all families.

“There are emergencies all across the state and one in every community I visited this year was housing and homelessness," she said. "I heard about it from the good member from the 39th in Sultan and from the good member in the Third in Spokane. The good member from the 19th actually drove me through a homeless encampment in Aberdeen. I heard it from many, many others of you too.”

When Jinkins finished, the Republican leader, Representative J.T. Wilcox, stood to thank the new speaker for her ambitious outreach trip. And then he asked the majority Democrats to work with members of his party in good faith.

“These serious conflicts that we have sometimes come from frustration," Wilcox said. "But other times they come because sometimes we have the sense that either we’re not being allowed to express the things that are important to us. We may even feel like the rules are being unfairly used against us. Or we get the sense that somehow we have to create more controversy because people are not listening to us.

Governor Jay Inslee will present his State of the State address to the legislature tomorrow [Tuesday].