By John Larson
State Representative Laurie Jinkins (D-Tacoma) was elected to serve as the next speaker of the House of Representatives in Washington when House Democrats gathered in SeaTac on July 31 to hold the election. Jinkins, who will be the first woman and first open lesbian to serve as speaker of the House in Washington, was elected by her peers among four candidates seeking the position.
Jinkins will immediately receive the title of “speaker-designate” and assume several House leadership responsibilities associated with the role. According to the Washington state constitution, acting Speaker John Lovick (D-Mill Creek) will continue serving as acting speaker until the start of the next legislative session, which convenes on Jan. 13, 2020.
“I first ran for public office because I wanted to make sure all families have the same opportunities for success. Washington continues to rank among the top states to live, work, and do business in large part due to the forward-thinking policies adopted by the Legislature over the last 20 years,” Jinkins said. “We made sure all kids have access to health care regardless of family income. We have some of the best colleges and universities in the nation. And we support families by embracing marriage equality, paid family leave, equal pay, and many other polices. I want every family to have the same opportunities my family has had, and that vision will be the guiding force during my service as speaker.
“I thank my colleagues for their confidence,” she continued. “This will be the most challenging job I will ever have but I am humbled and buoyed by the support of members of this caucus. For 20 years, we have worked together to improve quality of life on behalf of the people of Washington and House Democrats are committed to continuing that work for communities and families all across the state.”
Jinkins succeeds Representative Frank Chopp (D-Seattle), who served as speaker of the House for two decades. Chopp resigned from the position in May.
“Congratulations to Representative Jinkins on her election as speaker,” said Chopp. “One of the many things I respect and admire about Laurie is her commitment to people in need. Her efforts to push for a first-in-the-nation Long-Term Care Trust Act, which ensures our aging population are cared for in their later years in life, will help keep more families out of poverty. She will bring that same passion to the speaker’s office while dealing with the variety of challenges and opportunities facing our state.”
Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards sent her congratulation as well. “Tacoma is proud to be home to the first-ever female Speaker of the House,” said Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards. “Speaker-Elect Jinkins has been a strong advocate for Tacoma since she was elected to the House of Representatives’ 27thLegislative District in 2011. Her expertise, passion and leadership have been of immeasurable benefit to our community, and I know they will serve her equally well in her new state role. The City of Tacoma looks forward to continuing to partner with Speaker-Elect Jinkins in her new role to identify policy solutions for Tacoma and Washington state.”
Jinkins began her career protecting Washington’s children from abuse and neglect and has spent the last 20 years advancing public health. Before her election, Jinkins’ community involvement focused on higher education, improving city government, advancing Washington’s anti-discrimination laws and serving Tacoma’s non-profit sector.
Jinkins earned her juris doctor from Seattle University School of Law (then the University of Puget Sound School Of Law).
Jinkins, who began her first term as a state representative in 2011, is currently the chair of the House Civil Rights & Judiciary Committee, and sits on the House Appropriations and Health Care & Wellness Committees.
Jinkins has championed several legislative proposals that were signed into law in recent years, including bills to reduce medical debt bankruptcies, expand access to life-saving drugs to chronically ill patients, and a first-in-the-nation Long-Term Care Trust Act. Jinkins has devoted much of her legislative career to improving Washington’s behavioral health system.