Rep. J.T. Wilcox announces retirement after 14 years in the Washington State House of Representatives

Earlier today, 2nd District Rep. J.T. Wilcox sent the following letter to lawmakers in the House and Senate, as well as to members of the media:

Dear Friends,

By the end of this term, I will have spent 14 years serving in the Washington State House of Representatives.

That’s enough.

I first ran for the Legislature in 2010 because I wanted to be part of writing budgets and thought I could be good at this job. Since then, it has been the greatest privilege of my life to represent my friends and neighbors who live in the small towns and countryside of rural Pierce and Thurston Counties.

In 2012, the House Republican Leader and my very close friend, Richard DeBolt, asked me to be House Republican Floor Leader. I filled that position for six years and then served as House Republican Leader for five years. I believe in doing my best in any job, and although I’ve never felt like a partisan, I did my best in these very partisan jobs. 

Being a good elected official requires a sense of responsibility to your neighbors and a certain amount of cockeyed optimism. A caucus and a Legislature needs a mix of experienced legislators and new, enthusiastic members. I know a few very high-quality Republicans and Democrats who can maintain their enthusiasm indefinitely, but I’ve found that I have a certain capacity to do that and think I’ve reached that point. The 2nd District deserves a representative who can bring fresh experiences, fresh enthusiasm, and a younger perspective to Olympia.

I am deeply proud of the current House Republican Caucus. It is the best version of this caucus that I’ve ever served with. Older members like Ed Orcutt and Joe Schmick are the most responsible people I’ve ever known. New members like Kevin Waters, Stephanie Barnard, April Connors, and Travis Couture are deeply committed to solutions for all of us, and willing to work with nearly anyone to help. 

My successor as House Republican Leader, Drew Stokesbary, is probably the most intelligent and talented person in the Capitol Building today. I’m equally impressed with my close friend, John Braun, who was my counterpart as Senate Republican Leader.

I have mixed feelings about not running for reelection. The state is facing serious issues and I’ve never been a quitter. The Legislature has become much too concerned about the origin of an idea rather than the quality of that idea.

When I was first elected, I was also in the minority, and was on the losing side of many votes. But I had confidence that leaders, though pursuing different policies, felt a deep commitment to the success of the things they passed and the best function of our state agencies. It doesn’t feel exactly the same now. Single-party thinking has solidified into concrete. 

Some political activists are more concerned about theatrics in politics and less concerned about results. Every elected official knows there are “performances” that can earn you popularity, but those make it harder to really fix things. The incentives line up with the “performance,” not the results. This is why the federal government is such a mess, and one of the reasons our state government is becoming less functional. 

As I close, I’ve got one thing that I’d like to say to whoever is interested in the opinion of a now-washed-up politician. It’s this: Government is full of good people who are capable of doing a good job. You don’t know the names of most of them. They are dedicated staff lifers who are deeply committed to their nonpartisan approach of informing elected legislators, and they are the many elected Republicans and Democrats who don’t get featured in the media, don’t hunger for attention, and came to Olympia only to make Washington a better state. The system right now doesn’t give them as much influence as they deserve and need, but that will change.  Besides the great Republicans I mentioned above, there are Democrats with whom I disagree sometimes, but trust to be honest and deeply committed. As long as we have Democrats like Larry Springer, Frank Chopp, and Mike Chapman, we will have people who can be partners in the coming reemergence of a government that works.

I’ve spent a third of my adult career now in the Legislature. That’s enough. We need a new generation to put our government back together, and I am 100% sure that the individual who will replace me and the younger people I know in the House Republican Caucus, along with the Democrats I mentioned above, can and will do it. 

I will be cheering them on from the sidelines.

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov