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Kessler, whose 24th Legislative District covers all of Clallam and Jefferson counties and the top third of Grays Harbor County, told House members shortly after midnight that she will not seek re-election this fall.
“I'm retiring. I'm almost 70, for God's sake,” the outspoken lawmaker from Hoquiam told her colleagues.
As the Legislature moved beyond midnight, Kessler made an emotional farewell speech, celebrating the fact that the state has worked to provide health care and education, and protects victims of domestic violence
"Being a part of this place is an amazing experience that few people ever have," she said on the House floor after asking for a point of personal privilege. "We've had the ability to change laws to change lives.
"I am privileged to have served with all of you. I am sad that I am leaving, but I am really glad. It's time," she said.
"I wish you all well and please be kind to one another," she said in conclusion, touching off a prolonged standing ovation as members from both sides of the aisle lined up to embrace her.
As majority leader, Kessler is the second-ranking Democrat in the state House. She said she made the decision weeks ago but didn't want to announce it until the Legislature — which is in special session over the $2.8 billion budget deficit — approaches adjournment for 2010.
Kessler has been a leader on open government issues in the Legislature. She serves on the state's “Sunshine Committee,” which examines state open-government policies.
She also has been a leader in patching the so-called urban-rural divide among lawmakers.
The Olympian newspaper's Capitol writer, Brad Shannon, has this blog on Rep. Kessler's announcement in the context of the Legislature adjourning early today. See it here: http://www.theolympian.com/2010/04/13/1204504/sine-die-lawmakers-adjourn-at.html