Hunt reflects on 24 years as a legislator


Last updated 4/24/2024 at 5pm

He is 81 years old, a long-time Democrat and a 24-year veteran of the state Legislature. But this year is the last one in which Sen. Sam Hunt will wield a gavel.

“It's time to step aside and, and let some younger folks come in,” Hunt said. “I would like to have a January morning where I could sleep in.”

Hunt, who lives in Olympia, started in politics when he was just 12 years old, sticking campaign signs in yards around Yakima for former Gov. Albert Rosellini.

Hunt’s dad was an air traffic controller and fell under the “Hatch Act,” which prevented state employees from being politically active. Even so, Hunt said his parents encouraged his involvement.

“In those days, it was much stricter,” Hunt said. “He didn't even want to go into the Democratic headquarters. So he dropped me off and I'd go in and pick up brochures.”

After a while, Hunt was asked if we wanted to start putting signs up.

“I had nothing better to do,” Hunt said. “I spent a day pounding stakes into the grass.”

Hunt served in the Senate since 2017 and the House from 2001-2016.

Hunt’s is proud of his role in transforming voting legislation. Under Hunt’s watch, bills like Universal vote-by-mail, the Washington Voting Rights Act, the Native American Voting Rights Act, online voter registration and more, have come to fruition.

Hunt has also pushed education reform. His early career was as a high school teacher. He also helped to pass Washington’s Marriage Equality Act. As he and his fellow legislators put it, he is ready to move on after lots of landmark work in Olympia.

With the primaries and presidential election in mind, Hunt pushed for mandatory voting in the state, but that measure was not adopted because it contained penalties for not voting.

While he thinks Washington’s voting system is a good one and is mainly well accepted, Hunt says election distrust has been ramping up in recent years.

“We had some election deniers that thought maybe George Soros or somebody like that was finagling their election returns,” Hunt said. “I don't think that's the case. We have the best election system in the country, in my view. Of course, I'm biased.”

But in the state, Hunt said working with his Republican counterparts on voting has been pretty smooth sailing, and the culture of bipartisan work has stayed pretty much the same in his 24 years, Hunt added.

“The last several years in the Senate, we haven't had major fights, major screaming matches,” Hunt said. “We disagree, but we disagree honorably, you know. We disagree without being disagreeable. And I think that's really important.”

Hunt reassures that despite popular belief, the lawmakers are friends.

“There are some Republicans I'd much rather go have a beer with than some Democrats,” Hunt said.

When reflecting on what kinds of legislation can be passed today that wouldn’t have been able to when he first started, Hunt said marriage equality stands out to him.

“When I first got to the legislature, that was an anathema,” Hunt said. “It was a ‘No we're not going there’ sort of thing.”

On his way out, Hunt said he hopes education consolidation can finally move forward and that people can begin to see the job of a lawmaker as a full-time job.

“I'd like to see legislators paid what they're worth,” Hunt said. “We're now responsible for probably over $100 billion when you put all the budgets together, and that's a huge corporation. To say that that's a part-time job just doesn't work.”

Hunt plans to spend his time away getting off his walker, soaking up the winter sun in Arizona, and spending time with family and friends.

“I’d like to send postcards back to the legislators and tell them how nice and sunny it is down there,” Hunt said, referring to his Arizona plans.


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