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Rockefeller running for Senate

OLYMPIA — After three terms in the state House of Representatives, Phil Rockefeller (D-Bainbridge Island) announced on Monday that he’s going to run for the 23rd Legislative District Senate seat.

Sen. Betti Sheldon (D-Bremerton) announced earlier this month she would not seek a fourth term this fall and was retiring from politics.

“I welcome not only the challenge but the opportunity to stand for election to the seat being vacated by Betti Sheldon,” Rockefeller said. “Senator Sheldon has been a wonderful advocate for the citizens of the 23rd Legislative District. I want to carry on her outstanding work.”

He said that Sheldon was a major influence on deciding to run, and added she’s “strongly encouraged me.

“I’ve worked with several senators over the years and they also encouraged me to run.”

He said that if elected, the transition from the House to the Senate will take a slight adjustment.

“There’s always new things to learn,” said Rockefeller, an attorney. “I hope my six years (in the House) will transfer over so I wouldn’t have to start at the bottom (of the seniority rankings.) The meat and potato issues for our district don’t change. Education and transportation, water resources and conditions of water quality in Puget Sound and Hood Canal are important to the district and me as well.”

His campaign focus will remain on issues that strongly affect the residents of the 23rd District.

“My past work on ferry service and other transportation needs, safe and high-quality schools, economic and job development and health care, as well as forest, salmon and water resource protection, give me a strong foundation to be a leader on these issues in the Senate.”

Rockefeller is the first to announce candidacy for the position.

During the recent session, he served as vice chair on the House agriculture and natural resources committee and the House transportation committee. He also was a member of the education committee and vice chair of the joint legislative audit and review committee.

Rockefeller recently voted in favor of creating charter schools in the state, something he helped craft so that school districts’ participation would be voluntary.

“This is an important tool for districts to consider when other school strategies fall short,” he said. “It may be the best way to turn around failing schools and regain public and parent support in these situations. Our kids — all of them — deserve a chance to succeed.

“I don’t think it will be helpful in the 23rd District, but it could in other places in the state where there are schools in need like Tacoma and the Yakima Valley.”

Rockefeller has long been a proponent of education, previously serving as education assistant to Gov. John Spellman and as director of the region operations of the U.S. Department of Education. He and his family have lived in Kitsap County for 30 years. He and his wife, Anita, have three daughters.

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