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Postman on Politics

Chief political reporter David Postman explores state, regional and national politics.

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December 14, 2007 4:35 PM

Is Helen Sommers thinking about retiring?

Posted by David Postman

Shouldn't you be skeptical of stories beneath headlines with question marks? Isn't it just a way to write about a rumor?

At Crosscut, public radio's Austin Jenkins, fast becoming one of the better sourced Olympia reporters, heard rumors that Rep. Helen Sommers might be retiring after next session. And that would be news because Sommers is one of the most powerful members in the Legislature and by far the longest-serving lawmaker in office. She was elected to the Legislature in 1972.

Jenkins writes that the rumors came after news that Sommers was returning campaign checks.

For her part, Sommers, who would be up for re-election next year, claims she sent the checks back -- some written for the maximum $700 allowed per election -- because she doesn't currently have a campaign treasurer. With all the complicated reporting requirements, she explains, "it's a hassle" to process the checks.

I just talked to Sommers and she wouldn't say any more about her future plans to me than she did to Jenkins. She did say she has returned checks before this year. Sommers said she'll make a decision about running after the 2008 legislative session. And if she runs, she's not too worried about a tough race that would make her sorry she turned back a few $700 checks.

So, I asked, no one should read too much into her sending back campaign checks?

"Right," she said. "Because, you know, it's very attractive to be in the position I'm in." That would be chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee.

But, she added, "I'm also getting older." She's now 75. For fun, Sommers studies geology; specifically geological time and its impact on history. She told the Times in 1999:

"Isn't it amazing that just 50 million years ago there were no Olympics or Cascade mountains? Don't you think it's good for us to put ourselves in context? Everybody around here can't think further than two years ahead."

So, given that, 75 years old doesn't really sound very old, does it?

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