Rockefeller bids for Senate seat

His candidacy is anointed by retiring incumbent Betti Sheldon.

Rep. Phil Rockefeller of Bainbridge Island announced Monday that he will seek the 23rd District State Senate seat being vacated by Betti Sheldon.

His candidacy comes with a blessing.

When talk began earlier this year that Sheldon would retire at the end of the 2004 legislative session, Rockefeller admitted that he didn’t pay much attention. Then he received confirmation from Sheldon herself.

“She told me, ‘I’m quite serious about this. I don’t think I want to do this any longer, and I want you to consider going for the seat,’” Rockefeller said.

The island Democrat has held the 23rd District Position 1 seat in the House since 1998. He said he feels experience makes all the difference when it comes to the efficacy of elected officials. Writing bills, which required him to work with both House and Senate members, is what Rockefeller said he felt would be one of his greatest strengths moving into the new position.

“I feel like I’ve learned the process, I’ve learned the issues and I now I can move forward and be a good, solid performer for this district,” he said.

Republicans have yet to announce a candidate for Sheldon’s seat. But former Democrat and Poulsbo City Councilwoman Sherry Appleton, and Republican and Kingston resident Paulette DeGard have both announced their intentions to run for Rockefeller’s House seat.

Transportation and the environment have topped Rockefeller’s issues, and he said winning the Senate seat would not change that.

A 35-year advocate for education, he represents the House on the Safe Schools Advisory Committee. Rockefeller also had a hand in updating the state’s financing system for K-12.

“Education is always going to be important to families and kids in this area,” he said.

Foot ferries and their alternatives are the biggest transportation priorities for the 23rd District, Rockefeller said. Most recently, he helped author the bill that allows private, passenger-only ferry operators and Kitsap Transit to offer foot ferry service from Kingston and Bremerton to downtown Seattle.

“I’m very excited that may finally happen, especially for Kingston,” Rockefeller said.

Issues of both water rights and protecting area water supplies are also high on his list. He is one of four legislators on the Puget Sound Council, which advocates for the health of regional waterways.

He has pushed for equitable water rights for municipalities, businesses and tribes, but also wrote the recent legislation setting in-stream flows.

“I think because we are in a district with water on just about every side, water is both a treasure we love and also a reality,” Rockefeller said. “I think everybody wants to have fresh, quality water to drink and to recreate ... and to have that we have to protect it.”

Rockefeller and his wife Anita have lived in Kitsap County for 30 years. Prior to holding public office, he was Education Assistant to Governor John Spellman and directed the regional operations of the U.S. Office of Education. A graduate of Yale and Harvard, he has been a member of the Washington State Bar Association for more than 35 years.

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