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Democrat Sen. Randy Gordon of Bellevue takes over Fred Jarrett’s 41st Legislative District seat
After three intense weeks as a freshman state senator in the Washington state Legislature, with little sleep and a long commute, Bellevue attorney Randy Gordon is still full of excitement and anticipation for his new job.
Gordon, a Democrat, was appointed to serve as the state senator representing the 41st District, after longtime legislator Fred Jarrett of Mercer Island resigned to become deputy King County executive in December. Gordon was formally appointed by the King County Council in the first days of the new year and was sworn in on Jan. 12. He represents metropolitan and unincorporated areas of King County and the cities of Bellevue, Newcastle, Mercer Island, Renton, Issaquah, the town of Beaux Arts Village and Bellevue Community College
Despite his appointment as an interim, Gordon is firmly focused on the long run. He has immersed himself quickly in his work.
His appointment to and work within the Joint Legislative Audit & Review Committee (JLARC) is a key example. The committee works to make state government operations more effective, efficient and accountable by auditing and evaluating how money is spent. Some programs or subsidies have been in place for decades, Gordon said, holding up a thick document from the state Department of Revenue that he carried with him. He has gone through it page by page and has marked it with dozens of colored tags forming questions along the way.
But he is very aware there is always a story and a history behind how things are done. He clearly understands that change will take time.
But in the here and now, he is working as quickly as he can. Within just a few days and with the help of his staff, he has already met dozens of fellow legislators and key staffers. He has already submitted six bills. He is also a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee.
His first surprise was how much legislators need their staff. They are so important to the success of the session, he said.
He has already filed to run for the Senate position in the fall. But he brushes off any notion that he is already campaigning. “I am focused on the here and now,” he said. “I am not trying to be clever. I want the ability to say that ‘I worked hard, I have submitted these bills — I have accomplished this much.’”
Gordon was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1953 to two teachers. His father, 87, is also a native of Brooklyn. After many years of teaching, his father earned a doctorate in education and went on to be an associate principal. His mother, also 87, was born in England and taught fourth and fifth grade and English as a second language. His parents divorced when he was small, both moving to the South. He has a brother and a sister.
Both he and his sister hold law degrees. His brother is a physician. “My mother got what any Jewish mother wants,” he laughed, “two lawyers and a doctor.”
He remains close to his family.
“The first thing I did when I got my Senate letterhead [stationery],” he said, “was to write a letter to my mother.”
An emphasis on higher education and law seems to run in the family.
He has three daughters, all in their 20s. Two are in graduate school, and one is interning at the public defenders office. He said all three are considering careers in law.
Gordon himself graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Michigan in 1975. He applied to and was accepted by both Yale and Harvard for law school. He chose Harvard and earned a J.D. in 1978. After completing his law degree, he moved to Seattle and has been practicing law in Washington state ever since. He first worked for the Seattle law firm of Riddell and Williams. He left to form his own firm in Bellevue, Gordon Edmunds Elder, a group that specializes in mediation, arbitration and trial practice in Bellevue.
“I wanted more running room,” he said. “I sensed Bellevue was the coming thing.”
Gordon seems to embrace challenge and change.
The Democrat is not only a lawyer and businessman but a writer whose original poetry has been published. He practices martial arts. He has been a popular adjunct professor at the Seattle University law school for 10 years. He said he feels strongly about working with young people.
“Youth is the true investment in the future, perhaps the only real multiplier for the future,” he explained.
He is widely read. He freely quotes Aristotle and Tolstoy, and is a regular reader of such disparate publications as the New Yorker and Scientific American.
“The one thing you will notice when you enter my house,” he said, “is books.” He built the bookcases himself, he said.
During his commute back and forth from Olympia, he listens to books on tape in between phone calls to staffers, fellow lawmakers and constituents.
His ideals, experience and business fit in well with what he feels he brings to the Senate job. “I am a small business owner. I meet a payroll, pay my business taxes.”
His appointment has brought praise from other legislators.
“I can’t think of a better person to serve the people of the 41st Legislative District. Randy is smart, deliberative and has excellent political judgment. We look forward to drawing on his expertise. The people of Washington state are fortunate to have him,” said Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown.
Former Sen. Jarrett agrees.
“Last week when I was in Olympia, my former colleagues in the Legislature told me they are very impressed with Randy’s enthusiasm, work ethic and knowledge about the issues affecting our community. I remain very pleased that Randy was chosen to serve as the next senator from the 41st and am confident that our community is in good hands,” Jarrett said.
When asked about the dust-up over Pam Roach and her approach to conflict, he smiled. He is seated next to her, he said. He said he has no problem with getting along with her.
“My job is to reach out to everyone,” he said, “not to be comfortable. I want to be focused on what is best for the district.”
“I want to go every day thinking that anything is possible.”
According to his Web page, Gordon describes his involvment in election integrity, campaign reform and workers rights through his work as an attorney. He has represented citizen groups in a successful action compelling King County to count petition signatures. He was active in referendum and initiative campaigns, including the recent ratification of the Insurance Fair Conduct Act (R. 67) and the defeat of I-330. He was also lead counsel for a group of injured workers in Birklid v. Boeing, in a decade-long battle culminating in a unanimous opinion of the Washington Supreme Court successfully changing 83 years of Washington law in favor of protecting injured workers.
His Web page offers more details of his life and service to the community.
Gordon has held many positions with local and state bar associations, including president of the East King County Bar Association, trustee of the King County Bar, and a governor of the Washington State Association for Justice and the Washington State Bar Association.
The senator has been active in his community through youth and multi-cultural activities such as the UW Multiethnic Alumni Partnership, the Langston Hughes Cultural Arts Center and the YMCA. He is a member of the Lake Bellevue Water Quality Committee and proudly drives a Prius. He has provided pro bono legal services to the Washington State Karate Association and currently serves as General Counsel for the USA-National Karate-do Federation.
For more about Sen. Gordon, go to www.sdc.wa.gov/senators/gordon/ or the work of the Legislature this session at http://apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo.