Washington state Rep. Bill Grant of Walla Walla, who represented the 16th Legislative District for 22 years in the state House, died Monday. Respected by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, House majority caucus chairman Grant, 71, was the lone Democrat representing rural Washington.

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THE death of Rep. Bill Grant leaves a void in the state capital and, in particular, the Walla Walla Valley.

Grant, a conservative Democrat, served in the state House of Representatives for 22 years as a champion for Eastern Washington and its people. He combined down-to-earth charm with political savvy to become one of the most powerful lawmakers in Olympia. Grant served as the majority caucus chairman, one of the key leadership positions in the House.

And, more importantly, Grant had the ear — and the trust — of Speaker of the House Frank Chopp and many other top Democratic and Republican leaders.

Grant didn’t speak often or loudly, but when he had something to say it was taken seriously. He was a wheat farmer who did much for the people in this corner of the state. He was particularly successful in using his political clout to help agriculture, small businesses and Walla Walla Community College. WWCC’s new water center is named after him.

Grant was the only Democrat in the Legislature to represent a rural district. The longtime lawmaker often provided the voice of rural Washington — a voice of reason — in closed-door meetings with the state’s Democratic leaders, most of whom represented the state’s more liberal urban areas.

Grant was able to cut through the political rhetoric that clouded most debates and offer a clear, pragmatic vision for what needed to be done.

He frequently reached across the political aisle to work with Republicans in an effort to get legislation passed or programs established.

Grant had the ability to bring people together, and he was able to do this with regular success because he never worried about petty partisan differences or about getting the credit. All he was interested in were results.

Those of us who knew Grant as a friend and neighbor, as so many people in this area did, will miss him greatly.

But people all across Washington state — most of whom didn’t even know his name — will also feel this loss deeply. Grant spent the last 22 years looking out for those who live in rural Washington.

Bill Grant’s strong, pragmatic voice for farmers, small-business owners and the people of rural Washington has made this state a better place to live.

— Walla Walla Union-Bulletin,

Jan. 5