The Washington state senator and former chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee is being remembered as a quiet, principled lawmaker.
OLYMPIA — Elected officials and others across the state Tuesday mourned the death of state Sen. Andy Hill, the chief GOP budget writer who had been talked about as a potential candidate for governor.
Sen. Hill, a Republican from Redmond, died Monday afternoon after a recurrence of lung cancer, according to a statement from a fellow legislator. He was 54.
“On Monday afternoon surrounded by the love of his family, Andy lost his final battle with lung cancer,” said the statement Tuesday by Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn. “Andy was an extraordinary public official and a principled leader in the Legislature.”
First elected to the 45th Legislative District in 2010, Sen. Hill served for several years as chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. In a role that demands equal parts accountant and public debater, he led Republicans through hard-fought state budget negotiations.
Since June, Sen. Hill, who had said he’d never smoked, battled a recurrence of lung cancer. Doctors originally diagnosed the former Microsoft group manager with cancer in 2009. Back then, radiation and chemotherapy hadn’t worked — something Sen. Hill described as feeling “like the clock was running out.”
“I was like, shoot, I’m in the third quarter and I’m down by two touchdowns,” he recounted in a 2013 interview.
But then an experimental treatment put the cancer in remission. Within weeks, his symptoms had disappeared, and he was back to jogging with his wife. A political career was just on the horizon.
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Sen. Hill became known in Olympia for his sharp intellect and reserved nature — a former lawmaker once described him as “quiet smart.”
While willing to work across the aisle, he never feared battling Democrats, as demonstrated through the drawn-out budget battles in 2013 and 2015.
Those years, Sen. Hill would spar with former Democratic Rep. Ross Hunter over the philosophical disagreements between their parties. It was something Hunter, then the chief Democratic budget writer, used to call the “Ross and Andy” show.
“He and I obviously had our differences, but I liked working with him,” Hunter, now director of the state Department of Early Learning, said Tuesday. He added later: “He’s a man who worked hard and did good work.”
With the return of the cancer, Sen. Hill had been taking chemotherapy and additional treatment. In September, he shared a note saying the results were looking good.
Through the reoccurrence, Sen. Hill continued to work when possible and was heard on a conference call as recently as last week, according to Republican Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler of Ritzville.
“He could have enjoyed a lot of material things,” after his original battle with cancer, Schoesler said, “but when he got a second chance in life, he chose service.”
Schoesler credited Sen. Hill’s work helping those with developmental disabilities, as well as successfully shepherding college-tuition cuts through 2015’s contentious budget negotiations.
“I will always be grateful for his courage and the political risk he took by voting for Marriage Equality,” Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, who served with Sen. Hill in the Legislature at the time of that vote, said in a statement.
In a statement, Gov. Jay Inslee extended his condolences to Sen. Hill’s family and friends.
“Senator Hill was (a) dedicated legislator who served with distinction,” Inslee said. “He was a strong champion for education and a compassionate advocate for people with disabilities. His voice in Olympia will be missed.”
Last re-elected in 2014, Sen. Hill was midway through his current Senate term. Under the state constitution, his seat will be filled temporarily by another Republican through an appointment process.
That appointee will serve through 2017, when a special election will be held, with the winner serving the remainder of Sen. Hill’s term through 2018.
Sen. Hill is survived by his wife, Molly, along with his three children, Allie, Charlie and Katie.
A memorial service is planned for Friday, Nov. 11, in Redmond, with additional details to come, according to the statement by Fain.