OLYMPIA — Reuven Carlyle, a longtime Seattle legislator who has championed government transparency, digital privacy and key climate change legislation, including the new statewide carbon cap-and-invest law, announced Monday he won’t seek reelection this year.

The announcement by Carlyle, a Democrat from Seattle’s 36th Legislative District — which includes Belltown, South Lake Union, Queen Anne, Ballard, Magnolia and Greenwood — creates a second impending senate vacancy in the city. Sen. David Frockt, also a Democrat, has also announced he won’t run again this year.

On Monday, Reps. Noel Frame and Liz Berry — who represent the 36th legislative district — said they were discussing which one of them would file to run for Carlyle’s seat.

Carlyle, 56, first won election to the state House in 2008 — succeeding Helen Sommers, one of Washington’s longest-serving lawmakers — and eventually rose to chair the House Finance Committee, which handles tax policy.

In January 2016, he was appointed to the Senate. Carlyle won a special election later that year, and won a full four-year term in 2018. When he was younger, Carlyle served as a page in the U.S. Senate for both Warren Magnuson and Henry “Scoop” Jackson.

In recent years, Carlyle has drafted and steered big-ticket climate legislation, such as the law passed in 2019 to end the use of fossil-fuel power in the state’s electric grid by 2045. That was a major piece of Gov. Jay Inslee’s yearslong push for laws to combat climate change and transition to clean energy.


As chair of the Senate Environment, Energy & Technology Committee, Carlyle last year authored the law to create a carbon-pricing program designed to drive down pollution to net-zero emissions in Washington by 2050.

In an interview Monday morning, Carlyle, said he felt a “sense of fulfillment” from his years at the Legislature and it was a good time to move on.

“It’s good timing,” he said. “I feel like I’ve left it all on the field.”

A business consultant in his day job, he isn’t retiring from the Legislature to take another position, he said, and will serve out the remainder of his term.

In an interview Monday, Berry said she and Frame were discussing which one of them would seek to replace Carlyle. Frame posted a similar note on Facebook.

“Both of us are interested. … It’s a very friendly conservation,” Berry said, adding that they might have a decision by the end of the week.


Frame and Berry released a joint statement saying they were “proud to have had the privilege to work alongside such a dedicated public servant for the people of Washington.”

In a regularly scheduled news conference Monday, Deputy Senate Majority Leader Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, cited Carlyle’s work on environmental and technology issues, saying “his expertise will be missed.”

Sen. Tim Sheldon, a conservative Democrat from Mason County who caucuses with Republicans and worked for years with Carlyle on the Senate’s Environment committee, credited Carlyle for having a “wide focus” beyond his Seattle constituents.

“As a legislator, you’re always thinking, what’s in it for my district?” Sheldon said. “But I think Reuven has a wide focus on the state, and the world.”

In a statement, Senate Minority Leader John Braun, R-Centralia, said Carlyle “always worked in good faith and stands up for what he believes is in our state’s best interest.”

Over the years, Carlyle sponsored a host of good-government bills, such as one to create a “cooling-off” period before public servants can become private lobbyists. In Washington, one in five registered lobbyists come from state government, often within months, weeks or even days.


Ideas like that haven’t gained traction in Olympia, where lawmakers and staffers in the Legislature or governor’s office go on to lucrative lobbying careers. Carlyle said Monday that his cooling-off proposal was likely to go nowhere again this year.

In 2018, Carlyle was one of only seven senators to oppose legislation to exempt the Legislature from Washington’s voter-approved 1972 public-records law.

That bill came in the face of a lawsuit by news organizations — including The Associated Press and The Seattle Times — challenging the Legislature’s long-claimed exemption to the public-records act, which allows for records like elected officials’ emails and text messages to be disclosed.

After public outcry, Inslee vetoed the bill, and the state Supreme Court ultimately ruled that state lawmakers are subject to the public records law.

“I am proud to be one of the few” who voted against that bill, he said.

Carlyle is also known for his yearslong work to seek consensus with House Democratic lawmakers and advocacy groups on data-privacy legislation. While the Senate in recent years passed his version of a data-privacy bill, talks have remained stalled among House Democrats.


He didn’t have luck with other proposals, either, such as his yearslong push to remove the death penalty from Washington statute. Gov. Jay Inslee put a moratorium on executions in 2014, and the state Supreme Court in 2018 struck down capital punishment as unconstitutional.

Though the Senate ultimately voted to remove the death penalty a few years in a row, House lawmakers have not taken it up for a vote,

“It is just below us as a civilized society,” Carlyle said. “And the judicial branch has ruled, the executive branch has ruled.”

“Only the legislative branch hasn’t taken a stand,” he added. “And I think it’s a failing.”


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