Fairmont native makes Washington State history

Patty Kuderer, formerly of Fairmont, has become the first female state senator from the 48th District of Washington State.

FAIRMONT — About 15 months ago, Patricia Kuderer was appoint to fill an open seat in the 98-member Washington State House of Representatives. The 1977 graduate of Fairmont High School ran for re-election in November and garnered 70 percent of the vote in District 48, which includes Seattle and the surrounding area. She planned to serve her term and continue working on educational funding, income inequity, climate change and transportation.

But she now finds herself representing her district as a senator in the legislature’s other governing chamber.

“It happened pretty quickly. After my election, not only did I win, but my state senator won his race for lieutenant governor so that left a void,” she said. “It went through the same process as before to fill the House seat. I was appointed to that, and I was unanimously appointed to the Senate. I’m just very humbled to have been given this opportunity so quickly.” The appointment was made by the King County Council, the local governing body for the Seattle district.

Kuderer, who is an attorney at the Kuderer Law Group of Seattle, made history with her latest appointment.

“I’m the first female state senator from the 48th District,” she said. “We have never had one out of the 48th. I am the first, and now, for the first time in the 48th Legislative District history, we also have an all-female delegation.”

She feels that women can bring a different perspective to the table, and she’s seen the females in the Senate often be more collaborative and more open to new ideas than their male counterparts.

The Democrats hold the governor’s office and the House majority. Kuderer now finds herself on the minority side since the Republicans hold a 25-24 plurality in the Senate.

“It’s a completely different chamber, and there’s a different set of rules that you have to learn, a different process you have to go through in presenting your bills,” she said.

“In the Senate, because it’s a much smaller group — there’s only 49 of us — I think my voice has more impact than it did in the house. That’s one of the main reasons that I did accept the job. I have a lot of pieces of legislation that I’m working on, and I just felt that I would have more of an opportunity to present those.”

Kuderer admits that the fewer number of legislators results in a heavier work load. Although the Senate has half the number as the House, the Senate handles a number of bills that is equal to or greater than that in the House.

“An open mind and a strong work ethic – those are the two things that you really need to bring a level of intellectual curiosity to the table,” she said.

Currently, she serves on three Senate committees: state government, financial institutions and insurance.

“I’m working on a lot of consumer protection issues, mental health issues, health care. One of the biggest issues we’re wrestling with in health care right now is what happens of the Affordable Care Act goes away. How do we maintain insurance for all our citizens here?” she said.

Kuderer had a ringside seat for the recent judicial action Washington and Minnesota brought against the president’s travel ban.

“I’m very proud of Washington for leading the fight on the immigration ban. The state gave a very powerful argument,” she said. “That (ban) effected my district in particular. With Microsoft, Amazon and Google, in my district combined, we have about 7,500 residents who were effected by it. Microsoft was even talking about moving to Vancouver, British Columbia, to avoid all of this problem.”

Kuderer is carrying on her family’s tradition of public service. She is the sixth of nine children that Elton and Ellen Kuderer raised in Fairmont. Elton Kuderer served as city and county attorney, on the University of Minnesota Board of Regents and on many professional, civic and charitable organizations.

Kuderer plans to return to Fairmont for a visit this summer.

“I’m planning on coming back because I have, dare I say, a 40-year class reunion. I’m hoping to be back for that.”

When she returns to Washington from her planned hometown visit, she will gear up for a special election to retain her appointed seat for the remaining one-year of its term.