OLYMPIA…Washington Senate Republicans today elected their leadership team for the 2021-22 legislative term. The caucus elected Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, as its new leader and Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, as the new caucus chair. Sen. Shelly Short, R-Addy, was reelected as Republican floor leader and Sen. Keith Wagoner, R-Sedro-Woolley, is the new Republican whip. All were unanimously elected to their positions.
Sen. John Braun, Senate Republican Leader
Fresh off his election to a third term in the Senate representing the 20th Legislative District, Braun assumes the role of Senate Republican Leader at a critical time for Washington. The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the physical and economic health of the state and its residents, as Gov. Jay Inslee has taken advantage of nearly 10 months of expanded executive powers.
Braun, who has served as lead Republican on the Senate Ways and Means Committee since 2017, is ready to represent the desperate voices of those who have been harmed by Inslee’s governing by proclamation.
“My mission as Republican leader is to expand opportunities for every family in Washington, of every race, belief and background. Expanding opportunity starts with high-quality schools, lower taxes and less state control of people’s lives,” said Braun. “State policies should enhance economic freedom to allow everyone the opportunity to follow their talents and pursue their dreams. Too often in past decades, including during this pandemic, we’ve seen policies that have reduced freedom and opportunity for Washington families.
“Why did Republicans in this state do better in the latest election than expected? I think it’s because people across our state are tired of feeling like they aren’t being heard. They’re paying more taxes and seeing less value for their investment,” Braun continued. “We have listened, and this is what our caucus has heard. When the Legislature convenes next month, we will bring policies forward that are intended to help all Washington families and communities in the central Puget Sound area and across the state.
“I’m honored that my colleagues have chosen me to head a solid leadership team. We will work tirelessly to further this mission,” said Braun, a U.S. Navy veteran.
Sen. Ann Rivers, Senate Republican Caucus Chair
Rivers, who also recently won reelection, has served the 18th Legislative District in the Senate since 2012, following a term in the House of Representatives. She is a veteran member of the caucus leadership team and has led Republicans on key issues including education funding and health care.
She knows the 2021 legislative session, which begins Jan. 11, will present some unique challenges for legislators and is concerned about people who have been let down by their state government during the current crisis.
“The upcoming session will be like no other due to the pandemic,” said Rivers, “and as caucus chair I’ll be working with the other members of our leadership team to contend with unprecedented restrictions on how we conduct business. Republicans have tried to protect the public’s access to the lawmaking process during the 2021 session, and while we’ve had very limited success so far, the people can have faith that our entire caucus is in their corner.
“This pandemic has also exposed, to a greater degree than we’ve seen, how government can be greedy and unfair and downright incompetent. This year countless families have been devastated by executive dictates that pick winners and losers, which go against the Republican belief in equal opportunity and the freedom to work toward achieving one’s aspirations. Many have been let down in the worst possible way by an agency that continues to fail on badly needed financial assistance. The people can trust that our Republican caucus is focused on making their lives and their communities better, and ready to hold government accountable. We’re on their side,” Rivers added.
Sen. Shelly Short, Senate Republican Floor Leader
Short, who was reelected as Republican floor leader, has served in the leadership role since 2018. She has represented the 7th Legislative District in the Senate since 2017. She was initially appointed to the Senate to succeed Brian Dansel, and won a 2017 special election to retain the seat.
“I am honored and privilege to continue serving as floor leader. As we face uncertainty in the new year and session, I will work tirelessly with my colleagues to ensure legislative transparency and accountability,” said Short.
Sen. Keith Wagoner, Senate Republican Whip
Wagoner has served the 39th Legislative District since being unanimously chosen to fill the seat midterm in 2018. Also fresh off of reelection, he is a proud Navy veteran and retired U.S. Navy Commander, and most recently served as the ranking member on the Senate Behavioral Health Subcommittee.
“I am excited to take on the role of whip and am honored that my colleagues have chosen me for this position. I have learned a lot from the previous whips – Sen. Barbara Bailey and Sen. Ann Rivers — and hope to carry on their tradition of excellence. There will be many challenges in the coming year, and I have high hopes that adapting to a virtual environment will go smoothly.”