Hochstatter Calls it Quits
Published in the Herald-Republic on Tuesday, March 19, 2002
By TOM ROEDER
One of Washington state's most colorful lawmakers announced his retirement
Sen. Harold Hochstatter, a 12-year legislator known for bombastic views,
debating prowess, and piercing humor, says frustration with Olympia
politics spurred his retirement.
"I came away with an intense disdain for the system," Hochstatter, 64,
said Monday. "Government is the wrong tool for just about any task."
The one-time gubernatorial candidate won't seek re-election this fall. His
term expires in December.
Ephrata Republican Rep. Joyce Mulliken said she is seriously considering
running for Hochstatter's post, which represents the 13th District and
covers all of Kittitas and parts of Grant and Yakima counties. But
Mulliken says she won't try to emulate the senator.
"No one can be Harold," she said.
Thrown into the political limelight in 1988 when he was jailed for his
participation in a raucous anti-abortion protest, Hochstatter came to the
state House in 1990 seeking profound political change.
Over the years, he sought to outlaw abortion, bring Bible teaching and
prayer to schools and to redirect state and federal education
programs. But his legislative efforts seldom went far, even when the GOP
controlled both chambers in the mid-1990s.
"I floated lots of legislation and it pretty much hit the wall," he said.
In 1992, Hochstatter moved to the Senate, where he has served for the past
"It'll be dull now," he said.
Hochstatter liked causing a ruckus at the Capitol and his legislative
proposals showed it.
"I have continually said he's a lightning rod," said Mulliken.
In 2002, he proposed one measure that would have allowed teachers to pack
guns to class and another that would have outlawed the teaching of evolution.
"You had conservative, ultra conservative, then you had Genghis Kahn and
you had Harold Hochstatter," joked Selah's Republican Rep. Jim
Clements. "Harold could take some positions that most of us wouldn't touch."
The school guns proposal brought Hochstatter a lot of political
heat. Hundreds of calls and letters came from people who thought the idea
insane. But hundreds of others agreed with Hochstatter that gun-toting
teachers would make classrooms safe.
"There was a lot of response on both sides," Hochstatter said. "It was
worth the battle."
The bills didn't go anywhere and died like so many other controversial
ideas from the man who some called "The Oracle of Moses Lake."
Hochstatter could come across as a Greecian soothsayer. He could recite
Sophocles' tragedies, Victorian poetry and the Bible -- sometimes all in
the same floor speech.
His eclectic mental library of quotations was more renowned than the topics
"He was never shy and he was always very direct," said Granger's Republican
Rep. Bruce Chandler. "I think he spoke his mind and always took whatever
the consequences were."
In 2000, Hochstatter took his ideas statewide with a Republican primary run
Hochstatter spoke against state regulation and for letting families and
churches take an increased role in society.
Attention came quickly -- but not the kind of attention that wins elections.
At a July 2000 rally, Hochstatter quoted poetry in an effort to stoke the
anti-regulation spirit of the Revolution.
"I wouldn't encourage anybody to do any shooting, unless it's absolutely
necessary," he then said. "And, boy, it's getting close sometimes."
Gov. Gary Locke called the statement dangerous and extremist. Hochstatter
countered that government needs to change its ways, but said he didn't want
to see anyone shot.
It was the biggest headline of a failed campaign.
Hochstatter lost big in the primary to Republican radio talk-show host John
Carlson. Locke surfed to an easy re-election.
In the end, Hochstatter's political legacy is one of well-worded honesty.
"The people who are remembered are the people who speak their mind and he
did it with articulate passion," Chandler said.
"That's the best thing a legislator can do is be honest," Mulliken said.
Hochstatter, a graduate of Washington State University, said he's also
handing over his electrical contracting company to a son. But his
retirement won't be complete.
"I don't want to retire," he said. "I want to do something."
Be he doesn't know what something will be.
"We're praying on it, hard," Hochstatter said.
Related story:Hochstatter hangs it up
Tuesday, March 19, 2002
Sen. Harold Hochstatter, one of the most colorful and conservative members of the Legislature, said yesterday that he won't seek another term.
"Twelve years is enough," the Moses Lake Republican told the Ellensburg Daily Record. "You could say I've had a change of heart about politics. It's certainly not the agent for change I thought it could be when I started."
Hochstatter, who lost a bid for governor in 2000, is known for his pithy one-liners and frequent quotations from the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and obscure historical texts.
This year, he proposed banning the teaching of evolution in public schools and allowing schoolteachers to carry firearms.
Both bills died in the Legislature.
Hochstatter, 64, said, he and his wife are praying for guidance about what to do next.
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