Dems replace one island pol with another

Drew Hansen - Dennis Anstine/Bainbridge Review
Drew Hansen
— image credit: Dennis Anstine/Bainbridge Review

Drew Hansen’s unbridled passion for politics is apparent, which is probably one reason why the Bainbridge Island resident is the newest member of the 23rd Legislative District.

The Kitsap County Board of Commissioners this week appointed Hansen, a lawyer and a leader in Kitsap County’s Democratic Party, to the state House of Representatives, succeeding Christine Rolfes, who was appointed two months ago by the same board to succeed former Sen. Phil Rockefeller.

Hansen had emerged from the party’s Sept. 11 caucus as the top choice of the initial six county Democrats who had sought the position, receiving 26 of the 42 votes cast in the first ballot.

Commissioners said they were impressed by the volunteer work done by Hansen, who was appointed by Gov. Chris Gregoire in 2005 to the state’s Community Economic Revitalization Board (CERB) and also serves as a member of the Olympic College Foundation Board.

Hansen, who grew up on Mercer Island and is a partner in the Seattle law firm of Susman Godfrey LLP, sees the appointment as an opportunity to become the public servant he had long wished to be.

“Public service is a noble calling at any level and I’m just grateful to have that opportunity,” he said. “It’s very humbling to have the trust of the people who made the appointment, and I will try to win the confidence of voters throughout the district when the time comes.”

That will be during next year’s election season since Hansen is committed to run for office when the position’s current term expires, which is at the end of 2012. James Olsen, a Republican and island resident who lost to Rolfes in last year’s election, has already announced his intention to run for the seat next year.

Hansen has been a precinct officer and a member of the 23rd Legislative District Democrats’ executive board since 2007, which, he said, means he knows how to work hard.

“I’ve been very active in the party, volunteering, working at the grassroots level for many years,” he said. “So I’ve knocked on a lot of doors and pulled a lot of salmon dinner tickets. Yes, I believe in building a strong local party from the bottom up with dedicated workers.”

Rolfes said she doesn’t know Hansen “real well,” but well enough to be excited about the opportunity to work with him.

“He has so much energy and enthusiasm, though maybe that’s because he hasn’t been bothered by a campaign yet,” she said with a laugh. “But he has been a leader in the Democratic Party for a couple of years now and has used his enthusiasm to attract a lot of people to it.”

Rolfes said Hansen’s involvement in higher education and workforce training in Kitsap County likely will lead to him being effective in those areas.

“The House has had a strong history of putting new legislators to work in areas where they have the most skills, talent and enthusiasm,” said Rolfes, who expects Hansen to be a leader in environmental, education and job training.

“The No. 1 priority in the district and our county is getting people back to work by creating jobs and funding job training programs,” he said. “It’s urgent right now. We are a unified economy in the West Sound and if you forget this as a public servant you do it at your own peril.”

Hansen believes it’s the responsibility of representatives to fund job training that matches workers with highly skilled and productive jobs.

“I have a track record in this area as a member of the state’s economic board and I’m aware of the problems,” he said. “For example, we literally can’t find enough qualified engineers and nurses in our county to fill the jobs available. Our naval bases and hospitals are forced to recruit people from out of state to fill their vacancies. We need to fund higher education in areas where specific jobs are available so we can employ our own people. It’s a big problem here, but it’s solvable.”

As an attorney, Hansen has focused in recent years on climate change litigation, clean energy and other environmental issues. “But I do all sorts of law,” he said.

Hansen, 38, has been a Bainbridge resident since 2004 and is married with two young children. He is a graduate of Harvard and Yale Law School, and attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar.

The party’s second pick was Holly Mortlock, a legislative assistant from East Bremerton; Poulsbo council member Ed Stern was third.

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