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He’s leaving the legislature, but Frank Chopp says he’s ‘not the retiring type’

A man with white hair and moustache wearing a suit stands a podium with microphones holding a gavel with the American flag and marble walls in the background
Ted S. Warren
House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, holds the gavel while presiding over the House, Monday, Jan. 8, 2018, in Olympia, Wash., on the first day of the 2018 legislative session.

State Rep. Frank Chopp’s three-decade tenure in Olympia is coming to an end. The Seattle Democrat is not seeking re-election this year and says he will return to his roots – as a community organizer.

“To me, I'm not stepping down from anything,” Chopp said when he recently sat for an interview in the KNKX studios. “I'm just moving on to a new role, a role that I played before I was in the legislature for many years, organizing people over various issues... I'm not the retiring type, let's put it that way.”

Chopp has the distinction of being the longest-serving Speaker of the Washington House, a position he relinquished in 2019 after 20 years wielding the gavel. His time in Olympia included big economic gains in the state, but also a decline in affordability and a shortage in housing.

Click "Listen" above to hear the interview.

Interview Highlights

On how he’s seen the state legislature change since the mid-'90s

Well, right now we have a Democratic majority. For much of my tenure as speaker, the Republicans actually controlled the State Senate. And we were able to change that in 2018, and then pass a lot of progressive legislation in 2019, and a little before that. So the key is who controls the gavel? That's extremely important when you're trying to get past a variety of progressive legislation.

On Republican-backed ballot initiatives, including one that could roll back the state’s capital gains tax in November

We’re leading with the investment, which has overwhelming public support. Then we tie it to a dedicated fund called the Education Legacy Trust Fund that I started years ago, to make sure the money is going for the intended purposes. And then we fund it with the capital gains tax on a few folks who've got quite a bit of money. We're very much interested in making sure that thing does not get repealed. Otherwise, you got a major…not just a budget problem, but a major economic problem for the entire state. If people can't get the childcare and early learning that is necessary for people to go to work.

On what it will take to make affordable housing more available

One of the key new ideas that I passed a couple of years ago is called Apple Health and Homes. And it makes the connection between housing and health care. The reason for that is, if you are chronically homeless – which is what most people think is the probably top priority in terms of housing – and have a medical condition, like mental illness or substance use disorder, then you shall have a home as part of your medical treatment. So we passed the legislation. And then last year, about seven or eight months ago, we got the federal government to start providing federal matching funds for the actual housing.

On whether rent control legislation can pass in future sessions

I strongly support that legislation. The prime sponsor this session has been Emily Alvarado. So I've had several meetings with her, even since session, to basically plan the next steps for next session. And so we're organizing people, both in the legislature and outside the legislature to support enactment of that proposal. So I’m very hopeful, next session, it will pass.

Frank Chopp was first elected to the Washington state legislature in 1994 and served as speaker of the House of Representatives from 1999-2019.

Emil Moffatt joined KNKX in October 2022 as All Things Considered host/reporter. He came to the Puget Sound area from Atlanta where he covered the state legislature, the 2021 World Series and most recently, business and technology as a reporter for WABE. Contact him at