SEATTLE — When Gov. Booth Gardner first ran for the state's highest office in 1984, many in Washington did not even know his name. That soon changed and he went on to become a two-term governor and one of the most popular politicians in state history.
From his time in Olympia to his recent campaign championing the "Death with Dignity" initiative, Gardner's legacy still is widely felt today.
Washington state's 19th governor, he died Friday night at his Tacoma home from complications of Parkinson's disease. He was 76. "We're very sad to lose my father, who had been struggling with a difficult disease for many years, but we are relieved to know that he's at rest now and his fight is done," the former governor's daughter, Gail Gant, said in a news release.
"I learned so much from Booth because he was a man that led by example," Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said after learning of Gov. Gardner's death. "He demonstrated that governing is about the people you serve — and serve with — by learning everyone's name, what issues they cared deeply about, and by taking the time to work with anyone that shared his desire to make Washington state a better place to live."
Under Gov. Gardner's tenure from 1985 to 1993, with an economy that was largely booming, the state took notable steps on education and the environment and on expanding social and health services.
The state began to institute requirements for students to pass standardized tests before graduating from high school, raised state university faculties' salaries, enacted the Growth Management Act, initiated the Basic Health Plan and began First Steps, which helps low-income pregnant women obtain health and social services.