OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Former Washington Gov. Mike Lowry, a Democrat who served in Congress for a decade, died Monday following complications from a stroke. He was 78.
Lowry, who was elected to one term as governor in 1992, was “a passionate defender of fairness for people and the environment,” according to a news release from his family.
“Mike was known as a courageous leader who was often willing to take early stands on sometimes controversial issues, and this courage, plus his straightforward nature, garnered respect from those in all political parties,” the statement said.
Lowry was a leading Democratic critic of President Ronald Reagan’s economic policies, even when they were wildly popular, and also fought against the arms buildup and restrictions on abortions.
Long an advocate of international trade that became crucial to the state, Lowry was credited with saving the Export-Import Bank’s direct loan program. He was on the House Budget Committee and worked on wilderness and marine sanctuary legislation and other issues.
Gov. Jay Inslee said Lowry “served with compassion and humility.”
“He had a big heart and cared deeply about the people of this state,” Inslee said in a statement.
In 1978, Lowry was elected to Washington’s 7th Congressional District, which includes Seattle. He was easily re-elected four times.
Lowry gave up his safe House seat to run for an open 1988 Senate post but lost to Republican Slade Gorton. He returned to Seattle and became a government professor at Seattle University and worked on a number of civic projects, including serving as chairman of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition.
He decided to run for governor when Gov. Booth Gardner retired. Lowry defeated state House Speaker Joe King for the Democratic nomination and went on to beat Republican Attorney General Ken Eikenberry in 1992.
Inslee and Lowry’s family lauded his work on health care and welfare policies as governor.
“Mike led efforts in the 1990s to provide health care for all Washingtonians and his work lives on today through coverage for low- to moderate-income families,” Inslee said.
Lowry decided not to seek re-election after a single four-year term. His political stock, already low after a 1993 tax increase, plummeted when his deputy press secretary, Susanne Albright, accused him of sexually harassing her and using crude and offensive language.
Lowry denied any wrongdoing but agreed to a $97,500 out-of-court settlement.
He was born in the tiny town of St. John in eastern Washington, where his family homesteaded in 1882, before statehood. His father managed a grain operation. After graduating from Endicott High School, he attended Washington State University.
He went to work for the state Senate Ways and Means Committee, serving as staff director from 1969 to 1973. He later became public affairs director for a nonprofit health organization for two years.
In 1975, he was elected to the King County Council, becoming chairman in 1977. He was elected president of the Washington Association of Counties in 1978.
Lowry is survived by his wife, Mary, daughter Diane Lowry Oakes, son-in-law Scott Oakes, two grandsons, sister Suellen Lowry, two nephews and a niece.
This report includes biographical material written by former AP reporter David Ammons.
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