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'I do feel that level of burnout:' Why Washington's Rep. Jesse Johnson won't seek reelection

Jesse Johnson
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Photo courtesy of Rep. Jesse Johnson's Office

Since joining the state Legislature in 2020, State Representative Jesse Johnson has been outspoken on issues related to police accountability, education, and economic development in Washington.

Over the past two years, Johnson has represented the 30th Legislative District, which includes Federal Way, Des Moines, and Auburn. He has been able to help pass major pieces of legislation tied to those issues. Despite this success, he's joined 22 other state lawmakers who have decided not to run for reelection.

"(The past two years) have a been a challenge and the most memorable moments of my life," Johnson told KUOW's Soundside. "Obviously serving during a global pandemic, racial reckoning after the murder of George Floyd, and economic uncertainty, social unrest, it's been pretty remarkable ... I'm proud of the work of the Legislature, and what we've done at the state level and across the country, really. But I think this (work) is just the tip of the iceberg ... we have so much work to do that I still plan to to, although in a different capacity."

RELATED: Why are these 23 WA state lawmakers choosing not to seek re-election?

Some are retiring, and others are setting their sights on a congressional campaign. Politics can be a sticky business, and can wear down even the most ambitious and optimistic of civil servants. So why are all these lawmakers deciding to pack up and leave Olympia?

"For me personally, this had nothing to do with anything other than wanting to spend more time at home with my family, and support my partner, and also think about my professional career moving forward," Johnson said.

For Johnson, the decision became clear over the past couple months. He has a young family, he said. His wife is going into residency for medical school.

"From a family perspective, we wanted to have a family there at home to be with our little one," he said. "But also, this will give me some time to think about where I want to take my professional career in the next three to five years. I think I just needed that pause. When I'm in the work, in the moment, I give 110%. And that's really the only way I know how to serve. You never really think about the future because you are just dealing with what is in front of you. And so I have to have some way to think about where I want to go."

Soundside host Libby Denkmann spoke with Rep. Johnson about why he's decided to leave office, and if he's done with politics for good.

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