Sen. Jim Honeyford said he had an easy time representing Yakima County residents during his time in the Legislature, all things considered.
“Their goals and mine are very, very similar,” he said.
The shared interest in agriculture, water, housing and education stood out on the policy side, Honeyford said, but he also appreciated being able to help on an individual level.
Honeyford announced Monday he will retire from his District 15 Senate seat after almost three decades in the Legislature. The Sunnyside Republican has held the office since 1999. Before that, he served four years in the state House.
In an interview with the Yakima Herald-Republic, he offered memories going back to the ’90s about conversations with constituents and specific relief he was able to bring.
“Sometimes working in the Legislature is extremely frustrating, and other times it’s extremely rewarding,” Honeyford said. “Working for my constituents and helping them is always very rewarding.”
He weighed several factors before withdrawing his name from consideration for the seat, including his age, health and family priorities, he said. He said he’ll be 84 years old in January, when the next term begins.
“All those things played into it,” he said. “After 28 years, I’m pretty well settled in, but I think it’s time to get someone with new perspectives.”
Selecting a successor
After filing week ended, Honeyford endorsed Nikki Torres for the Senate office. She is a Republican from Pasco, where she serves on the City Council.
District 15 stretches from Yakima to Pasco with its new boundaries, including parts of Adams, Benton, Franklin, Grant and Yakima counties and the cities of Union Gap, Moxee, Sunnyside and Grandview.
Honeyford said the bipartisan Redistricting Commission made a mistake when reconfiguring the district. He said he had previously hoped District 15 Rep. Jeremie Dufault, who was displaced from the district under the new plan, would be his successor.
“But that wasn’t to be,” he said. “So we went looking and checking people out and (Torres) came to the top.”
Dufault lives in Selah, which is now part of District 14. He said earlier this year he would not run again because of the boundary change.
Honeyford said he pushed his decision to retire until after filing week to see who else would enter the race. Torres is the only other person who filed for the office, and Honeyford withdrew his filing paperwork Monday.
“I wanted to see who else would file,” he said. “If I thought that person was a good candidate, then I would withdraw. And we did get a good candidate.”
Torres was elected to the Pasco City Council in 2021 and began her term in January. According to her biography on the city of Pasco website, she is the strategic partnerships manager for Western Governors University and a member of the Association of Washington Business Grassroots Alliance.
Before that, she was a small business development officer helping small businesses with lending and the Paycheck Protection Program. She also served as president of the Tri-Cities Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; board member of Tri-Cities Community Health, Visit Tri-Cities, and the Kennewick Police Department Foundation; and served a term with the Washington Child Care Collaborative Taskforce.
Her biography said she has lived in Pasco for 40 years. She has two daughters and three grandchildren.
“She seems to have a good grasp of the district, agriculture and water issues, and education issues. I thought those were important for constituents in this district,” Honeyford said.
Torres did not respond to requests for comment ahead of publication, but in a news release sent out Monday she said she was honored to get Honeyford’s endorsement.
“I am committed to campaigning hard throughout the 15th District to earn the trust of the voters here,” she said. “From Yakima to the Tri-Cities, we have amazing people and I look forward to being their advocate and their champion.”
Reactions from colleagues
Sen. Mark Schoesler, a Republican from Ritzville, started in the House alongside Honeyford nearly 30 years ago. In an interview, he described Honeyford as a rare talent and principled man, a “rock” to rely on for the capital budget and a reliable voice after his time on the ethics board.
“You can have no better friend or ally than Jim Honeyford,” he said.
In a news release, Senate Republican leader Sen. John Braun praised Honeyford for his work related to water access, internet availability, affordable housing and schools.
“Sen. Honeyford was a model public servant,” Braun said in a statement. “He served with integrity. He served with passion. He will be sorely missed here in the Senate.”
Schoesler said there’s no replacing Honeyford — “Those people come along only once every generation,” he said.
But Torres brings a strong local government and agriculture perspective, and will make an outstanding senator, he said.
Looking ahead to retirement, Honeyford said he looks forward to having more time to travel and spend time with family members who reside throughout the U.S. and Canada. He lives in Sunnyside with his wife, Jerri. They have four adult children.