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John Spellman

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John D. Spellman (Born December 29, 1926) was the Governor of Washington between 1981 and 1985. He was a Republican and his opponent in the 1980 election was then-State Senator Jim McDermott.

During Governor Spellman's four-year term of office, Washington State's economy suffered a serious economic downturn marked by rising unemployment and disappointing tax revenues. The State Legislature was deeply divided over how to address an alarming revenue shortfall, but did agree to an increase in Washington's statewide sales tax rate from 5.5% to 6.5%.

One of Governor Spellman's memorable policy stands was his strong commitment to environmental protection. Against enormous pressure from business groups and many legislators, he ultimately used his authority to prevent permitting for an environmentally-risky development project by Chicago Bridge & Iron at sensitive shortline area of Whatcom County.

At the mid-term elections, the Democratic party captured a major increase of seats in the State House and Senate.

In September 1983, upon the untimely and unexpected death of U.S. Senator Henry M. Jackson, Governor Spellman used his authority to appoint former Republican governor Daniel J. Evans to fill the vacant U.S. Senate seat. While the Democratic party protested the appointment of a Republican to fill the seat vacated by a Democrat, Spellman's appointment was considered lawful under the then-current statutes. As state law required an immediate primary and general election for the remaining U.S. Senate seat term, a primary election was held just three weeks after Evans' interim appointment. At the general election in November 1983, appointed Senator Daniel J. Evans defeated a vigorous challenge by Democratic Congressman Mike Lowry.

In 1984, Spellman ran for a second term of office, facing voter anxiety about the weak economy. After a vigorous Democratic primary between then-State Senator Jim McDermott, former state Representative John Jovanovich, and then-Pierce County Executive Booth Gardner, Governor Spellman faced a difficult battle in the general election against Democratic nominee Gardner. In the November 1984 general election, voters decisively replaced John Spellman with Democratic challenger Booth Gardner.

Leaving office in January 1985, Governor Spellman returned to private law practice. Since then, he twice ran unsuccessfully for election as a judge in Washington's state appellate courts.


Preceded by:
Dixie Lee Ray
Governors of Washington
1981 – 1985
Succeeded by:
Booth Gardner

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