Longview woman joins race for state House seat

Teresa Purcell

Picks up key endorsements, including Patty Murray

By Natalie St. John


LONGVIEW — A prominent Cowlitz County Democrat has announced plans to run for the open House seat in the 19th Legislative District.

Longview resident Teresa Purcell, 52, said concerns about the district’s poor health, high unemployment and limited housing, and a desire to help bring new businesses and opportunities to the region motivated her to run.

“I’m just frustrated enough. I really do think I can provide a spark that can make some things happen across the district,” Purcell said on April 22.

Purcell is running against State Rep. J.D. Rossetti, D-Longview, who was appointed to the seat last fall, when Dean Takko replaced Brian Hatfield in the Senate. Two Republican candidates, Val Tinney of Castle Rock, and Jim Walsh of Aberdeen, are also running against Rossetti.

“I think what I bring that’s different than J.D. is just a depth of experience and knowledge, and relationships and a real passion for the community and the district,” Purcell said. “I feel like I can make a difference for people, and this is the vehicle.”

In addition to improving public health — a recent state study determined that the 19th LD has overall the poorest health of all 49 districts in the state — Purcell said her priorities would include finding viable ways to fund public education, and sustainable economic development.

“These are huge challenges that we have to be proactive about.” Purcell said regional leaders should be working together to help the district grow “in a planned and intentional way, so that we have the communities that we want to have.”

The youngest of nine children, Purcell was born and raised in Longview. Purcell earned degrees in political science and communications from University of Washington, and later started Purcell Public Affairs, a public relations firm. Nine years ago, she purchased her childhood home in Longview, where she lives with her partner, Jim Young, and four pets.

Purcell described herself as optimistic, energetic, and unafraid of taking on daunting challenges. She said her work in Cowlitz County community service groups led her to believe that the 19th LD urgently needs a representative who can unite people across sectors and ideologies. There are many citizens with great ideas and a strong desire to improve the region’s quality-of-life, but their efforts stall out as a result of “divisiveness” in government, she said.

“Everybody is so excited about trying to make things happen, and then we run into our local government, and we’re lacking the kind of leadership that we need,” Purcell said.

Purcell has volunteered with the Lower Columbia School Gardens program, and served on the boards of the Cowlitz County Historical Society, Longview Public Schools Foundation and Cowlitz-Wahkiakum Legal Aid.

Currently, she is serving on the Community Advisory Board for the clean-up project at the site of the former Reynolds aluminum smelter in Longview, as well as the Cowlitz County Facilities Advisory Committee, and the Vision 20/20 Quality of Place committee.

She may not be a household name in Pacific County, but Purcell is fairly well-known in political circles for her work as a consultant, lobbyist and activist. In 1992, Purcell managed Patty Murray’s successful U.S. Senate campaign, helping Murray become the first female U.S. Senator from Washington. According to a biographical statement Purcell provided, “Teresa has consulted and collaborated on over 200 political, issue, public relations and media campaigns throughout the United States.”

Purcell believes her connections and experience would help her get things done more efficiently.

“I have long-term relationships with many state legislators. I know how the legislative process works. These are rooted in relationships, and I have those,” Purcell said.

Purcell acknowledged that so far, much of her political work has been focused on Cowlitz County. She plans to spend more time in other parts of the district over the coming weeks.

Purcell said she is currently studying up on Pacific County issues, but one priority would be to “... make sure their voice is getting heard at the state level, and that if there are resources or opportunities available, that they’re connected to them.”

Sen. Murray has endorsed Purcell, and so have Seaview businesswoman Tiffany Turner, who ran against Rossetti in the appointment process, and the family of late Long Beach Sen. Sid Snyder.

Purcell may have a harder time winning support from 19th LD incumbents like Takko, Hatfield and Rep. Brian Blake, D-Aberdeen, who have well-established working relationships with Rossetti. But she thinks citizens are tired of the long 19th LD tradition of appointing, and then re-electing a small group of insiders, who often run with little or no opposition. She’s confident that voters will be excited to see a range of new candidates entering the race.

“It’s time to stand up to the powers that be, and at least give people the opportunity to choose someone different,” Purcell said. “I personally wanted to have a choice. It’s been such a closed system for so long.”

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