Reflections on a fellow lawmaker from former House Republican Leader J.T. Wilcox


The newspaper recently allowed me to share my reflections as a former House Republican leader on two lawmakers who represent the 20th Legislative District, Sen. John Braun and Rep. Peter Abbarno. In this piece, I offer my perspectives on the third lawmaker of the district, Rep. Ed Orcutt. 

Ed is the second-longest serving House Republican, having represented both the old 18th Legislative District and two versions of the 20th Legislative District. That is roughly just north of Vancouver to just south of Olympia.

I entered the Washington state House of Representatives in 2011. Early in my tenure, Ed and I were on the opposite sides of a piece of legislation. At first, my feelings were hurt. But I came to learn that Ed was honest and transparent. Most importantly: His constituents came first. While that does not make Ed unique among lawmakers, his determination is rare.

Ed is not the type to seek the spotlight, but he has never been afraid of being in it — including some of the most significant legislative debates of the last two decades. You will not see Ed on social media sharing his hot takes. However, you will find him up late at night personally responding to constituent emails. Again, Ed’s constituents are his priority.

In caucus, when Ed speaks, everyone listens intently. The same can be said for many of his House floor speeches. And no one can deliver a timely pun better than Ed. His only failure is that he has not figured out how to monetize this unique talent.

Whenever Ed has been asked to lead in our caucus, he accepts the challenge. He was the ranking member on the House Transportation Committee for more than five years. There, Ed influenced the budget-writing and policy-development processes — and delivered results.

When I asked Ed to leave this position and return to his role as the ranking member on the House Finance Committee, one of the front lines on tax policy in the Legislature, he accepted. While several lobbyists represent hundreds of interests and organizations in Olympia, no lobbyist represents the taxpayers. But Ed does.

As a longtime member of the important Economic and Revenue Forecast Council, Ed understands the challenges facing Washingtonians. When House Republicans developed their agenda for the 2023 legislative session, we turned to him on the priority of affordability. Ed responded by sponsoring two of our agenda bills: House Bill 1483, which would provide property tax relief through a thoughtful and responsible approach, and House Bill 1704, which would offer broad sales tax relief.

Republicans will continue to fight for taxpayers.

In some of our most intense caucus moments during my time as House Republican Leader, when I needed help, I would call Ed into my office for a one-on-one discussion. He helped guide our caucus through situations and decisions with little acknowledgment or fanfare. That is Ed: Steady, principled, and always ready with timely and sage advice.

I will miss these meetings and insights. But our new leadership — House Republican Leader Drew Stokesbary and Deputy Leader Mike Steele — will continue to benefit from them.

Ed’s institutional knowledge, depth on policy, and willingness to work with the other side without compromising his principles are exactly what our Legislature needs. He is an asset to the institution, his communities and our state.   


State Rep. J.T. Wilcox, a Republican from Yelm representing the 2nd Legislative District, earlier this year stepped down as House Republican leader.