Ellen Craswell

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Ellen Craswell
Personal details
Born (1932-05-25)May 25, 1932
Bothell, Washington, U.S.
Died April 5, 2008(2008-04-05) (aged 75)
Poulsbo, Washington, U.S.
Political party Republican
Education University of Washington,

Ellen Craswell (25 May 1932 – 5 April 2008[1]) was an American politician, a former Washington state legislator, and a candidate in the 1996 Washington gubernatorial election. She ran as a Republican, but grew disillusioned with the party and later joined the American Heritage Party, the Washington State affiliate of the Constitution Party. She resided in Poulsbo, Washington with her husband and fellow politician, Bruce Craswell.[1]

Early life[edit]

Ellen Howe was born in Bothell on May 25, 1932 and grew up in Silverdale, the fifth child in a household of seven children. Her father died when she was nine years old and her mother raised the family. In 1955, she married Bruce Craswell, a dentist whom she had met in college and who was involved in politics.

Legislative career[edit]

Craswell first was elected to Washington's 23rd Legislative District. She received 33.69% of the vote against two Democrats in the 1976 primary, before going on to defeat Democrat Ray Aardal, with 54.63% of the vote. She won landslides in both 1978 and 1980, when she became a state Senator. From 1984 and onwards, she faced a series of competitive races, being reelected only after a recount in 1988 and being defeated by Democrat Betti Sheldon in 1992. During her tenure as a senator, she earned the nickname "Senator No" for her steady refusal to vote for any tax increases.[1] In 1987 she was appointed as the first female president pro tempore of the Senate, a position she held until the end of her career.[1]

Primary results

  • 1976: Received 33.69% against Democrats Ray Aardal (34.28%) and Robert Randall (32.03%).
  • 1978: Received 65.41% against Democrat Sharon Shrader.
  • 1980: Running for the Washington State Senate, received 58.93% against Democrats Gordon Walgren (23.54%) and Frances Haddon Morgan (17.53%).
  • 1984: Received 51.31% against Democrat Sherril Huff.
  • 1988: Received 40.46% against fellow Republican Sherry Appleton (30.45%) and Democrat Bob Griffith (29.09%).
  • 1992: Received 42.23% against Democrat Betti Sheldon (28.89%) and fellow Republican Sherry Appleton (28.88%).

General results

  • 1976: Received 54.63% against Democrat Ray Aardal.
  • 1978: Received 66.43% against Democrat Sharon Shrader.
  • 1980: Running for Washington State Senate, received 73.52% against Democrat Gordon Walgren.
  • 1984: Received 54.00% against Democrat Sherril Huff.
  • 1988: Received 51.06% against Democrat Bob Griffith.
  • 1992: Defeated after receiving 44.62% against Democrat Betti Sheldon.

1996 Washington gubernatorial election[edit]

After Democrat Mike Lowry announced that he would not seek re-election, Craswell announced that she would run. During her legislative career, she was initially identified as a Ronald Reagan supporter, but as time went on, she gained a strong identity as an evangelical Christian and member of the Christian right. Craswell was very open about her religious identity, prompting concern among some in the Republican Party that she would have difficulty in moderately liberal Washington. During the campaign, Craswell successfully appealed to suburban conservatives with more moderate social leanings by promising to repeal more than a third of state taxes and cut 30 percent of the state budget. In September 1996, she narrowly gained the primary nod, receiving 15.26% of the primary vote and defeating her nearest Republican opponent Dale Foreman, who received 13.37%.

Craswell campaigned both on fiscal issues and as an unabashed conservative Christian. She gained media coverage for comments, including those where she described herself as a "radical," declared that she would hire only "wise and godly people" as staffers, and listed God at the top of her campaign organization chart. Education also became an important issue during the campaign, with Craswell supporting heavy localization and a tuition-based system for all schools, and Democratic opponent Gary Locke supporting a more state-centric system. Craswell successfully ran a grassroots campaign, receiving campaign contributions from only individuals and advertising only on billboards and yard signs and at campaign events.

Craswell's outspoken position on social issues – including comments that gay rights were "special rights for sodomites"[2] – did not resonate with voters in the state. In November, Craswell was defeated by Locke, receiving only 42.04% of the vote.[1]

Subsequent activity[edit]

Following her defeat in the election, Craswell switched party affiliation to the Christian right American Heritage Party (AHP). Her husband, Bruce, ran under the party's banner in the 1st congressional district and received 6.11%.

When the AHP (then a state affiliate of the Constitution Party) attempted to disaffiliate from the national party (CP), it caused an acrimonious schism resulting in non-renewal by over 90 percent of the state party members. The Craswells left both the American Heritage Party and the Constitution Party, refusing to take sides, and became independents.

Craswell lived with her family in the Poulsbo, Washington area, until her death on April 5, 2008. She had four children and 14 grandchildren.[1] She had been diagnosed with cancer twice before, but succumbed to her third bout with the disease. After retiring from politics, Craswell remained fairly quiet, granting few interviews.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Jack Broom (2008-04-08). "Former state Sen. Ellen Craswell dies". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2008-08-21. 
  2. ^ "Craswell's Crusade -- This Long-Shot Candidate Dares To Mix Religion And Politics". The Seattle Times. February 5, 1995. Retrieved 2010-03-23. 

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Ken Eikenberry
Republican nominee for Governor of Washington
Succeeded by
John Carlson