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Gary Locke

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Gary Locke
Official portrait, 2009
President of Bellevue College
In office
June 15, 2020 – July 1, 2023
Preceded byJerry Weber
Succeeded byDavid May
10th United States Ambassador to China
In office
August 16, 2011 – March 1, 2014
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byJon Huntsman Jr.
Succeeded byMax Baucus
36th United States Secretary of Commerce
In office
March 26, 2009 – August 1, 2011
PresidentBarack Obama
DeputyDennis Hightower
Rebecca Blank (acting)
Preceded byCarlos Gutierrez
Succeeded byJohn Bryson
21st Governor of Washington
In office
January 15, 1997 – January 12, 2005
LieutenantBrad Owen
Preceded byMike Lowry
Succeeded byChristine Gregoire
5th King County Executive
In office
January 3, 1994 – January 15, 1997
Preceded byTim Hill
Succeeded byRon Sims
Member of the Washington House of Representatives
from the 37th district
In office
January 10, 1983 – January 3, 1994
Preceded byPeggy Maxie
Succeeded byVivian Caver
Personal details
Gary Faye Locke

(1950-01-21) January 21, 1950 (age 74)
Seattle, Washington, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Mona Lee
(m. 1994; div. 2015)
EducationYale University (BA)
Boston University (JD)
Gary Locke
Traditional Chinese駱家輝
Simplified Chinese骆家辉

Gary Faye Locke (born January 21, 1950) is an American politician, attorney, and former diplomat from the state of Washington. Locke served as the 21st governor of Washington from 1997 to 2005, where he was the first Chinese-American governor as well as the first Asian American governor in the continental U.S. During the Obama administration, Locke served as Secretary of Commerce from 2009 to 2011, and as Ambassador to China from 2011 to 2014, the first Chinese American to serve in the role.[1]

First elected to the Washington House of Representatives in 1982, Locke went on to become King County executive in 1993 before being elected governor in the 1996 election. A former prosecutor by profession, Locke staked out a reputation as a moderate Democrat during his tenure.[2][3] Reelected in the 2000 gubernatorial election, Locke was chosen by national Democrats to give the party's response to president George W. Bush's 2003 State of the Union address.[4] Locke declined to run for reelection in 2004.[5]

From June 2020 until July 2023, Locke served as interim president of Bellevue College, the largest of the institutions that make up the Washington Community and Technical Colleges system.[6]

Early life and education[edit]

Gary Locke was born on January 21, 1950, in Seattle, Washington, and spent his early years living in the Yesler Terrace public housing project. Locke is a third-generation Chinese American with paternal ancestry from Jilong village, Taishan, Guangdong.[7]

Locke is the second of five children of James "Jimmy" (Youh K.) Locke, who served as a staff sergeant in the U.S. Fifth Armored Division during World War II. James Locke's wife, Julie, is from Hong Kong,[8] which at that time was a British Crown Colony. His paternal grandfather left China in the 1890s and moved to the United States, where he worked as a houseboy in Olympia, Washington, in exchange for English lessons.[9]

Locke's father was born on October 15, 1917, in Taishan, and moved to the United States in 1931. He died on January 5, 2011, at the age of 93.[10] Locke did not learn to speak English until he was five years old and entered kindergarten.[11]

Locke graduated with honors from Seattle's Franklin High School in 1968. He achieved Eagle Scout rank and received the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award from the Boy Scouts of America.[11][12] Through a combination of part-time jobs, financial aid, and scholarships, Locke attended Yale University, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in political science in 1972.[13] He received his Juris Doctor from Boston University School of Law in 1975.

State of Washington political career[edit]

Locke has spoken of being inspired by Wing Luke, a Chinese American attorney and politician from Seattle who died in a plane crash in 1965.[14][2]

In 1982, Locke was elected from a South Seattle district to the Washington House of Representatives, where he served as the chair of the Appropriations Committee. Eleven years later, in 1993, Locke was elected King County's Executive, defeating incumbent liberal Republican Tim Hill.

Governor of Washington[edit]

In 1996, Locke won the Democratic primary and general election for governor of Washington, becoming the first Chinese American governor in United States history. His political committee was fined $2,500 by regulators in 1997 after admitting to state campaign finance law violations.[15]

Locke faced criticism from fellow Democrats for embracing the Republican Party's "no-new-taxes" approach to Washington's budget woes during and after the 2001 economic turmoil. Among his spending-reduction proposals were laying off thousands of state employees; reducing health coverage; freezing most state employees' pay; and cutting funding for nursing homes and programs for the developmentally disabled.

In his final budget, Locke suspended two voter-passed school initiatives and cut state education funding. Supported by the state's political left, former Washington Supreme Court Justice Phil Talmadge announced his plans to challenge Locke in the 2000 Democratic primary, but Talmadge ended his campaign early for health reasons. Locke went on to win reelection in 2000.

2003 State of the Union response and retirement[edit]

Locke was chosen to give his party's response to George W. Bush's 2003 State of the Union Address.[16] In a surprise move, Locke announced in July 2003 that he would not seek a third term,[17] saying, "Despite my deep love of our state, I want to devote more time to my family."[17]

Susan Paynter, a columnist at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, suggested that racist slurs, insults, and threats that Locke and his family received, especially after his rebuttal to Bush's State of the Union address, may have played a role in Locke's decision to leave office after two terms.[18] The governor's office received hundreds of threatening letters and emails; others threatened to kill his children.[18] His official portrait, painted by Michele Rushworth, was unveiled in the state capitol by Governor Christine Gregoire on January 4, 2006.

After leaving office, Locke joined the Seattle office of international law firm Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, in their China and governmental-relations practice groups. During the leadup to the 2008 Democratic presidential primary, Locke was Washington co-chairman of Hillary Clinton's campaign.[19]

National politics[edit]

On the national stage, Democrats saw Locke as a possible vice-presidential choice. In 1997, he was a guest at the State of the Union address.[20] During the 2004 presidential election, Locke was seen as a potential Cabinet choice for Democratic nominee John Kerry. Locke was mentioned as a potential contender for Secretary of Education or United States Trade Representative under a hypothetical Kerry administration.[5][21]

Secretary of Commerce[edit]

Locke's family awaiting the arrival of President Barack Obama in the White House on May 1, 2009

On December 4, 2008, the Associated Press reported that Locke was a potential candidate for Secretary of the Interior in then-President-elect Barack Obama's cabinet. Eventually, then-Colorado Senator Ken Salazar was nominated for that position instead.

On February 25, 2009, Locke was announced as Obama's choice for Secretary of Commerce,[15] and his nomination was confirmed by the United States Senate by unanimous consent on March 24.[22] Locke was sworn in March 26 by District Judge Richard A. Jones,[23] and by Obama on May 1.

Locke was the first Chinese-American Secretary of Commerce, and one of three Asian Americans in Obama's cabinet, joining Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki. Politico reported Locke was a popular cabinet member among both businesses and the executive branch.[24] A declaration of assets made in March 2011 showed Locke to be the sixth-richest official in the U.S. executive branch.[25]

Gary Locke's official portrait for the U.S. Department of Commerce was painted by Michele Rushworth

Ambassador to China[edit]

Chen Guangcheng (left) with Locke (center) and Kurt M. Campbell (right) at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing on May 1, 2012

Following the resignation of Jon Huntsman Jr., Obama nominated Locke to serve as United States Ambassador to China.[26] The Senate confirmed Locke unanimously on July 27, 2011;[27] Locke resigned as Secretary of Commerce on August 1.[28]

A photo of Locke carrying his own knapsack and ordering his own coffee at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport went viral in China on the Sina Weibo social network, with many commentators approving of his humble, low-key style.[29] At his first news conference after arrival in Beijing, Locke pledged to promote bilateral cooperation and understanding between the two countries.[30]

Early in Locke's ambassadorship, Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng escaped from house arrest and sought refuge in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing in April 2012. On May 2, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs demanded an apology from the U.S. for its role in the incident.[31] In an editorial on May 4, Beijing Daily questioned Locke's motives by taking Chen in,[25] describing Chen as "a tool and a pawn for American politicians to blacken China."[32]

In late November 2013, Locke announced that he would step down as ambassador to spend more time with his family in Seattle. In an analysis of his ambassadorship, Sun Zhe, a professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing, said, "It is not an easy job to be the American ambassador to China. Gary Locke is not a shining star, but a simple and unadorned ambassador." Shen Dingli, dean of the international studies department at Fudan University in Shanghai, largely concurred, commenting that Locke "showed us how a U.S. minister-level official behaves by taking economy-class flights" but "caused a twist" when he allowed Chen refuge in the U.S. embassy.[33] Max Baucus, a former United States Senator from Montana, was Obama's nominee to replace Locke and was confirmed by the Senate 96–0; Vice President Joe Biden administered the oath of office on February 21, 2014.[34]

Post-ambassadorship career[edit]

On February 17, 2016, Locke joined the board of AMC Theatres.[35] After dumping more than $1.7 million in AMC stock in June of 2021.[36] Locke was a named party in a shareholder lawsuit against the board in August of 2023.[37]

On May 31, 2016, Locke joined the board of the Seattle-based global health nonprofit PATH.[38]

Locke has been a major proponent of affirmative action in Washington State. He publicly endorsed I-1000 in the 2019 Washington State general election. Those efforts were overturned by a majority of voters in the state of Washington in 2019.[39]

In 2020, an ad for the reelection of president Donald Trump portrayed Locke with Joe Biden and falsely suggested he was an official of the Chinese Communist Party.[40]

Locke was tapped to be the interim president of Bellevue College on May 28, 2020, following the resignation of the college's president due to a controversial defacement of a campus mural.[6] He assumed the acting post on June 15, 2020.[41] On March 29, 2023, it was announced that David May would become permanent president,[42] assuming the acting post on June 15, 2020.[41] May took office on July 1, 2023.[43]

In March 2021, local media speculated that Locke could run for Mayor of Seattle in the 2021 election. Commentators noted that this was unlikely, as he resided in Bellevue, Washington, outside of Seattle city limits.[44] Locke chose not to run, instead endorsing the campaign of Bruce Harrell, who was elected.[45]

On November 16, 2023, Locke joined Dorsey & Whitney as a senior advisor. [46]

Personal life[edit]

Locke's first marriage, to a law school classmate, ended with a divorce in the 1970s.[47] On October 15, 1994, Locke married Mona Lee, a television reporter for the NBC affiliate KING 5 television in Seattle and former Miss Asian America 15 years his junior.[48] They divorced in 2015.[49][50] The Lockes have three children: Emily Nicole (b. March 1997), Dylan James (b. March 1999), and Madeline Lee (b. November 2004).[51] He is a Protestant.[52]

Regarding his ethnicity and being the only person of Chinese descent to have served as an ambassador to China, he said, "I’m proud of my Chinese heritage. I’m proud of the great contributions that China has made to world civilization over thousands of years. But I’m thoroughly American. I’m proud of the great values that America has brought to the entire world and all that America stands for."[53]

Political views[edit]

When asked if there is place for Asian Americans in politics, Locke had this to say:

"I think our native cultures have emphasized respect for our elders, care of our elders, but also focusing on education. But my overall response is that Asian Americans are part and parcel of the great success of America. Our grandparents came over in the 1800s to work in the railroads, work the lumber camps, goldmines, worked in the canneries, farmland that most people thought could never raise a crop, worked as merchants in cities that were just emerging. They fought in world wars, died for our freedoms and our liberties. Asian Americans have given our blood, sweat and tears to the communities and to this country. There's a prosperity that we on the west coast enjoy. So much of the prosperity and progress of the western states is because of the blood, sweat and tears of Asian Americans. From doing the dirty work to fighting in our world wars and contributing to our society now as doctors, researchers, people in high tech, as innovators, in all different professions. We have every right, indeed a responsibility, to help set the policies that will move our communities and our nation forward."[54]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gilbert Cruz (February 25, 2009). "Commerce Secretary: Gary Locke". Time. Archived from the original on February 28, 2009. Retrieved March 25, 2009.
  2. ^ a b Liu, Eric (August 24, 1997). "Locke Step". Washington Post. Retrieved March 3, 2023.
  3. ^ Egan, Timothy (October 22, 1996). "Battle in Washington Brings Soul-Searching". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 3, 2023.
  4. ^ Egan, Timothy (January 27, 2003). "Democrats Turn to Governor for Their State of the Union Response". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 3, 2023.
  5. ^ a b "The Wanted: Who Might Fill a Kerry Cabinet". Roll Call. July 23, 2004. Retrieved March 3, 2023.
  6. ^ a b Cornwell, Paige (May 28, 2020). "Former Gov. Gary Locke named interim president of Bellevue College". The Seattle Times. Retrieved May 28, 2020.
  7. ^ "Gary Locke visits his family's ancestral village in China with his sister Rita". Northwest Asian Weekly. November 12, 2011.
  8. ^ [1] Archived January 11, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "Commerce Secretary Gary Locke on Asian-American and Pacific Islander Month 2010". Commerce News. April 30, 2010. Archived from the original on December 15, 2021. Retrieved September 10, 2012.
  10. ^ Bobrowsky, Olivia (January 15, 2011). "Jimmy Locke, father of former Washington governor, dies at 93". The Seattle Times. Retrieved March 3, 2023.
  11. ^ a b "Remarks by President Obama and Commerce Secretary Nominee Gary Locke". whitehouse.gov. February 25, 2009. Retrieved July 12, 2009 – via National Archives.
  12. ^ Frank Chesley (June 29, 2006). "Locke, Gary Faye (b. 1950)". HistoryLink. Retrieved March 25, 2009.
  13. ^ "Biography of Governor Gary Locke". Who's Who of Asian Americans. Retrieved November 9, 2008.
  14. ^ Stripling, Sherry (February 25, 2005). "Wing Luke: the man behind the museum". Seattle Times. The Seattle Times Company. Retrieved September 20, 2015.
  15. ^ a b Sidoti, Liz (February 25, 2009). "Obama selected Locke to run Commerce Department". Yahoo! News. Associated Press. Archived from the original on February 28, 2009. Retrieved February 25, 2009.
  16. ^ "Democratic Leaders Announce Governor Gary Locke Will Deliver the Democratic Response to State of the Union Address" (Press release). Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi. January 15, 2003. Archived from the original on March 1, 2009. Retrieved February 24, 2009. Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi announced today that Governor Gary Locke of Washington state will deliver the Democratic response to President Bush's State of the Union address.
  17. ^ a b "Gov. Gary Locke Announces He Will Not Seek a Third Term" (Press release). Washington State Office of the Governor. July 21, 2003. Retrieved February 24, 2009.
  18. ^ a b Paynter, Susan (July 26, 2003). "Threats to Locke's family are a factor in third-term decision". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved December 17, 2007.
  19. ^ Ammons, David (October 7, 2007). "Ex-governor Locke named Clinton state co-chair". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved October 17, 2007.
  20. ^ Clinton, Bill (February 4, 1997). "Remarks By The President In State Of The Union Address". The White House. Archived from the original on July 16, 2011. Retrieved February 24, 2009. Gary Locke, the newly elected Governor of Washington State, is the first Chinese American governor in the history of our country. He's the proud son of two of the millions of Asian American immigrants who have strengthened America with their hard work, family values and good citizenship. He represents the future we can all achieve. Thank you, Governor, for being here. Please stand up.
  21. ^ Brown, Matthew Hay (November 1, 2004). "CABINET POSITIONS FACE CHANGES". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved March 3, 2023.
  22. ^ "U.S. Senate Confirms Gary Locke as Commerce Secretary". United States Department of Commerce. March 24, 2009. Archived from the original on March 27, 2009. Retrieved March 25, 2009.
  23. ^ O'Keefe, Ed (March 27, 2009). "Locke Officially Leading Commerce". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 29, 2009.
  24. ^ "CEOs: Locke Obama's Secret Weapon". Politico.
  25. ^ a b Jiao, Priscilla (May 18, 2012). "Locke calls daily's bluff by declaring his assets". South China Morning Post. Retrieved April 12, 2015.
  26. ^ Song, Kyung M. (March 9, 2011). "Obama officially nominates Locke as China envoy". The Seattle Times. Retrieved March 9, 2011.
  27. ^ "U.S. Senate Periodical Press Gallery". Senate.gov. Archived from the original on November 26, 2011. Retrieved May 22, 2012.
  28. ^ Nagesh, Gautham (August 1, 2011). "Commerce Secretary Gary Locke resigns to become Ambassador to China". The Hill. Retrieved August 1, 2011.
  29. ^ "Gary Locke charms China by carrying own bag". The Seattle Times. Associated Press. August 16, 2011. Retrieved September 11, 2016.
  30. ^ "New U.S. Ambassador Pledged to Promote Cooperation between U.S. and China". The China Times. Retrieved August 14, 2011.
  31. ^ 外交部要求美方就陈光诚一事向中方道歉 – The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs demands that the US apologizes for the Chen Guangcheng incident Archived 2012-08-25 at the Wayback Machine (bilingual), Thinking Chinese, May 2012
  32. ^ Chris Buckley (May 4, 2012). "China paper calls Chen a U.S. pawn; envoy is a "troublemaker"". MSNBC. Reuters. Archived from the original on May 5, 2012. Retrieved May 4, 2012.
  33. ^ Denyer, Simon (November 20, 2013). "U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke to step down, rejoin family in Seattle". Washington Post. Retrieved February 22, 2014.
  34. ^ Herman, Malia Rulon (February 21, 2014). "Max Baucus sworn in as ambassador". Great Falls Tribune. Retrieved February 22, 2014.
  35. ^ "Gary Locke and John Zeng Join AMC Entertainment Holdings, Inc. Board of Directors" (Press release). AMC Theatres. February 17, 2016. Retrieved August 8, 2016.
  36. ^ Richter, Wolf (June 5, 2021). "AMC Insiders Dumped Huge Portions of their Shares after WTF Spike, AMC Sold Shares, and Wanda is Already Outa There".
  37. ^ "In Re AMC Entertainment Holdings, Inc. Stockholder Litigation, C.A. No. 2023-0215-MTZ (Del. Ch. 2023)". courtlistener.com. August 11, 2023.
  38. ^ "Announcement: PATH welcomes Governor Gary Locke to its board of directors – PATH". www.path.org. Retrieved October 19, 2016.
  39. ^ "Washington Initiative 1000, Affirmative Action and Diversity Commission Measure (2019)". Ballotpedia. Retrieved July 9, 2019.
  40. ^ Dovere, Edward-Isaac (April 10, 2020). "Gary Locke Is Mad About That Trump Ad". The Atlantic. Retrieved May 28, 2020.
  41. ^ a b "Bellevue College Selects Gary Locke as Interim President". June 4, 2020. Retrieved August 25, 2023.
  42. ^ "Dr. David May Selected as New President of Bellevue College – Bellevue College". Bellevue College. March 29, 2023. Retrieved August 25, 2023.
  43. ^ "Office of the President – Bellevue College". Bellevue College. 2023. Retrieved August 25, 2023.
  44. ^ Campbell, Katie; King, Angela (March 26, 2021). "Gary Locke is probably not running for Seattle mayor. For starters, he lives in Bellevue". www.kuow.org. Retrieved December 24, 2021.
  45. ^ Yamamoto, J. K. (November 10, 2021). "Bruce Harrell Wins Race for Seattle Mayor". Rafu Shimpo. Retrieved December 24, 2021.
  46. ^ Former US Ambassador to China Joins Dorsey as Senior Advisor
  47. ^ Simon, Jim (January 14, 1997). "Meet the governor of details". The Seattle Times. Retrieved June 25, 2019.
  48. ^ Bjorhus, Jennifer (March 10, 1997). "First baby arrives: Emily Nicole Locke". The Seattle Times. Retrieved June 25, 2019.
  49. ^ Bayang, Ruth (May 12, 2017). "Lockes divorced, remain good friends". Northwest Asian Weekly. Retrieved June 25, 2019.
  50. ^ Meng, Angela (November 22, 2013). "Wife of US Ambassador to China Gary Locke denies he had affair". South China Morning Post. Retrieved June 25, 2019.
  51. ^ "About Governor Gary Locke". Digitalarchives.wa.gov. Retrieved May 22, 2012.
  52. ^ "Gary Locke on Principles & Values". www.ontheissues.org. Retrieved December 2, 2022.
  53. ^ Wan, William. "In parting speech, U.S. ambassador urges China to improve human rights record." The Washington Post. February 27, 2014.
  54. ^ Kagy, Tom. "Gary Locke: Governor Fix-It". Goldsea. Retrieved September 17, 2019.

External links[edit]

Washington House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the Washington House of Representatives
from the 37th district

Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Executive of King County
Succeeded by
Preceded by Governor of Washington
Succeeded by
Preceded by United States Secretary of Commerce
Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by Democratic nominee for Governor of Washington
1996, 2000
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chair of the Democratic Governors Association
Succeeded by
Preceded by Response to the State of the Union address
Succeeded by
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by United States Ambassador to China
Succeeded by
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded byas Former US Cabinet Member Order of precedence of the United States
as Former US Cabinet Member
Succeeded byas Former US Cabinet Member