Don Benton

Don Benton
Member of the Washington Senate
from the 17th district
Assumed office
January 13, 1997
Member of the Washington House of Representatives
from the 17th district
In office
Personal details
Born (1957-04-08) April 8, 1957
Los Angeles, California
Nationality American
Political party Republican
Residence Olympia, Washington and Vancouver, Washington
Alma mater Concordia University (B.S.)
Religion Christian
Website Official

Don Benton (born April 8, 1957)[1] is an American politician of the Republican Party. He is originally from Santa Clarita, California and has been a member of the Washington State Senate since 1997, where he represents Washington's 17th legislative district.[2]

Early life and education

Benton received an A.A. from College of the Canyons and a B.S. from Concordia University. At age 19 he co-founded, with his sister, Santa Clarita Temporaries, a temporary employment agency.[3] He later was employed as a district manager for Farmers Insurance and worked as an advertising consultant in southwest Washington.[4]


Washington State legislature

Benton was first elected to public office when he won a seat in the Washington state House of Representatives in 1994. In 1996 he was elected to the state Senate and has been re-elected continuously since. In 2012, Benton faced a tight and contentious race, edging Democratic challenger Tim Probst by less than 100 votes.[5] Political scientist James Thurber has described Benton as a "shoot from the hip" lawmaker known for a "bombastic" style and a frequent unwillingness to compromise.[6] In the 2012 legislative session Benton led senate Republicans in introducing a rare procedural motion known as the "ninth order" to push the Republican caucuses budget proposal to a floor vote. The "ninth order" allows any bill to be brought to a vote even if it has not had a public hearing. Democratic lawmakers protested that the maneuver lacked transparency, though three Democratic senators ultimately joined with Benton to help pass the motion.[7] In 2014 Benton and Ann Rivers, another state legislator from Clark County, were both admonished by a Senate committee for verbal sparring in which Rivers called Benton a "piece of shit," and Benton responded by referring to Rivers as a "trashy trampy-mouthed little girl." [8] The same year Benton, along with fellow GOP senator Pam Roach, requested his name be removed from the Republican caucus website. While Benton said he would remain a member of the Republican caucus, he no longer wanted to be publicly associated with it due to the caucuses decision to bring a bill granting illegal immigrants in-state tuition at state colleges to a floor vote.[9]

As of 2014, Benton serves on the Transportation, Government Operations, Rules, and Financial Institutions committees.[10] He is a Washington state leader for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).[11]

Washington State Republican Party Chair

In 2000, Benton was elected chair of the Washington state Republican Party. His tenure was marked by historical fundraising numbers, though some party members criticized his spending priorities and hiring decisions. After Benton used specific funds he raised to purchase a new headquarters in Olympia without consulting some party leadership, two members of the party's executive board requested his resignation, which he refused to give. The following year Benton lost reelection by three votes.[12]

Clark County Director of Environmental Services

In 2013 Benton, while still serving in the Senate, was selected as director of environmental services for Clark County. His appointment was controversial as it bypassed standard civil service hiring procedures and Benton had no previous experience in environmental services.[13][14][15][16] Editorials in The Columbian, The Olympian, and The Seattle Times questioned Benton's qualifications[17] and the county was sued for unfair hiring practices by the department's interim director,[18] who claimed she had been denied the opportunity to apply for the position. By November of that year Benton, himself, threatened a suit. His attorney contacted Ed Barnes - a Clark County union activist who had declared Benton unqualified for the job during public comment periods at county commission meetings - claiming defamation, though some legal experts questioned whether Benton, as a public figure, could file such a suit.[19] In the midst of the conflagration, county commissioner David Madore - who had voted for Benton's appointment - declared the hiring was an "accident."[20] The following year, partly as a result of the controversy that engulfed Benton's appointment, Clark County convened a council of freeholders to rewrite the county's charter.[21]

Political positions


In 2013, Benton introduced a bill that would require parents to be notified if their minor daughter was having an abortion. Benton stated that "this is a parental rights bill" and not intended to stop abortions. "While minors must have parental permission to get a tattoo or have their ear pierced it is still possible for a young girl to have an abortion without the benefit of their own mother's counseling" said Benton.[22] In a 2012 survey collected by the Life Political Action Committee of Southwest Washington, Benton indicated that he believes life begins at conception, the State has a compelling interest in protecting human life beginning at conception, abortion is never morally permissible, and medical professionals should be allowed to deny service based on their moral, ethical or religious beliefs. In the survey he also said, "To my knowledge, I am the only Senator to ever sponsor and successfully pass parental notification law in the state senate. It was killed in the House."[23]


In 2005 Benton introduced the Chelsea Harrison Act, which was eventually enacted and signed into law in 2008. The statute amended the state's three-strikes law to expand the law's repeat offender criteria by including persons convicted of felony sexual assault in other states.[24][25] Benton has previously introduced legislation to apply the death penalty to cases of premeditated murder where the victim is a child.[26]

Gay marriage

Benton opposes gay marriage and civil unions, saying on the Senate floor that those laws affect "less than a half of one percent of the population."[27]

Higher education

In 2010 Benton, who served as a student member of the Board of Trustees at California's College of the Canyons,[28] introduced legislation to create a sixth trustee position at Washington community colleges, which would be filled with a student appointment.[29] Benton has voted against proposed tuition increases at state colleges and universities,[30] however, has stated his opposition to offering in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants.[31] In 2008 he broke with the senate Republican caucus and supported legislation to extend collective bargaining rights to research assistants at Washington State University.[32]


Benton supports reducing taxes on small businesses[33] and has also supported efforts to raise the property tax exemption amount for the elderly and disabled. After Washington Initiative 1185 (a measure that required the legislature to submit proposed tax increases to public referendum) was declared unconstitutional by the state supreme court in 2012, Benton stated his support for an amendment to the state constitution that would incorporate the essence of the nullified statute.[34][35] Benton has said he is in alignment with many members of the Tea Party movement.[36]

Benton has been a vocal opponent of the Columbia River Crossing bridge proposal, shown here in a concept drawing.


Benton has been a vocal opponent of the Columbia River Crossing, calling the proposed bridge an unnecessarily expensive replacement for the existing Interstate Bridge.[37] Benton has also expressed concern at tolling plans outlined for the proposed bridge which, he claimed, could cost Clark County residents - many of whom commute to Portland, Oregon daily - $100 per month or more.[38]

While the legislature ultimately approved partial funding on the project, Democratic governor Jay Inslee vetoed the measure, earning praise from Benton.[39] When Oregon attempted to move ahead on the bridge without Washington's support, Benton introduced a measure in the legislature to block Clark County's public transit agency C-Tran from cooperating with Oregon state agencies on the project. C-Tran had previously suggested it might enact eminent domain on properties on the Washington side of the Washington-Oregon border on behalf of Oregon transportation planners.[40]

Personal life

Benton's father was a former member of the Agua Dulce, California school board.[41] Benton has four children with his wife, Mary, who currently runs his former advertising consultancy.[42][43]


  2. Don Benton Bio
  4. Thurber, James (2001). The Battle for Congress: Consultants, Candidates, and Voters.
  6. Thurber, James (2001). The Battle for Congress: Consultants, Candidates, and Voters.
  7. "Washington Legislature: Partisan debate arises as Republicans push budget to Senate floor". The Oregonian. 2 March 2012.
  8. "Clean up your language, 2 senators told". Spokane Spokesman-Review. 6 January 2014. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
  9. "Sen. Benton angry with majority coalition". The Columbian. 12 February 2014. Retrieved 13 February 2014.
  12. Seattle Times: Vance replaces Benton as GOP chief
  13. Hidle, Erik (May 1, 2013). "County shocker: Benton tapped for top environmental job (with audio): Commissioner Stuart storms out of meeting, alleges cronyism". The Columbian. Retrieved May 13, 2013.
  14. "In Our View: Benton hire is an Insult, Local environment entrusted to man with virtually no qualifications for the job". The Columbian. May 3, 2012. Retrieved May 13, 2013.
  15. Editorial Board (May 5, 2013). "Editorial: State Sen. Don Benton for environmental post? Really?". Seattle Times. Retrieved May 13, 2013.
  16. Editorial Board (May 8, 2013). "Benton appointment shows cronyism is thriving in Clark County". The Olympian. Retrieved May 13, 2013.
  17. Mathieau, Stevie; Erin Middlewood (September 1, 2013). "Benton's ballyhooed management experience is hazy: Company discloses little of its work beyond that for Benton campaign". Sunday Columbian, p A1. The Columbian. Retrieved October 24, 2013.
  18. "Unfair hiring complaint names Madore, Mielke: Environmental services employee seeks more than $300,000". The Columbian. October 17, 2013. Retrieved October 24, 2013.
  19. Hidle, Eric (13 November 2013). "Benton threatens lawsuit against outspoken critic". The Columbian. Vancouver. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
  20. "Madore deletes FB post on Benton hiring". KOIN 6 News. October 21, 2013. Retrieved January 30, 2014.
  21. Erin Middlewood (January 25, 2014). "Freeholders: Add two commissioners". The Columbian. Retrieved January 30, 2014.
  23. LifePAC: Benton answers survey
  24. "Looking back at three-strikes". The Columbian. Vancouver. 10 November 2010. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
  25. "Benton again pushes "three strikes" bill". The Oregonian. Portland. 15 January 2008. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
  26. "Death penalty for child killers?". The News-Tribune. Tacoma. 5 February 2007. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
  27. Stranger: Benton on Marriage and Domestic Partnerships
  28. "Vancouver Republican basks in state Senate majority". Yakima Herald. Yakima. 18 March 2013. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
  31. "Capitol Newsmaker, Week 2: Sen. Don Benton". Seattle Metropolitan Magazine. 25 January 2013. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
  33. Don Benton on the Issues
  34. "What bills are local lawmakers backing?". The Columbian. Vancouver. 23 January 2013. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
  35. Property Tax Deferral vote
  36. Seattle Times: Don Benton, veteran state senator, seeks to take on Patty Murray in November
  37. "Columbia River Crossing supporters have no valid arguments left: Guest opinion". The Oregonian. Portland. 15 October 2013. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
  38. MID-SESSION SPECIAL EDITION [The Impact] (web video). 1:03: TV Washington. 2012. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
  39. "Benton praises governor for veto of Columbia River Crossing funding". 21 May 2013. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
  40. "2014 Washington Legislature: Senator seeks to prevent transfer of eminent domain to agencies from other states". The Oregonian. Portland. 22 January 2014. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
  41. "Vancouver Republican basks in state Senate majority". Yakima Herald. Yakima. 18 March 2013. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
  42. The Benton Group
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