Brendan Williams is an attorney, health care advocate, and a prolific writer running a long-term care association in New Hampshire.
The only Washington legislator to keep a term-limits pledge, from 2005-10 Williams served Thurston County’s 22nd Legislative District as a state representative. He earned top-legislator recognition from nine statewide groups, ranging from progressive to conservative, and from 2007-08 passed the 3rd-most bills into law in the 98-member House. In his spare time, from 2005-12, he was a frequent debater on statewide ballot measures before editorial boards and on radio and TV.
Over six years, the 27 bills Brendan prime-sponsored into law included some that were nationally-groundbreaking. Nine highlights:
• Safeguarding insurance for religious institutions and health clinics targeted by crime, after arson hit churches and an Olympia women’s clinic
• Creating sexual assault protection orders
• Establishing the Safe Routes to School Program within the transportation budget
• Allowing victims’ pets to be removed from abusers in domestic protection orders
• Requiring negligent businesses to cover data breach costs for financial institutions
• Preventing governments from interfering with religious institutions housing homeless
• Integrating Child Advocacy Centers into investigation of child sexual abuse
• Granting arbitration rights to State Patrol officers
• Allowing adult family home providers to collectively bargain for higher Medicaid reimbursement
More whimsically, when children at Boston Harbor Elementary School wanted there to be a state amphibian, Brendan pushed their bill into law bestowing that designation upon the Pacific Chorus Frog.
No three-term “safe district” legislator passed more bills into law than Brendan did. He was selected as a Toll Fellow by the Council of State Governments.
In 2006 the Spokesman-Review wrote that Brendan “takes the prize for most fundraising by a legislator assured of victory on Election Day.” Brendan’s record still stands for biggest “surplus” donation by a freshman Democrat to help other candidates, and no other legislator has ever given more personally. As a representative he served in many capacities as needed, including as Majority External Relations Leader and as a leading voice for House Democrats on 2006 sex crimes legislation.
With 123 state legislative races on the ballot in his final race in 2008, Brendan received the 4th-highest vote total of any winning candidate in the state, and yet kept his term limits promise. In 2010, the Olympian referred to him as “Olympia’s iconic” legislator. He was recognized for his unwillingness to yield to orders, and for speaking up on behalf of vital programs, including Medicaid, cut during the panicked 2009-10 response to the recession. Brendan described the 2009 session in the Olympian as “an unending assault on the people and values of the 22nd District.”
In 2010, as cuts continued, Brendan fought alongside Republicans to try to save an institution in an adjoining Republican district. He also sought to apply the same pay cuts to legislators that they were inflicting upon state workers, including their own (largely-women) legislative aides. That effort failed in a close House vote. Author of an anti-harassment order law, Brendan reported a colleague’s alleged workplace sexual harassment to House administration despite an explicit threat of reprisal. The information was concealed.
In the 2008 gubernatorial election, a then-extremist group closely-allied with the Democratic House speaker called Gov. Christine Gregoire a “power-hungry she-wolf.” Williams publicly condemned the organization, their sexist attacks upon Gregoire, and their attacks upon Seattle, while the House speaker, from Seattle, remained completely silent.
Upon taking office in 2005, Brendan had to give up his position as head of the Washington Health Care Association. The association enjoyed record success during his tenure, despite massive proposed long-term care cuts in successive sessions, as Brendan worked to block cuts, and actually obtained Medicaid funding gains in both sessions from a Republican Senate and Democratic House. His legal arguments also persuaded the state to stop imposing retroactive tax liability upon assisted living; in a settlement Brendan negotiated a law reducing the tax to 1/6 of what the state sought, and making it prospective only.
Care for the most vulnerable is a passion: Brendan has had dozens of columns on long-term care published in three Iowa newspapers, six Washington newspapers, eight New Hampshire newspapers, and even USA Today. He has also had dozens more columns on other topics, including advocacy for those with hearing disabilities, and columns on the long-unmet Washington state constitutional duty to fund education for public school kids like his son Blake.
Brendan’s thoughts on health care have been featured nationally, especially amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, and national Associated Press stories. In a book, New York Times-bestselling author Thomas Frank acknowledged that “Brendan Williams explained Obamacare to me.” A former Washington Supreme Court law clerk, described by Washington’s longest-serving Chief Justice as “one of my finest law clerks,” Brendan has authored over 30 published law review articles on a range of issues, including civil rights, consumer rights, criminal justice, health care, insurance, gender identity, and women’s rights. For example, Howard Law Journal featured Brendan’s analysis of minority voter suppression that largely focused on the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial race.
Other work experience includes a six-year solo legal practice, two-and-a-half years as a deputy insurance commissioner, and a jet-setting stint as general counsel to a national trade association based in Alexandria, Virginia. Brendan has been a frequent speaker on health care and insurance topics at national conferences and continuing legal education seminars.
A product of public schools, Brendan earned degrees from The Evergreen State College (B.A.), the University of Washington School of Law (J.D.), and Washington State University (M.A., Criminal Justice). While Brendan was an undergraduate, the student governments of the state’s five public universities elected him president of the Washington Student Lobby. As a child Brendan lived in the Evergreen Villages’ low-income housing complex in West Olympia before moving to Oregon and Iowa and spending vacations with his father in Olympia, during which he swam in Capitol Lake before that became impossible.
Away from work and writing, Brendan is a very proud dad and avid (if all too occasional, these days) hiker. Active in philanthropy, he funds an annual scholarship in the memory of Evalyn Poff, a pioneering woman leader in Olympia. His resume can be found on LinkedIn.