Republican hires Democrat

A staunch Republican elected to the State House of Representatives for the first time has hired a Democrat as his chief aide.

It may strike some as akin to a dog hiring a cat or a wolf recruiting a lamb, but Clinton Republican Chris Strow thinks even natural enemies like Republicans and Democrats can work together.

That’s why he hired Oak Harbor Democrat Gina Bull as his legislative aide, a job which officially commences Jan. 3, just prior to the 2005 session of the Washington State Legislature.

Strow and Bull crossed paths often on the campaign trail this year. Both were running for 10th District State Representative, Position 1. Strow had no opposition in the Republican primary, while Bull was running against Coupeville Mayor Nancy Conard in the Democratic primary. Conard won that match, but eventually lost to Strow in the general election.

Strow’s Republican credentials appear impeccable. He was an aide to former U.S. Congressman Jack Metcalf and has a long history working with the Washington State Republican Party. So why look outside his party for his legislative aide?

“We became really good friends and she’s genuinely interested in doing this job,” Strow explained, adding that some found his idea “a little bit of an off-the-wall thing.”

Bull admitted being a bit taken aback when Strow approached her about the position. “Chris asked if I would consider being his aide — it took me quite by surprise,” she said. “But it says a lot about Chris, and it’s a win-win situation for our district.”

Both support a bipartisan approach to representing the 10th District, whose delegation to Olympia also includes Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, and Rep. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor.

“The ones who get the most done are willing to cross party lines,” Bull said.

Strow also thought Bull’s life experience would complement his. She’s a long-time employee of the Oak Harbor School District, presently vice-principal in charge of discipline at Oak Harbor Middle School. She has worked in Olympia on union issues, and her father, Rep. Bill Grant, is himself a veteran Democratic legislator from Eastern Washington. In addition, her father-in-law, Admiral Lyle Bull, Ret., is a civic leader in Oak Harbor. The admiral is also a Republican, having said during the campaign that his daughter is the first Democrat he’s ever supported.

Strow is single, and he said Bull’s experience as the parent in a large family will also help broaden his perspective. “You have to see the viewpoint of your constituents, and Gina’s got unique family ties,” he said.

Strow describes partisanship as “a necessary evil in the political system,” but that does not mean the two sides can’t work more closely together. “This is how things ought to be done,” he said of hiring Bull. “But I’m not trying to send a message.”

Bull, who took a leave of absence from her school district job, said she’s looking forward to her position in politics. “I have some close friends on the Republican side,” she said. “I want to support Chris for the best for our district. Chris has to make the decisions, so I’ve got the best of both worlds.”

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