Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, has confirmed news that Sen. Mike Carrell died this morning. The Lakewood Republican was 69.
In a statement, the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus said Carrell was surrounded by family and friends at the University of Washington Medical Center when he died at 10:35 a.m. of lung complications stemming from medical treatment.
Earlier this year, Carrell entered into treatment for myelodysplastic syndrome or MDS, a pre-cancer condition often leading to leukemia. He received a bone-marrow transplant from his brother last month.
Friends who were helping raise money to pay for his treatment posted on their website Tuesday: “We are sad to report that Mike has taken a turn for the worse. He has struggled to fight off fevers and nausea and has not been able to eat. Mike is in grave condition and needs everyone to pray for him and Charlotte at this very difficult time.”
Carrell was first elected to the state House in 1994, moving to the Senate 10 years later. Here is his official biography on the Senate homepage.
Carrell, a former teacher, authored the state’s Becca bill, which established involuntary confinement centers for runaways and required schools to file juvenile-court petitions over multiple unexcused absences. He was known for his work on criminal justice and mental health legislation, and in recent years, he had teamed up with former Sen. Debbie Regala and current Sen. Jeannie Darneille, both Tacoma Democrats.
“He was a proud, conservative Republican who certainly worked well with Democrats in the those subject areas,” Schoesler said. “It is a trait we need more of here, and we’ve lost someone with it.”
Regala said Wednesday that even though she and the Lakewood Republican didn’t always agree, they were able to work together productively and collaborate. The two served together on the Senate’s human services committee.
“He was a conservative Republican and I was a much more liberal Democrat — we came at issues from very different points of view,” Regala said. “But we would talk and find common ground.”
In Regala’s experience, Carrell also was more concerned with passing worthwhile legislation than taking credit for it, she said.
A few years ago, the two senators flipped a coin to decide which of them would be the prime sponsor of a bill dealing with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, Regala said.
“The two of us worked well together and we weren’t real competitive about who got credit,” Regala said. “We just wanted to get it done.”
“I know the Legislature’s going to miss him,” she added.
Gov. Jay Inslee said he had had the honor of signing several of Carrell’s bills into law this year.
“Sen. Carrell was a gentleman and a committed public servant who worked hard for the less fortunate among us,” Inslee said in a statement.
Carrell’s less-known agenda surrounded historic preservation. He was a champion of Ft. Steilacoom Park and helped restore the adjacent cemetery where patients at the mental hospital were buried, often without their names on markers. He also helped secure funding to preserve the four remaining houses from the historic fort.
Carrell was a retired teacher who taught in the Franklin Pierce School District until 1998. He taught at Keithley Middle School, was a science teacher at Franklin Pierce High School and at the district’s GATES alternative school.
Friends of Carrell have been helping raise money to pay his medical bills during the past few months. Jan Gee, co-chair of the fundraising effort, said that the group will continue collecting donations to help Carrell’s wife, Charlotte, pay his outstanding medical bills. The group will maintain the website HelpMikeMedical,org, said Gee, a friend of Carrell’s who is also the president and CEO of the Washington Food Industry Association.
“We still have work to do,” Gee said. “Charlotte is going to be left with a lot of medical bills… we will make sure Charlotte will be able to move forward and take care of paying for his doctors and his treatment.”
The group has raised about $14,000 since it began fundraising for Carrell, and has about $6,700 left after paying for some of his earlier medical costs, Gee said.
“Mike died very comfortably in his sleep, and that’s because he was getting great medical care,” Gee said. “And we were glad to be a part of that.”
In addition to Charlotte, Carrell is survived by sons Matthew, Larry and Carlton, and five grandchildren.