In a last-minute surprise, Republican state Sen. Jan Angel withdrew from her re-election bid shortly before a Friday deadline for candidates to get on the 2018 primary ballot.
The Port Orchard lawmaker was replaced by Gig Harbor's Marty McClendon, the chairman of the Pierce County Republican Party.
Angel was thought to be running and had filed official paperwork for the 26th Legislative District race on Monday. In a phone interview Saturday with The News Tribune, Angel said she had been hoping to retire since the end of the 2018 legislative session but that no acceptable GOP candidate emerged to take her spot before this week.
Senate leaders "kept trying to convince me to run and I hadn't heard anything from them on filing day so I filed," she said.
Angel, who is 71, said party leaders approached McClendon on Wednesday and arranged the swap soon after.
"After 18 years of pretty constant work, I took it," Angel said.
Angel has been in public office since 1999. She first served eight years as a Kitsap County commissioner before winning election to the state House in 2008. She won a special election to the state Senate in 2013.
Despite Angel's long streak of election victories, McClendon could face a tough race in the 26th District.
McClendon won't have the "incumbent" status that typically gives candidates a boost. His challenger, Bremerton Democrat Emily Randall, already has raised more than $52,000, according to the state's Public Disclosure Commission, which tracks campaign spending.
Democratic strategists also believe political headwinds are in their favor due to President Donald Trump's lack of support in much of Washington state. Hillary Clinton narrowly won the 26th District in the 2016 presidential election.
Randall, in a Facebook post, celebrated Angel leaving the race saying her campaign "scared Jan into retirement!"
McClendon said in a news release he hoped to "continue the excellent leadership Jan Angel has provided for so many years."
"I plan to bring the same common-sense focus on family and community guided by conservative principals," he said.
McClendon unsuccessfully ran for Lt. Gov in 2016, losing in the general election to Democrat Cyrus Habib.
At the Capitol, Angel is the top Republican on the Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee and is a leader on the Law and Justice Committee.
Angel said she is proud of the work she has done to help veterans during her time in Olympia, among other accomplishments. Last year, she passed a bill that provides training to veteran volunteers who want to give support and counseling to other peers.
"I just feel very humbled and very honored that the people have allowed me to serve them this long, and I hope I’ve done a good job for them," Angel said.
The 26th District contains parts of Pierce and Kitsap counties and includes Bremerton, Port Orchard, Gig Harbor and stretches south to Longbranch.