Claudia Kauffman is sworn in to the Washington State Senate on January 8, 2007.

  • By Kate Kershner
  • Posted 8/02/2011
  • Essay 9867

On January 8, 2007, Claudia Kauffman (b. 1959) takes the oath of office as a state senator representing the 47th District. She is the first Native American woman to serve in the Washington State Senate. A Democrat, Kauffman won the seat in the November 7, 2006, general election. Her 47th District includes part of southeast King County extending from the Renton Highlands through Kent to Black Diamond. Kauffman will serve one term in the Senate, losing a re-election bid in 2010.

Taking the Oath

A member of the Nez Perce Tribe, Kauffman was born in Idaho and grew up in Seattle. Before running for the state legislature seat, she worked as a private consultant to the Oglala Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, and co-founded the Native Action Network. She had never run for office when she decided to seek the 47th District Senate seat. She defeated former Kent police chief Ed Crawford in the primary to win the Democratic Party nomination. In the general election for the open seat, she defeated Republican Mike Riley, winning 52 percent of the vote.

Kauffman was one of eight newly elected senators who took the oath of office on the first day of the legislative session, January 8, 2007. Joining her were senators Steve Hobbs, Janea Holmquist, Derek Kilmer, Chris Marr, Ed Murray, Eric Oemig, and Rodney Tom. The oaths were administered by Washington State Supreme Court Justice Gerry Alexander, who had been re-elected to his position on the court in the same election in which the eight senators won their seats.

Serving in the Senate

While serving in the senate, Kauffman introduced legislation to provide certification for teachers of First Peoples language and culture. She also sponsored legislation that expanded the Native American Scholarship Endowment, which Governor Christine Gregoire (b. 1947)  later signed into law.

Kauffman served as the vice chair for the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee, and also served on the Human Services & Corrections, Rules, and Transportation committees.

Kauffman sought re-election in 2010, but was defeated by Republican Joe Fain.


Sarah Stuteville and Peder Nelson, "Claudia Kauffman Opens the Door to American Indians Tracing their Heritage," Real Change, April 11-17, 2007 (; "Sen. Kauffman Concedes, Will Continue to Work for South King County," Auburn Reporter, November 4, 2010 (; "About," Native Action Network, June 17, 2011 (; "Journal of the Senate, First Day, January 8, 2007, 2007 Regular Session," p. 4, Washington State Legislature website accessed November 10, 2017(; Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "Kauffman, Claudia (b. 1959)" (by Kate Kershner), (accessed November 10, 2017).
Note: This essay was revised and corrected on November 10, 2017.

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