Democratic State Senator Sid Snyder shocks Legislature by resigning from office to protest GOP tactics on April 19, 1997.

  • By Peter Blecha
  • Posted 7/22/2009
  • Essay 9089
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On April 19, 1997, a teary-eyed Senate minority leader, Sidney R. "Sid" Snyder (1926-2012), faces reporters and angrily outlines his growing frustrations with the sharply partisan tenor of the Senate. As the editorial board of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer will later put it, Snyder was "devastated by the way the then-Republican Senate majority was trashing some of the chamber's 100-year-old rules of procedure." One week after announcing his resignation, Snyder is persuaded by senatorial colleagues to return to his elected post.

Headed home

As abrupt as the breaking news seemed, Snyder's actions that day were not rashly made. In fact, he had discreetly informed Democratic Governor Gary Locke (b. 1950) in advance, and was asked to take a couple days off to think it over. But after much thought and discussions with his wife, Bette, Snyder made his move. Packing office papers and mementos into his car, the couple drove off with expectations of a more tranquil lifestyle in their small oceanside hometown of Long Beach.

Many friends and colleagues were saddened to see his half-century-long governmental career apparently end, and over the following days hundreds of letters and phone-calls of support began pouring in -- each asking Snyder to reconsider. But of course, not everyone was mourning his departure. One newspaper noted that "Some Republican lawmakers suggested Snyder was going to resign after the session in any case, because of his health" (Postman) -- a fabricated assertion that the Snyders both vigorously denied.

The Comeback Trail

So, would the senator ever consider a return to Olympia? "It'd be pretty hard to go back," he told The Seattle Times: "I don't know what kind of circumstances could come about to cause me to go back."  Such circumstances soon arose, beginning with the delivery of letters penned by his erstwhile senatorial peers beseeching him to return to the fold -- one, signed by 23 of the 26 Republicans, even went so far as to plead that "The body needs individuals like you with your institutional history." Then, too, it seems that reading all of the news coverage about his foreshortened career spooked Snyder a bit -- as Bette described the scene: "Not everyone gets to read their own obituary" (Postman & Murakami).

And lastly, because of a not-insignificant technicality -- he had failed to formally submit a resignation letter to Locke, and his secretary refused to sign or deliver it on his behalf when asked to do so -- his path of return was made easier. Thus, on April 26, 1997, Senator Snyder settled back into his old office and continued serving the 19th District until his final retirement from politics in 2002.

Sources: David Postman, "Resignation No Whim, Says Town That Knows Sen. Sid Snyder Best -- He's An Institution On Long Beach Peninsula," The Seattle Times, April 21, 1997  (; David Postman & Kery Murakami,"1 Week After Quitting, Sid Snyder, Minority Leader, Rejoins Senate," Ibid., April 27, 1997, (; "Stories a tribute to Sid Synder [sic]," editorial, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, November 15, 2002, (
Note: This essay was updated on October 16, 2012.

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