Dan Evans, Washington’s ‘New Breed’ governor, senator, elder statesman to be honored with gala on 95th birthday
Mainstream Republicans of Washington salute the engineer behind state’s Republican Revolution of the ‘60s
Dan Evans, the former governor and senator who led Washington’s Republican Revolution in the 1960s and left a legacy of better government and sensible environmental protection, will be honored Oct. 15 with an online gala organized by the Mainstream Republicans of Washington.
Evans turns 95 Oct. 16.
Evans is the first – and so far only — Washington governor to be elected to three terms, capping his career with five years in the U.S. Senate. Three decades after his retirement from political office, Evans remains active in public life, a thoughtful voice in Washington politics and an elder statesman of his party.
“Dan Evans’ contributions to our state would be legend if there weren’t so many eyewitnesses,” said Jon Nehring, Mainstream Republicans chair. “He drew together some of the best minds in the Legislature, and together this ‘New Breed’ of Republican remade state government. Today Olympia has Dan’s stamp all over it, and he continued that record of accomplishment in the U.S. Senate.
“From creation of the North Cascades National Park to the Columbia Gorge Scenic Area, Dan has been a leader in conservation. As governor, he reorganized state government, helped create our state’s community college system, and took the first major steps toward environmental protection. Rather than opposing change, he realized his party had a duty to shape it, to meet the demands of a fast-growing state in an efficient and effective way.
“Dan really is one of the most important figures in our state’s political history. He represents the best Republican tradition of good government, and we are proud to honor him on his 95th birthday.”
The online gathering, “Honoring Gov. Dan Evans’ 95 Years: A Cascade Conference Virtual Gala,” is the fall event for the Mainstream Republicans of Washington, a political action organization reflecting Evans’ principles of pragmatism and moderation.
The birthday celebration begins at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 15 and will feature tributes from friends, family, colleagues and peers. Highlights include a conversation between Dan Evans and longtime broadcast journalist Enrique Cerna, regarding the Evans legacy and prospects for the future. Other participants include Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman, and in pre-recorded presentations, former governors Chris Gregoire and Gary Locke, former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole and wife Elizabeth, and former Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed.
Registration for the event is at one.bidpal.net/cascadegala/ticketing. Tickets are $95.
Evans, a civil engineer by trade, was elected to the state House in 1956 from a Seattle district, and quickly became “the handsome young face of progressive Republican politics in Washington state,” writes longtime journalist John Hughes. His all-star “brain trust” included many who went on to higher office, including future U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton and future Congressman and Lieutenant Gov. Joel Pritchard.
As minority leader in the House, Evans helped engineer the coup that brought down Democratic Speaker John L. O’Brien in 1963. That set the stage for a Draft Evans movement for the 1964 gubernatorial race, and a campaign that unseated a Democratic incumbent running for his third term.
In office, Evans pursued an ambitious agenda to modernize state government and improve the delivery of state services. Two-thirds of his “Blueprint for Progress” was enacted, including model pollution control laws, creation of a state community college system, and a comprehensive overhaul of state government programs. Under Evans, the Department of Ecology was created to protect the environment, and the Department of Social and Health Services to coordinate social-service efforts.
Evans’ expansive vision of government reform offered a sharp contrast with the conservative movement of the time, which had surged and collapsed in the Goldwater debacle of 1964. Yet Evans maintained that making government work was the most conservative of values, and was the way to appeal to young, intelligent, urbanized and educated voters. He told an interviewer, “I think responsible conservatism is perfectly legitimate, but merely to be negative, to complain, to have little faith in the future, little faith in new ideas, doesn’t classify in my view as conservatism in any way, shape or form.”
After leaving office in 1977, Evans served as the second president of The Evergreen State College, a new four-year institution he had advocated as governor. When Sen. Henry M. Jackson died in office in 1983, Evans was the obvious choice for the appointment, and he held the seat in a special election that fall. During his five years in the Senate, Evans’ accomplishments included co-sponsorship of the Washington State Wilderness Act in 1984, which protected more than a million acres of national forest lands. In recognition of his conservation advocacy, the wilderness area within Olympic National Park was renamed the Daniel J. Evans Wilderness in 2017. The University of Washington named its school of public policy in his honor in 1999.
Evans’ record in Washington state propelled him to the national stage, where he was touted as a possible vice-presidential candidate in 1968 and 1976. A Time magazine cover story called him “an idealist of uncommon recitiude” and a shining example of the GOP’s dynamic, yet pragmatic “New Breed.” In a keynote address to the 1968 Republican National Convention that might apply equally well to the political landscape of 2020, Evans urged Republicans to tackle the nation’s problems head-on. Evans said:
“The protest, the defiance of authority, the violence in the streets are more than isolated attacks on the established order; they are the symptoms of the need for change and for a redefinition of what this country stands for and where it is going. This opportunity now rests with the Republican Party. Let us unite to rally a great party in the cause of a great nation – to seek progress with victories; to not find a way out but a way forward.”
Time Magazine, Aug. 9, 1968.