A Washington attorney and criminal justice reform advocate who previously served time in prison is seeking to become the first formerly incarcerated person elected to the Washington Legislature, at least in modern times.
Tarra Simmons, of Bremerton, who in 2017 won a Supreme Court fight to sit for the state bar exam, despite her prior criminal conviction, plans to formally announce her candidacy for the state House on Monday.
“I’d like to break this concrete ceiling,” Simmons said in an exclusive interview with the public radio Northwest News Network. “I think we would all fare better if we have diverse people with lived experiences running for all kinds of offices.”
Simmons will run in 2020 as a Democrat for an open House seat in the 23rd Legislative District, which includes parts of the Kitsap Peninsula and Bainbridge Island. She is the first candidate to announce for the position.
The seat is currently held by state Rep. Sherry Appleton, an eight-term Democrat who recently announced she will retire at the end of her current two-year term in January 2021. Appleton recruited Simmons to run for her seat and has endorsed Simmons’ candidacy.
“I have been mentoring her all along,” Appleton said. “I think she really is a very dynamic person … and she has a lot to offer in criminal justice reform and health care. I think she’s the perfect person to run in my place.”
In recent years, Simmons has emerged as a leading advocate in Washington for what she calls a “second chance” for people who’ve been involved in the criminal justice system. She noted that nearly 1 in 3 Americans have some sort of criminal record.