by Goldy, 08/30/2007, 12:12 PM

A couple years ago I first snagged an invite to one of those parties where the political and media hoity-toity hang out together over booze and barbecue. I knew of most of the folks there, but knew few of them personally; I was just some blogger and well, I just kinda felt out of place. So I grabbed myself a plate, a beer and a chair, and fell into a long and ranging conversation with a nice, somewhat grandmotherly woman camped out at the kitchen table. I found her easy to talk to and endlessly interesting, but there seemed to be an awful lot of VIPs milling about, waiting to make their hellos, so I moved on.

“I see you met Karen,” one of the hosts said to me later, pointing back at the table where she appeared to be holding court. “Karen who?” I replied. My host looked at me like I was some country bumpkin. “Karen Marchioro,” he said, “… the most powerful woman in the state.”

I have no idea if Karen knew who I was, but I was certainly clueless about her. The name didn’t even ring a bell. I guess I was a country bumpkin.

As Washington State Democratic Party chair from 1981 to 1992, and until her death this morning from cancer, Karen Marchioro helped reshape the party into the powerhouse it has become today. She was 73.

44 Responses to “Karen Marchioro, RIP”

1. Roger Rabbit spews:

A true American, a true democrat, and a great loss to our state.

2. Tlazolteotl spews:

Wow, and it sounds like she was a nice person, too. Unlike some conservative Washintonians (plural) we could list.

3. Michael Caine spews:

Condolences to the Marchioro family and friends. It is always difficult losing someone close.

I would like to make two requests to posters in this thread. The first is to honor the dead by not posting trollish messages or speaking ill. The second is to honor the memory of her by not posting remembrances and testimonials of your interaction with her in life rather than using her death as an excuse to launch new attacks.

My interaction with Karen Marchioro were brief and infrequent as I entered the local political scene after she withdrew from day to day activities. I will remember her as a woman who would patiently listen to me in conversations and then proceed to tell me, politely but in no uncertain terms, exactly where I was wrong. Sometimes I agreed with her and sometimes I didn’t. Sometimes, she gave me the impression that I changed her opinion. In any day’s political scene, that was rarely the norm.

4. Steve Zemke MajorityRulesBlog spews:

Karen was a true blue Democrat who let people know what she thought. She was a fighter. She fought successfully to re-vitalize the State Democratic Party after a succession of part time political hacks didn’t do much.

I remember one in particular who I went to speak to about support for a progressive initiative. I noticed when I was leaving he had tossed it in the wastebasket. Karen was the opposite, encouraging the party to be involved in progressive issues and strongly supporting them.

The party could use more of her. She will be missed.

5. Mark The Redneck-Goldstein spews:

Never heard of her.

Was she for retreat and socialism?

6. Chad Lupkes spews:

She was for America standing strong and proud, and for providing a strong foundation under the feet of everyone so we could all reach our potential.

take that as you will.

7. Michael Caine spews:


…honor the memory of her by not posting remembrances and testimonials of your interaction with her in life…

Should read:

honor the memory of her by posting remembrances and testimonials of your interaction with her in life…

8. Daddy Love spews:

Cheers to Karen. Long may we grind Republican faces in the dirt.

9. Daddy Love spews:

Speaking “retreat and socialism:” I think we have a winning platform…

CBS News Poll. Aug. 8-12, 2007. N=1,214 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3 (for all adults).
“From what you have seen or heard about the situation in Iraq, what should the United States do now? Should the U.S. increase the number of U.S. troops in Iraq, keep the same number of U.S. troops in Iraq as there are now, decrease the number of U.S. troops in Iraq, or remove all its troops from Iraq?”
Increase/Same 30%
Decrease/Remove All 61%
Unsure 9%

ABC News/Washington Post Poll. July 18-21, 2007. N=1,125 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3. Fieldwork by TNS. RV = registered voters
“Who do you trust to do a better job handling the situation in Iraq: Bush or the Democrats in Congress?”
Options rotated
Bush 32%
Democrats In Congress 55%
Both (vol.) 1%
Neither (vol.) 11%
Unsure 1% raq.htm

CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll. May 4-6, 2007. N=1,028 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3.
“Do you think the government should provide a national health insurance program for all Americans, even if this would require higher taxes?”
Yes 64%
No 35%
Unsure 2% ealth3.htm

10. N in Seattle spews:

Karen took no guff from anyone. Not from Scoop Jackson, not from Bill Clinton, not from Paul Berendt, not from Howard Dean, not from Dwight Pelz. Not even from Jeff Smith.

She was a proud blue Democrat, a proud progressive woman. The Democratic Party in the state of Washington is her party.

I had a feeling the end might be near when she couldn’t make it to my sister’s Live Earth party. Karen was ordinarily the life of whatever party she was attending, and attended a whole lot of them.

I’m not sure requiescat in pace is the right thing to say about Karen Marchioro. Wherever her soul and spirit may be, she’s raising hell there. And organizing.

11. SeattleJew spews:

@3 Michael Caine

Your post is in and off itself a wonderful tribute.

I knew Karen somewhat both through part politics and as a colleague of her ex husband.

Her best trait in my opinion was honesty. She had an agenda, it was a political agenda and not a personal agenda. That kind of old fashioned partisanhip is badly needed today in both parties.

We in this state owe her a lot.

12. ivan spews:

Karen was my friend, and a mentor to me and to countless others. She was unflappable in the face of adversity, and had she chosen to interact with even the right-wing trolls who infest this site, she could have had them eating out of her hand in no time flat. She was that good.

13. swatter spews:

Tough bird. Sad to see another one of the old crowd leaving us.

I wish the politicians today were like her. I guess bygone days are bygone days.

14. ConservativeFirst spews:

Daddy Love@9

Why didn’t you just quote the numbers as presented in the poll? The fact that only about 1/3 (34%) of those polled wanted to remove all the troops hardly shows that the pro-widthdrawl Democrats have a “winning platform”.

In addition the trust in both Bush and Congress to handle the war has gone down since the start of the year, but the neither category has increased significantly. This also doesn’t point to a “winning platform” for the Democrats.

Interesting spin, on your part, though.

15. Chad Lupkes spews:


It means we pick up the torch and keep fighting.

16. proud leftist spews:

It must just kill her to die at a time when Democrats are so transcendant.

17. Tom Keefe spews:

Karen Marchioro was a friend, ally, and mentor for nearly thirty years. The magnitude of her impact on the present day Democratic Party in our state can hardly be measured. But suffice it to say that, as King County Democratic Party Chair, she was willing to carry a battle all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to kick back against the “old boys” network that dominated our state political process for generations. And she won! Karen was a most complex human being: a great mom, a grassroots political activist, and an insightful advisor to countless political candidates over the years. Fortunately, her Illinois poitical upbringing also provided her with the vocabulary of a Teamster, that could be strategically deployed when needed. She was never afraid of uphill battles, including this final struggle. I will miss her always, and never forget her many acts of kindness to me and my family over the years, and her unswerving love for the Democratic Party and what it stands for. She was the best!

18. Marvin Stamn spews:

Best wishes to her family.

19. Puddybud spews:

It’s sad when anyone dies. Godspeed to Karen’s family.

ASSIE Voice: So how long have you lived in this state not to know who she was?

20. RonK, Seattle spews:

N @ 10 — Couldn’t say it better.

21. FricknFrack, Seattle spews:

I only met her as the Mother of the Bride. Years ago her daughter, a student at the UW and working an Internship with the engineers I worked for, was getting married. I might have been the ‘lowly little secretary’ but even I was invited to the bridal shower and wedding! The new in-laws were visiting from Norway, but between school and work and wedding stuff, it seemed a kind of rough for anyone to entertain them.

I took a day off on vacation and a friend, one of the night janitors from work, drove soon-to-be MIL/FIL up to Snoqualmie Falls for an old fashioned picnic – hot dogs, potato salad, pork & beans, the works – and then u-picking berries. So they could really get a sense of the American Experience. I remember Karen Marchioro coming up at the reception to personally shake my hand & thank me. She was such a normal but gracious person! Later I was stunned to discover that she was some powerball in the Democratic Party. Who would have guessed? Even keeled even in the role as the Mother of the Bride.

So interesting reading later, how MUCH Ms. Marchioro did to rebuild the Dem Party of this state. We have so much to be grateful to her for!

22. pat smith spews:

I had the opportunity to work for Karen when she ran the KC Demo’s during 1975/76. I was an impressionable, young intern from WSU and thought I understood politics because I read my texts and listened to the professors in the Palouse. Then I moved to Seattle.

Nobody told me I was going to spend 9 months at the height of the Dixie Lee Ray era with one of the most articulate, honest, and well connected political women I would ever meet and work beside.

Many of these postings talk of Karen’s liberal slant and uncanny foresight. I will not. I would rather remember her as a women committed to her beliefs. She was always willing to listen to opposing arguments and share her guidence with those on the wrong path. Much of that guidence I still carry with me.

I am deeply saddened by Karen’s passing. She shaped my future.

23. Michael Caine spews:
24. Sarah spews:

I had the honor of being a delegate with Karen to the Democratic national convention in 2004, though we’d both been on Dean’s campaign, I didn’t get to know her ’til then. She and Jeff were so warm-hearted and welcoming to then 24-year-old me.

I learned so much from talking with her, and realized that that kind of fire in the belly, that kind of kindness and down-to-earth nature was exactly what I wanted to be.

After the convention, I bumped into her a few times, and I felt a little shy around her (Who was I? Just some kid.) But I always appreciated the time I got to learn from her; she’s a role model for young women in politics.

25. Liz Koch spews:

Karen was a second mother to me. She supported my pursuits, helped where appropriate and always encouraged me to be better, do better, seek better. She brought out the best in everyone who knew her because she held others to the highest of expectations — the same expectations she held for herself. It was dreadful to let her down, but glorious to reach those unexpected and unfathomable heights. Karen was a pioneer in everyway — she had uncommon vision; the deepest knowledge of both the past and the future; the idealism and deeply-held principles to set high goals, but the practicality to compromise where necessary; and the singular motivation to improve the world and promote peace and justice. She was a master bridge builder and, like any good engineer, was delighted when others used her bridges to move farther, farther, farther. Though she deserved it mightily, she never tolerated being placed on any pedestal. She was common folk, always willing to share her personal and political failures so that others could avoid the same mistakes. So, in her honor, please join me in telling the people you love that you love them — Karen was famous and gracious in doing that, too. Please allow others to strap themselves to you as you move up the ladder — there’s so much room at the top. And please, please use, adapt, improve Karen’s Democratic bridges and acknowledge that it all stemmed from Karen’s love, generosity, brilliance, and hard work. Lastly, if there’s any lesson I would want the young people of our party to learn for Karen, it would be that the “old guard” still know a thing or two and that we can all win if we follow their sage advice. They are the links from past to future, we are the “next guard,” and our time will come. Again, there’s lots of room at the top!

26. SeattleJew spews:

I hope this is in the spirit of the thread.

Brain Baird has given a thoughtful and heart felt retort to his critics over at SLOG

Would it be infair to Ms. Marchioro’s memory to argue is not the time to undermine a fellow progressive dem who has the courage to defend an independent position?

I hope that her heritage of building a party of reason and realism as a bulwark against the Republican crazies would lead to a focus where we need it … lest go for a clean blue slate in Congress and not waste our powder with infighting.

27. Dan Rather spews:

RIP. She should have never gone into politics and she obviously did not know what she was doing, but she meant well.

28. thor spews:

I have been acquainted with Karen Marchioro for over 25 years. This was one great woman who was hard not to love, even if you didn’t agree with her on everything.

Karen lived Washington politics pre-1990s spin and duck. She said what she thought. She was very effective. An so real.

Most of all I will remember my last meeting with her and Jeff enjoying a conversation about past and present late into the night. Karen really loved people and was extremely skilled at bringing them together. I will always treasure her humanity, her laugh and her distinctively provocative views on a wide variety of issues and political leaders.

She was accessible. And a ton of fun.

29. SeaBos84 spews:

my ex (we were together in the 90′s) and karen had done things in the ’76 – ’80 timeframe, and my ex was invited to various things of karen’s that I’d attend.

she was always nice to this asshole big mouth cook from massachusetts – I despised roger ailes and lee atewater long before ‘blog’ was a word, and I thought that fighting fire with fire was the only way to win long before 80-14 iraq war funding senate votes and FISA… before ‘electable’ dukakis.

when she was running for state legislature I gave jeff my card, and told him that if they needed anything despicable done against the pigs, just send the instructions and enough money to my mailbox!

I never did get any goodies.

thanks for the fun election day parties in pioneer square during the 90′s.


30. Dave Gibney spews:

@27 stuff it

31. tedward spews:

Karen convinced me to hand over my first political donation for Howard Dean in March 2004.

32. Michelle spews:

FricknFrack: My mom is the engineer you are referring to.

Thank you to everyone for your kind words. My grandmother was a wonderful woman.

33. N in Seattle spews:

Michelle, my deepest condolences on the passing of your grandmother.

As you must have already known, even before these remembrances were posted, she inspired and activated a whole lot of us. She was truly a force of nature.

34. Daddy Love spews:

14 CF

Republicans support the war’s continuation, escalation, and even more wars.

Democrats want to get us out of this quagmire into which Bush’s stupidity and hubris and Republican rubber-stamping has put us.

I think we all know what the winning agenda is. Happy 2008.

35. ArtFart spews:

The one regrettable thing about what Karen Marchioro wrought with the Democrats in our state is that the state Republicans–once dominated by the likes of Dan Evans, Joel Pritchard and Jack Metcalf–reacted by galloping off with the Reaganites into the depths of right-wing wingnuttery.

36. N in Seattle spews:

I understand what you’re saying, ArtFart, but association isn’t causation.

The GOP went all Reagan-y and wingnutty and fundie everywhere, not just in places where the grassroots and progressives became ascendant on the Democratic side. It’s not Karen’s doing, or even a response to Karen’s activities … it’s simply a reflection of the craziness throughout today’s GOP.

37. Aexia spews:

She was a cool and classy lady.

38. Kathy J spews:

#21-the bride went to Seattle University, not the UW
#17-Tom-the Pacific Northwest Magazine did a side by side profile of my mom and Jennifer Dunn when both were state chairs; she was described as having the vocabulary of a longshoreman, I believe, not a teamster. I was mortified, but kind of envious. Do you remember Mike Downs? He was a longshoreman.
#25-Liz-thanks, she loved you very much.
#27-she would tell you ‘screw you, I won’
#32-Hi Michelle-love you, tell PA the same.

39. Bert Chadick spews:

Karen and Jeff, her right hand in Eastern Washington, kept the state Democrats together in the rebuilding years of the early 80′s. She understood party discipline required both whip and roses, but mostly moved folks with her likeableness. The state will not see her likes again in my lifetime. We need to name a bridge or something after her.

40. FricknFrack, Seattle spews:

#38, Kathy J
“#21-the bride went to Seattle University, not the UW”

Sorry, I remembered that after posting but HA doesn’t allow for editing. Ann was such a lovely person, too, when a lot of the female engineers weren’t always like that towards the secretarial help.

41. FricknFrack, Seattle spews:

@ 32, Michelle says: “FricknFrack: My mom is the engineer you are referring to. ”

Oh my goodness! I just now saw your post Michelle. My condolences on the loss of your beautiful grandmother, she was such a gracious lady.

(Would you tell your Mom, Dad, & paternal Grandparents ‘Hi’ from back in the old days at City Light? They were such delightful people as well, I have fond memories of a wonderful picnic with them. Truly a pleasant day & they were so tickled with the concept of U-Pick Berries.)

42. John Marchioro spews:

I have been back from Bellevue for a few days now. I am still with heavy head and heart. My aunt was a truly wonderful person who always seemed to be there for some of my most important life events, and for that I am truly blessed. My family was always very proud of her accomplishments, as well as her late husbands. I know the next few days ahead will be very difficult for all of us, mostly the kids and Jeff. I am so very happy to have met all of you, some for the first time. You are all in our prayers here in Central Illinois. Please don’t be strangers.

P.S. #32 Hi Michelle, I had a wonderful time meeting your mother

#38 – Hey kathy, let us know when you can make it.

#27 – Go troll somewhere else.

43. John Marchioro spews:

Edit: the email is

44. Chris Van Dyk spews:

Twenty-five years ago, Karen handed me my first job running a political campaign.

Thanks, Karen. And if they don’t have doorbells or mailing lists where you are now, I trust you will figure out a way to get what you need done, done anyway. God speed.