Shelly Crocker was probably not voted “most likely to succeed” in her yearbook.
“I had a rough patch in there,” she says. “I dropped out of high school when I was 15.”
But she may be “most changed.” The candidate for the Washington State House, position No. 2 in the 46th district, came to Seattle from Minnesota in 1980, waiting tables before taking a job as a file clerk in a law firm. She worked her way through school, obtaining bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Washington, before going on to receive a law degree from the University of Minnesota.
“I was very fortunate, because back in the day there were lots more government services available,” she says. “I want other people to have those opportunities that I had.”
Crocker has spent her career in bankruptcy law and owns two boutique firms. Her key issue?
“A social safety net,” she says. “I have seen so much suffering, largely due to our economy.… In addition, the cuts to higher education, to healthcare, these things have created problems.”
Tax reform needs to be tackled, and education needs to be accessible.
“That’s going to take hard work and people who can fight that fight,” she says.
Crocker is running for an empty seat vacated by retiring legislator Phyllis Gutierrez Kenney in a district that extends from shore to shore in North Seattle, and jutting into the Laurelhurst and Wedgwood neighborhoods to its south.
“I didn’t know all those people would be running when I decided to run,” says Crocker of the crowded ticket she faces in next month’s primary. She notes that she’s not the type to run against someone. And while she has no prediction for how the race will turn out, she says, “I have a lot of people who hear my message and agree with it.”
She’s referring to her Jewish community, in particular. Crocker and her partner of 28 years, Sandy Kibort, have been members of Congregation Beth Shalom since 1990.
“As an open lesbian woman, our decision to have children” meant a commitment to Jewish community, says Crocker. It’s “important to us to be active and involved.” They have two daughters, Hannah, 21, and Emma, 17.
Crocker is on the synagogue’s gabbai corps and she’s a member of the cemetery committee; she’s also served on the Beth Shalom board and the boards of the Seattle Jewish Community School, Seattle’s office for the American Jewish Committee, Building Changes, Girls on the Run and DownHomeWashington. Her volunteer activity includes Teen Feed and the Puget Sound Jewish Coalition on Homelessness. But it was a trip to El Salvador with her daughter, fellow Beth Shalom congregants, and American Jewish World Service that she considers a turning point.
“There’s a great big world out there,” she began to think. “What should I be doing?”
That’s what got her involved with Building Changes, an organization that works to end homelessness. “That has expanded my world,” she says.
And when it came to running for political office, she says, “I thought, why not me?”
“I do have very deep roots and very deep support in this community,” Crocker says. Her secret weapon, though, is a group of Beth Shalom teens that doorbells, canvases and rallies relentlessly for her.
“There’s something about their enthusiasm and sincerity that gets the message out better than I can,” she says. “If I win — when I win — it will be because of the Jewish community. There’s no question in my mind.”