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Two-term Washington Gov. Booth Gardner dies

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Booth Gardner, a two-term Democratic governor who later in life spearheaded a campaign that made Washington the second state in the country to legalize assisted suicide for the terminally ill, has died after a long battle with Parkinson's disease. He was 76.

Gardner died Friday at his Tacoma home of complications related to the disease, family spokesman Ron Dotzauer said Saturday.

"We're very sad to lose my father, who had been struggling with a difficult disease for many years, but we are relieved to know that he's at rest now and his fight is done," said Gail Gant, Gardner's daughter, in a statement.

The millionaire heir to the Weyerhaeuser timber fortune led the state from 1985 to 1993 after terms as Pierce County executive, state senator and business school dean.

Since then, he had worked as a trade ambassador, in youth sports and for a variety of philanthropic works. But his biggest political effort in his later years was his successful "Death with Dignity" campaign in 2008 that ultimately led to passage of the controversial law that mirrored one in place in Oregon since 1997. The law allows terminally ill adults with six months or less to live to request a lethal dose of medication from their doctors.

Gardner knew that he wouldn't qualify to use the law because Parkinson's disease itself, while incurable, is not fatal. But at the time, he said his worsening condition made him an advocate for those who want control over how they die.

"It's amazing to me how much this can help people get peace of mind," Gardner said at the time. "There's more people who would like to have control over their final days than those who don't."

The law took effect in March 2009, and since then more than 250 people have used it to obtain lethal doses of medication. A documentary, "The Last Campaign of Booth Gardner," was nominated for an Academy Award in 2010.

William Booth Gardner was born Aug. 21, 1936, in Tacoma. In November 1984, Gardner beat Republican Gov. John Spellman. Since his first election victory, Democrats have won the governor's race seven times. -- AP


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