OLYMPIA  (AP) — Former state Rep. Helen Sommers, a Seattle lawmaker who served 36 years in the Washington Legislature, has died.

The Olympian reports Sommers died Tuesday in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, where she lived, according to her sister, Joan Coach. She was 84.

Sommers was a Democrat who began her political career in 1972 and retired in 2008. She wrote budgets, advocated for family planning and worked to recruit women to run for office.

Colleagues also credit her with helping build a state pension system that remains at the top of national rankings.

Sommers chaired several committees, eventually becoming the most powerful Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee.

While socially liberal, she gained a reputation as a fiscal moderate.

Sen. Reuven Carlyle, who replaced Sommers in the House after her retirement, says "she was the symbolic representation of the integrity of public service."

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