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Donald Mark Benton (born April 8, 1957)[7] is an American politician of the Republican Party. He is originally from Santa Clarita, California, and from 1997 until 2017 was a member of the Washington State Senate, where he represented Washington's 17th legislative district.[8] He served as campaign director for Donald Trump in Washington state in 2016. After that he was appointed as a "senior White House adviser" at the Environmental Protection Agency for a few weeks, but reportedly did not work well with newly appointed agency head Scott Pruitt.[9] In April 2017, Benton was named by President Trump as the 13th Director of the Selective Service System.[10]

Don Benton
Don Benton official photo.jpg
Director of the Selective Service System
Assumed office
April 13, 2017
PresidentDonald Trump
Preceded byLawrence Romo
Member of the Washington Senate
from the 17th district
In office
January 13, 1997 – January 9, 2017[1]
Preceded byDean Sutherland[2]
Succeeded byLynda Wilson
Member of the Washington House of Representatives
from the 17th district
In office
January 9, 1995[3] – January 13, 1997[4]
Preceded byHolly Myers[5]
Succeeded byJim Dunn[6]
Personal details
Donald Mark Benton

(1957-04-08) April 8, 1957 (age 62)
Los Angeles, California
Political partyRepublican
Relations1 wife; 4 children
ResidenceOlympia, Washington and Vancouver, Washington
Alma materConcordia University (B.S.)

Early life and educationEdit

Benton received an A.A. from College of the Canyons and a B.S. from Concordia University. At age 19 he co-founded, with his sister, Santa Clarita Temporaries, a temporary employment agency.[11] He later was employed as a district manager for Farmers Insurance and worked as an advertising consultant in southwest Washington.[12]

Benton served in the United States Army for three months, December 1975 to February 1976, to be trained for a specific job skill under the Guaranteed Training Enlistment Program. When his training was no longer available, Benton quit the military, received an honorable discharge, and pursued a college education instead.[13]


Washington State legislatureEdit

Benton was first elected to public office when he won a seat in the Washington state House of Representatives in 1994. In 1996 he was elected to the state Senate and has been re-elected continuously since. In 2012, Benton faced a tight and contentious race, edging Democratic challenger Tim Probst by less than 100 votes.[14] Political scientist James Thurber has described Benton as a "shoot from the hip" lawmaker known for a "bombastic" style and a frequent unwillingness to compromise.[12] In the 2012 legislative session Benton led senate Republicans in introducing a rare procedural motion known as the "ninth order" to push the Republican caucuses budget proposal to a floor vote. The "ninth order" allows any bill to be brought to a vote even if it has not had a public hearing. Democratic lawmakers protested that the maneuver lacked transparency, though three Democratic senators ultimately joined with Benton to help pass the motion.[15] In 2014 Benton and Ann Rivers, another state legislator from Clark County, were both admonished by a Senate committee for verbal sparring in which Rivers called Benton a "piece of shit," and Benton responded by referring to Rivers as a "trashy trampy-mouthed little girl."[16] The same year Benton, along with fellow GOP senator Pam Roach, requested his name be removed from the Republican caucus website. While Benton said he would remain a member of the Republican caucus, he no longer wanted to be publicly associated with it due to the caucus's decision to bring a bill granting illegal immigrants in-state tuition at state colleges to a floor vote.[17]

As of 2014, Benton serves on the Transportation, Government Operations, Rules, and Financial Institutions committees.[18] He is a Washington state leader for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).[19]

Washington State Republican Party ChairEdit

In 2000, Benton was elected chair of the Washington state Republican Party. His tenure was marked by historical fundraising numbers, though some party members criticized his spending priorities and hiring decisions. After Benton used specific funds he raised to purchase a new headquarters in Olympia without consulting some party leadership, two members of the party's executive board requested his resignation, which he refused to give. The following year Benton lost reelection by three votes.[20]

Clark County Director of Environmental ServicesEdit

In 2013 Benton, while still serving in the Senate, was selected as director of environmental services for Clark County. His appointment was controversial as it bypassed standard civil service hiring procedures and Benton had no previous experience in environmental services.[21][22][23][24] Editorials in The Columbian, The Olympian, and The Seattle Times questioned Benton's qualifications[25] and the county was sued for unfair hiring practices by the department's interim director,[26] who claimed she had been denied the opportunity to apply for the position. By November of that year Benton, himself, threatened a suit. His attorney contacted Ed Barnes – a Clark County union activist who had declared Benton unqualified for the job during public comment periods at county commission meetings – claiming defamation, though some legal experts questioned whether Benton, as a public figure, could file such a suit.[27] In the midst of the matter, county commissioner David Madore – who had voted for Benton's appointment – declared the hiring was an "accident."[28] The following year, partly as a result of the controversy over Benton's appointment, Clark County convened a council of freeholders to rewrite the county's charter.[29] Benton's position with Clark County was eliminated when the Department of Environmental Services was dissolved in July 2016.[30] After the implementation of the county charter, hiring and firing decisions for department heads were shifted to the executive county manager. Benton filed a tort claim, a state requirement before filing suit against the county, in October 2016, seeking two million dollars from Clark County for wrongful termination.[31]

Director of the Selective Service SystemEdit

Benton served as campaign director for Donald Trump in Washington state during the 2016 Presidential election. Benton was initially the leader of the EPA "Beachhead" team, which oversaw the transition within the EPA from the Obama Administration to the Trump Administration. However, his approach to implementing the President's policies clashed with incoming EPA Director Scott Pruitt. On 14 April 2017, Trump named Benton as the 13th Director of the Selective Service System responsible for the United States draft.[13]

Political positionsEdit


In 2013, Benton introduced a bill that would require parents to be notified if their minor daughter was having an abortion. Benton stated that "this is a parental rights bill" and not intended to stop abortions. "While minors must have parental permission to get a tattoo or have their ear pierced it is still possible for a young girl to have an abortion without the benefit of their own mother's counseling" said Benton.[32] In a 2012 survey collected by the Life Political Action Committee of Southwest Washington, Benton indicated that he believes life begins at conception, the State has a compelling interest in protecting human life beginning at conception, abortion is never morally permissible, and medical professionals should be allowed to deny service based on their moral, ethical or religious beliefs. In the survey he also said, "To my knowledge, I am the only Senator to ever sponsor and successfully pass parental notification law in the state senate. It was killed in the House."[33]


In 2005 Benton introduced the Chelsea Harrison Act, which was eventually enacted and signed into law in 2008. The statute amended the state's three-strikes law to expand the law's repeat offender criteria by including persons convicted of felony sexual assault in other states.[34][35] Benton has previously introduced legislation to apply the death penalty to cases of premeditated murder where the victim is a child.[36]

Gay marriageEdit

Benton opposes gay marriage and civil unions, saying on the Senate floor that those laws affect "less than a half of one percent of the population."[37]

Higher educationEdit

In 2010 Benton, who served as a student member of the Board of Trustees at California's College of the Canyons,[38] introduced legislation to create a sixth trustee position at Washington community colleges, which would be filled with a student appointment.[39] Benton has voted against proposed tuition increases at state colleges and universities,[40] however, has stated his opposition to offering in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants.[41] In 2008 he broke with the senate Republican caucus and supported legislation to extend collective bargaining rights to research assistants at Washington State University.[42]


Benton supports reducing taxes on small businesses[43] and has also supported efforts to raise the property tax exemption amount for the elderly and disabled. After Washington Initiative 1185 (a measure that required the legislature to submit proposed tax increases to public referendum) was declared unconstitutional by the state supreme court in 2012, Benton stated his support for an amendment to the state constitution that would incorporate the essence of the nullified statute.[44][45] Benton has said he is in alignment with many members of the Tea Party movement.[46]


Benton has been a vocal opponent of the Columbia River Crossing, calling the proposed bridge an unnecessarily expensive replacement for the existing Interstate Bridge.[47] Benton has also expressed concern at tolling plans outlined for the proposed bridge which, he claimed, could cost Clark County residents – many of whom commute to Portland, Oregon daily – $100 per month or more.[48]

While the legislature ultimately approved partial funding on the project, Democratic governor Jay Inslee vetoed the measure, earning praise from Benton.[49] When Oregon attempted to move ahead on the bridge without Washington's support, Benton introduced a measure in the legislature to block Clark County's public transit agency C-Tran from cooperating with Oregon state agencies on the project. C-Tran had previously suggested it might enact eminent domain on properties on the Washington side of the Washington-Oregon border on behalf of Oregon transportation planners.[50]

Personal lifeEdit

Benton's father was a former member of the Agua Dulce, California school board.[38] Benton has four children with his wife, Mary, who currently runs his former advertising consultancy.[51][52]


  1. ^ "Session calendar" (PDF). 2017. Retrieved 2019-12-10.
  2. ^ "November 1992 General Election". Retrieved December 5, 2019.
  3. ^ "Graphic1" (PDF). Retrieved 2019-12-10.
  4. ^ "Graphic1" (PDF). Retrieved 2019-12-10.
  5. ^ "Bio" (PDF). 1989. Retrieved 2019-12-10.
  6. ^ "November 1996 General Election". Retrieved December 5, 2019.
  7. ^ "The Voter's Self Defense System". Vote Smart.
  8. ^ "The Voter's Self Defense System". Vote Smart.
  9. ^ Rein, Lisa and Juliet Eilperin (19 March 2017). "White House installs political aides at Cabinet agencies to be Trump's eyes and ears". Washington Post. Retrieved April 17, 2017.
  10. ^ Wilkie, Christina (14 April 2017). "Trump Taps Salesman To Run Military Draft". The Huffington Post. Retrieved April 14, 2017.
  11. ^ "Don Benton - Ballotpedia".
  12. ^ a b Thurber, James (2001). The Battle for Congress: Consultants, Candidates, and Voters.
  13. ^ a b "Benton in D.C.: It's time to change the narrative". The Columbian. 2017-05-28. Retrieved 2017-11-26.
  14. ^ "Did a disgraced Democratic campaign official impact the super close Benton-Probst election? - Political Beat". 26 September 2013.
  15. ^ "Washington Legislature: Partisan debate arises as Republicans push budget to Senate floor". The Oregonian. 2 March 2012.
  16. ^ "Clean up your language, 2 senators told". Spokane Spokesman-Review. 6 January 2014. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
  17. ^ "Sen. Benton angry with majority coalition". The Columbian. 12 February 2014. Retrieved 13 February 2014.
  18. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-10-07. Retrieved 2013-11-18.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  19. ^ "State Chairs - American Legislative Exchange Council".
  20. ^ "Local News - Vance replaces Benton as GOP chief - Seattle Times Newspaper".
  21. ^ Hidle, Erik (May 1, 2013). "County shocker: Benton tapped for top environmental job (with audio): Commissioner Stuart storms out of meeting, alleges cronyism". The Columbian. Retrieved May 13, 2013.
  22. ^ "In Our View: Benton hire is an Insult, Local environment entrusted to man with virtually no qualifications for the job". The Columbian. May 3, 2012. Retrieved May 13, 2013.
  23. ^ Editorial Board (May 5, 2013). "Editorial: State Sen. Don Benton for environmental post? Really?". Seattle Times. Retrieved May 13, 2013.
  24. ^ Editorial Board (May 8, 2013). "Benton appointment shows cronyism is thriving in Clark County". The Olympian. Archived from the original on June 30, 2013. Retrieved May 13, 2013.
  25. ^ Mathieau, Stevie; Erin Middlewood (September 1, 2013). "Benton's ballyhooed management experience is hazy: Company discloses little of its work beyond that for Benton campaign". Sunday Columbian, p A1. The Columbian. Retrieved October 24, 2013.
  26. ^ "Unfair hiring complaint names Madore, Mielke: Environmental services employee seeks more than $300,000". The Columbian. October 17, 2013. Retrieved October 24, 2013.
  27. ^ Hidle, Eric (November 13, 2013). "Benton threatens lawsuit against outspoken critic". The Columbian. Vancouver. Retrieved November 16, 2013.
  28. ^ "Madore deletes FB post on Benton hiring". KOIN 6 News. October 21, 2013. Archived from the original on January 22, 2014. Retrieved January 30, 2014.
  29. ^ Erin Middlewood (January 25, 2014). "Freeholders: Add two commissioners". The Columbian. Retrieved January 30, 2014.
  30. ^ Katie Gillespie (May 11, 2016). "Benton to lose county job as department reorganizes". The Columbian. Retrieved May 11, 2016.
  31. ^ Jake Thomas (October 28, 2016). "Benton seeks $2 million from county". The Columbian. Retrieved October 28, 2016.
  32. ^ "TVW, Washington States' Public Affairs Network – Public Affairs Made Public".
  33. ^ "Life Pac of SW Washington".
  34. ^ "Looking back at three-strikes". The Columbian. Vancouver. 10 November 2010. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
  35. ^ "Benton again pushes "three strikes" bill". The Oregonian. Portland. 15 January 2008. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
  36. ^ "Death penalty for child killers?". The News-Tribune. Tacoma. 5 February 2007. Archived from the original on 11 June 2015. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
  37. ^ ""That one half of one percent is the reason that we exist, it the reason this chamber is here," by Washington State Senator Ed Murray".
  38. ^ a b "Vancouver Republican basks in state Senate majority". Yakima Herald. Yakima. 18 March 2013. Archived from the original on 17 November 2013. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
  39. ^ "2010 Senate Bill 6687: Including student members on community college boards".
  40. ^ "The Voter's Self Defense System". Vote Smart.
  41. ^ "Capitol Newsmaker, Week 2: Sen. Don Benton". Seattle Metropolitan Magazine. 25 January 2013. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
  42. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-10-09. Retrieved 2013-11-17.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  43. ^ "Don Benton on the Issues".
  44. ^ "What bills are local lawmakers backing?". The Columbian. Vancouver. 23 January 2013. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
  45. ^ "The Voter's Self Defense System". Vote Smart.
  46. ^ "Seattle Times: Don Benton, veteran state senator, seeks to take on Patty Murray in November". Archived from the original on February 11, 2010.
  47. ^ "Columbia River Crossing supporters have no valid arguments left: Guest opinion". The Oregonian. Portland. 15 October 2013. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
  48. ^ MID-SESSION SPECIAL EDITION [The Impact] (web video). 1:03: TV Washington. 2012. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
  49. ^ "Benton praises governor for veto of Columbia River Crossing funding". 21 May 2013. Archived from the original on 2 February 2014. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
  50. ^ "2014 Washington Legislature: Senator seeks to prevent transfer of eminent domain to agencies from other states". The Oregonian. Portland. 22 January 2014. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
  51. ^ "The Benton Group". Archived from the original on 2013-12-10. Retrieved 2012-08-02.
  52. ^ "Benton's ballyhooed management experience is hazy". 31 August 2013.
Political offices
Preceded by
Lawrence Romo
Director of the Selective Service System
Succeeded by