With news of the resignation of Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, Democrats in the state’s 40th Legislative District are beginning the process of nominating potential replacements.
With the legislative session underway, Democratic leadership in the district plan to move quickly to appoint a replacement, said Bob Doll, co-chair of the 40th District Democrats Executive Board.
Ranker resigned Friday amid a sexual harassment investigation, according to the Associated Press.
As of Monday afternoon, at least four candidates had made public their interest in the seat: former state Rep. Kristine Lytton, Whatcom County Councilman Rud Browne, Anacortes City Councilwoman Liz Lovelett and San Juan County Councilman Jamie Stephens.
The 40th District, which encompasses northwest Skagit County — including Anacortes — southwest Whatcom County and all of San Juan County, has been represented by Ranker in the Senate since 2009.
Doll said the 64 Democratic precinct committee officers in the 40th District plan to meet soon to nominate three candidates.
The governing boards from those three counties will then meet to select one of the candidates.
More specific details are expected after a board meeting Wednesday, Doll said.
Lytton, fresh off an eight-year run representing the 40th District in the state House of Representatives, said she will seek the Senate seat.
She said her experience is the primary reason she should be considered for the position. With the legislative session already underway, a first-time lawmaker won’t have the time necessary to learn how the Legislature functions.
“You’re not going to go in as a freshman and understand the budget process,” she said.
With Democrats in a more comfortable majority than in recent years, she said she would be eager to push progressive issues such as education funding, tax fairness and proper funding for state ferries.
Browne, who ran in the August primary for a 40th District House seat, said while he’s served on the Whatcom County Council for five years, he was motivated to seek higher office to address homelessness in the state.
“I’m just fed up with the way we’re treating our homeless,” Browne said.
In his work for the county council, he said he’s learned about how difficult it is for the homeless to get photo IDs — something that’s often necessary for employment — without money and documents proving their identity.
Browne started a nonprofit, called ID to Work, to help Whatcom County’s homeless get access to IDs, and he said this would be his primary issue if appointed to the Senate.
If appointed, Lovelett said she would bring the perspective of a member of municipal government.
As a five-year member of the Anacortes City Council, she said she’s felt the effects of state policy on the city’s budget — often in the form of unfunded mandates.
“Often, local governments are having to foot the bill,” she said.
She said she sees the seat as an opportunity to advocate for environmental preservation and affordable housing, issues she’s championed on the City Council.
With Ranker’s resignation, Stephens said there are no state legislators from San Juan County.
“I think it’s an important thing to have island representation in the Legislature,” said the county councilman, who is beginning his third term.
He said his interests in expanded behavioral health treatment, environmental preservation and state ferries are shared by the other counties in the 40th District, and he hopes to be a voice for them if appointed.
“San Juan’s issues are the region’s issues,” he said.