Alex Ramel

Alex Ramel is sworn in Monday by Skagit County District Court Judge Dianne Goddard after he was appointed to fill a vacant seat in the state House of Representatives.

MOUNT VERNON — Bellingham-based environmental activist Alex Ramel was appointed Monday to the state House of Representatives, filling a seat left vacant by outgoing Rep. Jeff Morris.

Elected officials from Skagit, Whatcom and San Juan counties narrowly selected Ramel to represent the 40th Legislative District.

He said he hopes to hit the ground running when the 2020 legislative session starts Jan. 13, and is eager to work on funding for affordable housing and supporting transportation infrastructure.

“I’m looking forward to being part of the bigger (policy) discussions that are happening right now,” he said.

Morris, who served 23 years in the state Legislature, stepped down to take a job with French technology company Schneider Electric.

Ramel was selected over 10-year Bellingham City Council member Michael Lilliquist and Marco Morales, a migrant graduation specialist with the Mount Vernon School District.

The 40th District encompasses northwest Skagit County — including Anacortes — southwest Whatcom County and all of San Juan County.

At Monday’s meeting, the 13 members of the three county governing boards interviewed each candidate.

Ramel touted his experience as a coalition-builder.

“There’s little that’s zero sum,” he said, adding he would work to find agreements that are mutually beneficial.

Ramel’s work in climate activism has put him in contact with leaders on the issue, and he said he believes his experience and the relationships he’s built through working on the issue will give him a platform.

“I can have my voice heard on this issue when other freshmen representatives would not,” he said.

Two of Skagit County’s three commissioners — Ron Wesen and Ken Dahlstedt — voted against Ramel’s appointment.

Wesen said all three candidates were qualified, but Lilliquist’s experience as a local elected official made him a more attractive choice.

Wesen said local officials have experience defending their positions to the community.

“There’s nothing like voting on things and going to the grocery store and having to explain your vote,” he said.

Commissioner Lisa Janicki voted for Ramel, saying he seemed to be the most prepared to serve.

She said she was impressed he came in knowing which committees he wanted to serve on and with priorities for the upcoming session.

“He’s done his homework down in Olympia,” she said.

Ramel’s seat will be up for election in November.

— Reporter Brandon Stone: bstone@skagitpublishing.com, 360-416-2112, Twitter: @Brandon_SVH

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