NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, July 13th, 2018

Meet the candidates vying to succeed Kris Lytton in the 40th LD: Debra Lekanoff

Editor’s Note: This is the second installment in a series about the candidates vying to succeed Representative Kris Lytton in Washington’s 40th Legislative District.

The August Top Two election is just around the corner, with dozens of new candidates vying for open positions in the Washington State Legislature.

In Washington’s 40th Legislative District, where widely respected House Finance Chair Kris Lytton is retiring after many years of service, four Democrats and two Republicans are vying to be elected to the State House, one of whom we have already profiled in our previous installment in this series. The district includes San Juan County, as well as portions of Whatcom and Skagit Counties.

Another contender competing for the position is Debra Lekanoff.

Lekanoff grew up in Yakutat, Alaska. She is Alaska Native, part Tlingit and Aleut and of the Seal and Salmon tribes, respectfully. After attending Mt. Edgecumbe High School, she moved to Washington to attend Central Washington University. She served as the Swinomish Governmental Affairs Director for the past sixteen years, as well as serving for six years as Chair of an Alaska Native Village Corporation. She is also halfway to earning her MPA from Evergreen State College.

Lekanoff noted that she is grateful to the 40th Legislative District, as it fostered the success of her daughter; she is not only a 4.0 high school student, but also an award-winning archer and competes in golf at the state level. It’s this “breadth of opportunity” in the Skagit that Lekanoff hopes to nurture as Representative.

“Diversity is something we embrace [in the 40th Legislative District],” Lekanoff explained. “It encompasses everything from the white caps of the mountains to the white caps of the Salish Sea.”

She believes that it is the people’s government’s intrinsic responsibility to care for the environment. With a district so vitally connected to the Salish Sea, it comes as no surprise that she stressed the importance of having a candidate in the 40th who is dedicated to protecting this important resource.

She’s seeking to nurture the existing jobs related to work with the Salish, as well as promote a breadth of new environmental jobs. As she put it, there needs to be “economic decisions made with environmental integrity” guiding state policy.

Lekanoff points out that the 40th Legislative District is large.

She hopes to “take care of its uniqueness” when it comes to its fundamental infrastructure, which includes ferries, roads, bridges, and more.

She would also work for better access to higher education. (Western Washington University is located in the 40th; so are several community colleges.)

Should Lekanoff secure the position currently held by Lytton, she looks forward to bringing her skill of weaving between governmental bodies to architect and pass bills, as well as advocate on the issues most important to her district.

She explained: “If you pause and look around our district, there’s a new group of people of color and values and they want to make this district home.”

She wants to “rebuild a sense of community between districts, and bring us together.”

Lekanoff hopes to bring to Olympia her Alaska-Native teachings to always give back. “My wingspan is wide, and it stretches far,” she told NPI, “all the way to the issues.” Lekanoff believes that these Native teachings, her rural upbringing, and proven dedication to public service at the local, state, national and international level will make her a competitive candidate in this race.

Washington State’s Top Two election ends on August 7th, 2018, when ballots are due back. All ninety-eight positions in the State House of Representatives are being contested along with half of the State Senate’s forty-nine positions.

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