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.

Saturday, January 12th, 2019

Kevin Ranker resigns from the Washington State Senate following misconduct allegations

Kevin Ranker has resigned from the Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate fol­low­ing recent alle­ga­tions of mis­con­duct, the Sen­ate Demo­c­ra­t­ic Cau­cus announced today.

“Sen­a­tor Ranker informed me today that he has resigned from the Sen­ate effec­tive imme­di­ate­ly,” said Sen­ate Major­i­ty Leader Andy Bil­lig in a state­ment. “I want to thank Sen­a­tor Ranker for his ser­vice to the state and the 40th Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict.

“Because this remains an ongo­ing inves­ti­ga­tion, I will wait to com­ment fur­ther until I have had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to read the investigator’s com­plet­ed report on the alle­ga­tions against Sen­a­tor Ranker. The Sen­ate remains com­mit­ted to cre­at­ing and fos­ter­ing a safe, inclu­sive work­place for every­one.”

“The process to select Sen­a­tor Ranker’s suc­ces­sor will begin as soon as pos­si­ble.”

Ranker’s for­mer leg­isla­tive assis­tant Ann Lar­son alleged last fall that Ranker had cre­at­ed a hos­tile work­place and made unwant­ed sex­u­al advances towards her sev­er­al years ago. In Octo­ber, the Sen­ate hired a spe­cial inves­ti­ga­tor — Tara Park­er of Ogden Mur­phy Wal­lace — to inves­ti­gate the alle­ga­tions.

Park­er’s report is due soon.

“I am deeply sor­ry for any stress I caused her and I sin­cere­ly apol­o­gize. I wish her peace,” Ranker said in a brief note to con­stituents ref­er­enc­ing Lar­son.

“When I was informed of these alle­ga­tions, I imme­di­ate­ly told the Sec­re­tary of the Sen­ate that I would ful­ly coop­er­ate with any inves­ti­ga­tion, and I insist­ed that an impar­tial inves­ti­ga­tion must take place. I have done so.”

The inves­ti­ga­tion came to light last month fol­low­ing the dis­clo­sure of Park­er’s con­tract in a pub­lic records request made by The Asso­ci­at­ed Press.

“The Senate’s pol­i­cy on Appro­pri­ate Work­place Con­duct was put in place to encour­age mem­bers of our leg­isla­tive com­mu­ni­ty to have a safe envi­ron­ment to come for­ward with cred­i­ble accu­sa­tions of mis­con­duct and to pro­vide a fair process for the accused,” said Bil­lig in a state­ment released by the Sen­ate Demo­c­ra­t­ic cau­cus on the day the exis­tence of the inves­ti­ga­tion was revealed.

“These are seri­ous alle­ga­tions which must be ful­ly inves­ti­gat­ed as we work to ensure a safe and respect­ful work­place,” Bil­lig added.

“Once this inves­ti­ga­tion is com­plete, the Sen­ate will have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to view the facts of this case in full and act appro­pri­ate­ly based on those facts.”

Ranker has now cho­sen to leave the Leg­is­la­ture ahead of the com­ple­tion of the inves­ti­ga­tion. He had already stepped down from his lead­er­ship posi­tions in the Sen­ate sev­er­al days ago; now he is depart­ing the cham­ber alto­geth­er.

Ranker was first elect­ed to the Sen­ate a lit­tle over ten years ago. He was reelect­ed in 2012 and 2016 by com­fort­able mar­gins. The Orcas Island res­i­dent and for­mer San Juan Coun­ty Com­mis­sion­er made pro­tect­ing Puget Sound’s orcas one of his sig­na­ture issues while in the Leg­is­la­ture.

Ranker deac­ti­vat­ed his Face­book and Twit­ter accounts today after sub­mit­ting his let­ter of res­ig­na­tion to Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee.

Ranker’s res­ig­na­tion leaves the Sen­ate Democ­rats with a major­i­ty of twen­ty-sev­en for the time being. (Twen­ty-five votes are required to pass bills in the Sen­ate.)

A spe­cial nom­i­nat­ing cau­cus must now be called by Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty Chair Tina Pod­lodows­ki to draw up a list of three names to suc­ceed Ranker. The coun­ty leg­isla­tive author­i­ties of San Juan, Skag­it, and What­com Coun­ties will then need to select one of those indi­vid­u­als as Ranker’s replace­ment.

State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Jeff Mor­ris, who has served in the House for over twen­ty years, would be an obvi­ous choice to fill the vacan­cy if he want­ed to move across the state­house. The oth­er mem­ber of the 40th’s del­e­ga­tion is Kris Lyt­ton, who is retir­ing and due to be suc­ceed­ed by Debra Lekanoff as of this Mon­day.

Who­ev­er is appoint­ed will rep­re­sent the 40th Dis­trict in the Sen­ate until at least the end of Novem­ber 2019. In accor­dance with state law, a spe­cial elec­tion will be held this year to deter­mine who will rep­re­sent the 40th for the remain­der of Ranker’s term, which expires in ear­ly Jan­u­ary 2021.

The 40th is a dis­trict that has reli­ably vot­ed Demo­c­ra­t­ic for years, so the par­ty should not have much dif­fi­cul­ty in hold­ing the seat.

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