A special nominating caucus called by Washington State Democratic Party Chair Tina Podlodowski has drawn up a list of three individuals to replace recently departed State Senator Kevin Ranker in the 40th Legislative District, encompassing San Juan County and parts of Whatcom and Skagit Counties. The list consists of:
- Kris Lytton (who recently retired from the Washington State House)
- Liz Lovelett (a member of the Anacortes City Council)
- Trevor Smith (Business Agent for Laborers Local 292 and Secretary-Treasurer of the Northwest Washington Central Labor Council)
During the meeting, in addition to the three individuals who were chosen to be on the list, motions were made in support of Maggie Hanson (who declined) and Whatcom County Councilmember Rud Browne (deemed ineligible for inclusion on the list due to a conflict of interest; he is one of the people responsible for making the ultimate appointment to fill the vacancy.)
The Washington State Constitution stipulates that in the event of a legislative vacancy in a district spanning multiple counties, the state central committee of the political party that legislator is from shall draw up a list of three names of possible successors. The county legislative authorities must then jointly pick one of those individuals to fill the vacancy. If they cannot agree on a name after sixty days, then the governor shall fill the vacancy by selecting an individual from the list.
The Washington State Democratic Central Committee, by adopted rule, delegates its list-writing powers to what are known as special nominating caucuses.
This procedure allows the selection of nominees to be handled by the precinct committee officers from that legislative district who know it well, instead of the statutory state central committee, which consists of two representatives from each of the thirty-nine counties. (The full Washington State Democratic Central Committee, which I serve on, is a much larger body consisting of an additional two representatives from every legislative district plus special members.)
The statutory state committee or its executive committee still has the responsibility of approving the work of the special nominating caucus, but that is a mere formality. The executive committee is slated to take that vote today.
As the first place choice of the PCOs and an experienced lawmaker, former State Representative Kris Lytton would appear to be a lock for the appointment.
Lytton is widely respected in the statehouse and throughout Northwest Washington.
She was the Chair of the House Finance Committee prior to her retirement, a position now held by State Representative and NPI boardmember Gael Tarleton. She ought to adjust to life in the Senate very quickly.
Once a successor to Ranker is chosen, the Senate Democratic majority will be back to its full strength of twenty-eight. Democrats flipped three Senate seats in the recent November midterms with the victories of Claire Wilson over Mark Miloscia, Emily Randall over Marty McClendon, and Mona Das over Joe Fain.
However, just before the session was to begin last month, Ranker resigned.
With the first few weeks of session mostly taken up by committee work, the vacancy in the 40th hasn’t caused any problems for the Senate Democratic caucus. The caucus will surely be glad to have Lytton on board for the remainder of session, however. She brings experience and an excellent understanding of fiscal matters to the table. Under Lytton’s leadership, the House Finance Committee last year voted to advance legislation to levy a capital gains excise tax on high earners.
Congratulations to Kris Lytton, Liz Lovelett, and Trevor Smith on being nominated to join the Washington State Senate from the 40th Legislative District. We’ll keep you posted on next steps for filling this important Senate vacancy.