An Island County farmer who is a newcomer to state politics has been unanimously chosen to take the place of Barbara Bailey in the Washington State following Bailey’s resignation, which was effective September 30th.
Ron Muzzall, fifty-six, was appointed to serve out the remainder of Bailey’s unexpired term representing the 10th Legislative District at a joint meeting of the Island and Skagit County Commissions and the Snohomish County Council.
Muzzall, the manager of 3 Sisters Family Farms on Whidbey Island, was one of three nominees selected by the Washington State Republican Central Committee. The others were Christine Cribb, the executive director of the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce, and Sarah Hyatt, a co-owner of Hyatt Construction.
The farm, which is owned by the Muzzall family, describes itself as “a multi-generational farm, with the 4th, 5th & 6th generations active. Located on beautiful Whidbey Island since 1910, we specialize in all natural beef, pork, lamb & chickens.” The farm spans approximately six hundred acres. It is not open to the public, but school/group tours can be reserved by making an appointment.
“Well, now you know what I have been up to for the last couple months,” Muzzall said in a posting on his Facebook wall reflecting on his appointment.
“It started in early August when we became aware that our state Senator was stepping down. I was humbled to be asked by some former county commissioners to consider submitting my name for the appointment. Six people submitted their names [to the Washington State Republican Party] and I was selected number one. Then the commissioners from two counties and the county council from the third county [Snohomish] interviewed the top three and submitted questions.”
“This afternoon, they asked more questions and then voted unanimously to appoint me [as a] Washington State Senator. I will have to run in 2020. I am humbled and thankful for the support given by everyone involved. Thank you all!”
Muzzall, who signs many of his social media posts with the moniker “The Happy Farmer,” graduated from Washington State University in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural mechanization. He has served on the boards of Land O’Lakes, the well known farmer’s cooperative, and Skagit Farmers Supply.
He has also been a commissioner for North Whidbey Fire & Rescue.
Muzzall is expected to face Democratic Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson next year when the position he now holds is normally contested. Price Johnson recused herself from the vote to appoint Muzzall, citing her candidacy.
The 10th is a swing legislative district that is one of the few left in Washington that sends a mixture of Democrats and Republicans to Olympia. Aside from Muzzall, it is currently represented by Republican Norma Smith and Democrat Dave Paul. From 2013 until this year, it had an all Republican-delegation.
Democrats won a competitive House race in the 10th last year with Paul and now believe they can reclaim the Senate seat that once belonged to Mary Margaret Haugen, a fixture of the Senate who chaired the Transportation Committee before the Rodney Tom error. Haugen was decisively defeated by Bailey in 2012.
Smith opted to remain in the House instead of seek the Senate appointment.
Barbara Bailey most recently served on the Health & Long Term Care Committee, the State Government, Tribal Relations & Elections Committee, and the powerful Ways & Means Committee. However, with Muzzall now on board, the Senate Republicans may choose to reshuffle a few committee assignments so that he can put his expertise in agriculture to good use as a senator. The Senate has an Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Committee, chaired by Democratic Senator Kevin Van De Wege of the 24th Legislative District.
Congratulations on your appointment, Senator Muzzall, and best wishes for the coming 2020 legislative session that begins in a few months.