State Party Chair Tina Podlodowski with 40th District nominees
Washington State Democratic Party Chair Tina Podlodowsi with the three nominees vying to succeed Jeff Morris

A spe­cial nom­i­nat­ing cau­cus called by the Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Cen­tral Com­mit­tee today select­ed three nom­i­nees to suc­ceed depart­ed State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Jeff Mor­ris in the 40th Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict, which encom­pass­es San Juan Coun­ty along with por­tions of What­com and Skag­it counties.

Demo­c­ra­t­ic precinct com­mit­tee offi­cers in the 40th were tasked with the respon­si­bil­i­ty of pre­sent­ing to the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty’s statu­to­ry state cen­tral com­mit­tee a list of three names to be for­ward­ed to the leg­isla­tive bod­ies of the afore­men­tioned coun­ties for a pos­si­ble joint appoint­ment. It is the par­ty’s duty under the State Con­sti­tu­tion to pro­pose nom­i­nees for leg­isla­tive vacancies.

From among a pool of sev­en can­di­dates, the 40th’s PCOs select­ed the fol­low­ing indi­vid­u­als to be for­mal­ly nom­i­nat­ed by the Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Party:

  1. Envi­ron­men­tal and cli­mate jus­tice activist Alex Ramel
  2. Belling­ham City Coun­cilmem­ber Michael Lilliquist
  3. Indige­nous Stud­ies Foun­da­tion Pres­i­dent Mar­co Morales Mendez

Four oth­er indi­vid­u­als put their names for­ward, but were not cho­sen: Aman­da Hubrik, Andrea Doll, Ashan­ti Monts-Tre­viska, and Rud Browne.

The Con­sti­tu­tion does not require or state that the par­ty rank its nom­i­nees, but the par­ty does so any­way in the hopes of influ­enc­ing who is actu­al­ly appointed.

The last time the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty sent the What­com Coun­ty Coun­cil and the Skag­it + San Juan Coun­ty Com­mis­sions a list of nom­i­nees for a vacan­cy in the 40th, the joint appoint­ment went to the par­ty’s sec­ond choice… Ana­cortes City Coun­cilmem­ber Liz Lovelett, who is now Sen­a­tor Liz Lovelett.

Vot­ers retained Lovelett in her posi­tion last month.

Ramel was a con­tender in last year’s con­test to select a replace­ment for retir­ing State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Kris Lyt­ton, who unsuc­cess­ful­ly sought to be appoint­ed to the Sen­ate when Kevin Ranker abrupt­ly resigned fol­low­ing the 2018 midterms (the posi­tion went to Liz Lovelett instead, as men­tioned above).

A total of four Democ­rats sought to take over from Lyt­ton: Ramel, Browne, Debra Lekanoff, and Tom Pas­ma. Lekanoff was the only Demo­c­rat to move on from the Top Two to the gen­er­al elec­tion. Ramel fin­ished in third place, behind Repub­li­can Michael Petr­ish, who became Lekanof­f’s autumn opponent.

Ramel gar­nered 7,684 votes (19.13%) of the vote in the August 2018 Top Two elec­tion. While on the trail, he spoke to NPI’s Caitlin Har­ring­ton about his desire to serve the peo­ple as one of the state’s nine­ty-eight state rep­re­sen­ta­tives:

“The skillset I bring is being able finds ways to work togeth­er, find­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion oppor­tu­ni­ties, and doing the hard work and sweat equi­ty of build­ing trust,” Ramel says. This is espe­cial­ly true in his cur­rent job at, where the cur­rent pri­or­i­ty is resist­ing oil indus­try expan­sion projects, and where Ramel has suc­cess­ful­ly found ways to col­lab­o­rate with (instead of alien­ate) refin­ery workers.

Ranked sec­ond on the par­ty’s list is Belling­ham City Coun­cilmem­ber Michael Lilliquist, who has a decade of expe­ri­ence in local government.

From his Coun­cil biog­ra­phy:

First elect­ed to the Belling­ham City Coun­cil in 2009, Michael served as Pres­i­dent of the Coun­cil in 2017.

He chairs the Plan­ning & Com­mu­ni­ty Devel­op­ment Com­mit­tee and serves on the Pub­lic Works & Nat­ur­al Resources Com­mit­tee and the Parks & Recre­ation Committee.

He rep­re­sents the City of Belling­ham on the gov­ern­ing boards of What­com Trans­porta­tion Author­i­ty (pub­lic tran­sit), the What­com Coun­cil of Gov­ern­ments (region­al trans­porta­tion plan­ning), Sus­tain­able Con­nec­tions, and the Down­town Belling­ham Partnership.

He also serves on the Region­al Fire Author­i­ty Plan­ning Com­mit­tee and the Coun­ty’s Home­less Strate­gies Work Group.

Lilliquist rep­re­sents the city’s sixth ward.

Morales, of Mount Ver­non, describes him­self on LinkedIn as an “expe­ri­enced Pres­i­dent skilled in Non­prof­it Orga­ni­za­tions, Cus­tomer Reten­tion, Vol­un­teer Man­age­ment, Pub­lic Speak­ing, and Mul­ti-cul­tur­al team build­ing. Strong busi­ness devel­op­ment pro­fes­sion­al with a Mas­ter of Arts — MA focused in American/United States Studies/Civilization from Hei­del­berg University.”

He declared on social media that he would be a can­di­date for Mor­ris’ seat the Sat­ur­day after Mor­ris announced that he was step­ping down.

The What­com Coun­ty Coun­cil, Skag­it Coun­ty Com­mis­sion, and San Juan Coun­ty Com­mis­sion are sched­uled to meet on Jan­u­ary 6th to delib­er­ate on a pos­si­ble joint appoint­ment. If they can­not agree to appoint Ramel, Lilliquist, or Morales on with­in six­ty days, the respon­si­bil­i­ty for mak­ing an appoint­ment will pass to Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee in accor­dance with the Wash­ing­ton State Constitution.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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