Four years ago, environmental protection champion Hilary Franz emerged from a crowded field to head Washington State’s Department of Natural Resources after two term incumbent and fellow Democrat Peter Goldmark opted to retire.
Since assuming the post, the dynamic and energetic Franz has crisscrossed the state working to drum up support for investments in wildland firefighting, geologic hazards mapping, and rural infrastructure. All of that work seems to have left a positive impression with Washington State voters, who favor Franz by a comfortable margin for a second term in NPI’s most recent statewide survey.
49% of likely Washington State voters polled by Public Policy Polling last week for NPI said they’re voting for Franz, while 36% said they’re voting for Republican challenger Sue Kuehl Pederson. 15% said they were not sure.
The winner of this contest will serve in the Washington State executive department for four years, heading up Natural Resources (DNR). The position is required by the Constitution, but its duties are not spelled out there, as the Framers felt the scope of the job should be determined by the Legislature.
SECTION 23. COMMISSIONER OF PUBLIC LANDS — COMPENSATION. The commissioner of public lands shall perform such duties and receive such compensation as the legislature may direct.
RCW 43.30.105 prescribes that the Commissioner shall be DNR’s leader.
The department’s current programs and services consist of Aquatics, Forest Health and Resiliency, Forest Practices, Forest Resources, Geology, Maps and Surveys, Natural Resources Police, Natural Heritage Program, Product Sales and Leasing, Recreation, and Wildfire. It manages over 5.6 million acres.
Here are the numbers again and the exact question we asked:
QUESTION: The 2020 candidates for Commissioner of Public Lands are Democrat Hilary Franz and Republican Sue Kuehl Pederson. Who are you voting for?
- Hilary Franz: 49%
- Sue Kuehl Pederson: 36%
- Not sure: 15%
Our survey of six hundred and ten likely 2020 Washington State voters was in the field from Wednesday, October 14th through Thursday, October 15th.
It utilizes a blended methodology, with automated phone calls to landlines and text message answers from cell phone only respondents.
The poll was conducted by Public Policy Polling for the Northwest Progressive Institute, and has a margin of error of +/- 4.0% at the 95% confidence level.
“Under Hilary’s leadership, the [Department of Natural Resources] is increasing revenue for schools and communities by protecting working forests and agriculture in our rural areas, increasing clean energy development, and creating economic opportunities in our towns and cities,” Franz’s website says.
In addition to her firefighting and climate advocacy, Franz’s campaign has emphasized her efforts to stop Trump’s offshore drilling initiatives and pull the plug on Cooke Aquaculture’s irresponsible fish farming operation in Puget Sound.
Unusually for a Democrat, Franz’s reelection enjoys the support of the Association of Washington Business in addition to the labor movement, environmental advocacy community, and Democratic Party.
Franz’s opponent, Sue Kuehl Pederson, is a former chair of the Grays Harbor Republican Party who has several degrees and work experience as a fisheries biologist and power manager. Pederson easily has the most impressive credentials of any of the Republicans running for a statewide office this year.
Her website, however, doesn’t offer much beyond her voter’s pamphlet statement, which declares: “Our public lands have been ravaged by natural disasters including tree infestations and forest fires. They’ve also been damaged by a man-made disaster: state managers that have focused on serving special interest groups instead of providing for taxpayers, school districts, and outdoor recreational enthusiasts. No more policy-by-press-conference. No more angling for higher political office. It’s time for new leadership.”
Considering Pederson’s education and science background, it’s extremely disappointing that her statement doesn’t acknowledge the damage that we have caused to our climate through our polluting ways.
She does acknowledge climate change in the sole blog post on her website, but she has yet to offer anything resembling a climate action plan as part of her campaign. (Franz is an outspoken climate action advocate, and was the opening speaker at NPI’s 2019 Spring Fundraising Gala in Renton.)
Pederson’s website doesn’t seem to have changed much since the spring, indicating that her interest in waging a campaign may have waned.
Franz earned twice as many votes as Pederson in the August Top Two election, securing an outright majority with 51.13% of the vote. Pederson came in ahead of three other Republicans, a Libertarian, and a Democrat for the second spot.
With the other Republicans now out of the way, Pederson will likely get a higher percentage in the general election. But this is not going to be a competitive race. Even voters in counties Democrats often have trouble winning seem to like Franz. She ought to do very well in next month’s general election.
Voting in the 2020 presidential election is currently in progress and is set to conclude on November 3rd, 2020 at 8 PM Pacific in Washington State.