The field of candidates hoping to succeed Hilary Franz as Washington’s Commissioner of Public Lands is growing again.
Last week, Department of Natural Resources leader Patrick DePoe entered the race; today, he was followed by State Senator Rebecca Saldaña.
They join two other Democrats, former State Senator Mona Das and State Senator Kevin Van De Wege, who each jumped in earlier in the summer.
Saldaña (D‑37th District: Seattle) currently serves as the Democratic caucus’ Vice Chair in the Washington State Senate. In 2016, she was appointed to the Washington State Senate to succeed Pramila Jayapal, who is now the 7th Congressional District’s United States Representative in Congress. Saldaña was retained by voters in a special election and has easily won reelection since.
Saldaña is known as a stalwart and practical progressive, widely respected in the statehouse. Not surprisingly, many of her Senate colleagues are backing her candidacy for Commissioner of Public Lands, including Senators Yasmin Trudeau, Emily Randall, Claudia Kauffman, Liz Lovelett, and Javier Valdez.
“Senator Rebecca Saldaña is the only popular, progressive elected official with a proven record of bringing people together,” her website says (presumably in reference to the rest of the field currently running for Commissioner of Public Lands in Washington State, because there are definitely other popular progressive leaders in politics with a record of bringing people together).
“She’s changed the way politics happens in our state — starting with those impacted by policy and bringing people along with real, authentic relationships.”
Saldaña’s campaign notes that her record as a champion for environmental protection in the Legislature includes the HEAL Act… “the first statewide law to address the disproportionate exposure Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color face, along with low-income communities, to environmental hazards.”
NPI supported the HEAL Act, as did most other progressive organizations active in grassroots legislative lobbying in the State of Washington.
DePoe, meanwhile, is campaigning with a really important endorsement: that of Commissioner Franz, who is running for governor rather than seeking reelection.
In a statement on DePoe’s website, Franz says: “Patrick’s Tribal community depends on natural resources for their culture and their livelihoods which shapes his approach to conservation, natural resources and rural economic development. His life experience, deep knowledge of land management and thoughtful leadership make him uniquely qualified to lead this department.”
“I’m proud to endorse Patrick because he’s the most qualified person and will make an outstanding Commissioner of Public Lands.”
DePoe joined Franz’s executive team earlier this year. If he wins, he would be the first Native American elected to statewide office in the history of Washington State. As his website points out, he has extensive tribal government experience.
“He’s worked as a commercial fisherman, a land manager, and spent six years as an elected member of the Makah Tribal Council, where he led Tribal coordination with state and federal agencies on climate resilience and habitat restoration. Patrick earned his degree from the University of Washington, where he began nearly two decades of working and volunteering in emergency response: skippering a 110-foot boat to clean up oil spills, and leading preventative work to make our forests more resilient to wildfires and the effects of climate change.”
King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove has also filed paperwork to run, but has not been raising money or made a formal campaign announcement.
Shoreline City Councilmember Keith Scully has likewise been exploring the possibility of running for Lands Commissioner but has not declared.
The Washington State Standard’s Jerry Cornfield spoke to Peter Goldman about the contest as part of his article about Saldana and DePoe’s entry into the race, noting that environmental organizations like Washington Conservation Action have yet to endorse a candidate, which might have the effect of winnowing the field.
“We’re looking at the field right now and we’re hoping to make an expedited decision,” Goldman, one of the state’s most prominent environmentalists, told Cornfield. “Our sole goal is to put someone in there who is visionary and will shake things up and bring a more climate-friendly forestry approach on state lands.”
On the Republican side, Franz’s 2020 opponent Sue Kuehl Pedersen is running. Former United States Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler is also rumored to be making plans to enter the contest but has not yet done so.