Two new candidates for Commissioner of Public Lands: State Senator Rebecca Saldaña and Patrick DePoe
Two new candidates for Commissioner of Public Lands: State Senator Rebecca Saldaña and Patrick DePoe (Campaign publicity photos)

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.

Sal­dana’s web­site is here and a short clip of her announc­ing is here.

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.”

DePoe’s web­site is here and launch video is here.

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.

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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