Senator Emily Randall at a campaign fundraiser
Senator Emily Randall (D-26th District, left) listens to her colleague Joe Nguyen of the 34th District make a pitch for her congressional campaign at a fundraiser on March 28th, 2024 (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Editor’s Note: This is the sec­ond install­ment in a series about the lead­ing 2024 can­di­dates for Washington’s 6th Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict. Read the first here.

While con­tests to fill con­gres­sion­al open seats are often live­ly, Wash­ing­ton State Sen­a­tor Emi­ly Ran­dall (D‑26th Dis­trict: Kit­sap, Pierce coun­ties) has turned the race to suc­ceed retir­ing U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Derek Kilmer into a mar­quee com­pe­ti­tion this cycle. The sixth year leg­is­la­tor recent­ly sat down with NPI to dis­cuss her pri­or­i­ties as she vies with Com­mis­sion­er of Pub­lic Lands Hilary Franz for a spot on the Novem­ber 2024 gen­er­al elec­tion bal­lot in Wash­ing­ton’s 6th Con­gres­sion­al District. 

Randall’s ini­tial moti­va­tion to run for elect­ed office was the elec­tion of Don­ald Trump. “I could feel myself in that moment,” said Ran­dall in an inter­view on May 11th describ­ing her 2016 elec­tion night expe­ri­ence. She said she had spent the day can­vass­ing for Planned Par­ent­hood Action Fund in New Hampshire. 

“That was when I decid­ed that I was going to run for the state leg­is­la­ture, because I knew the fight to pro­tect abor­tion rights was going to the states.”

Eight years on, Ran­dall said that expand­ing repro­duc­tive health care access remains at the top of her agen­da. Catholic hos­pi­tals account­ed for over 40% of hos­pi­tal beds in Wash­ing­ton in 2020, leav­ing patients and observers alike con­cerned about restric­tive rules that the orga­ni­za­tions have the regard­ing types of care that they will provide. 

Ran­dall recent­ly spon­sored a bill, the Keep Our Care Act, that would to pre­vent health care merg­ers from reduc­ing access to cost­lier ser­vices and crit­i­cal care. Though the bill did not pass the state House, Ran­dall said she was inter­est­ed in devot­ing atten­tion to the sub­ject at a nation­al lev­el, where Catholic facil­i­ties hold around 15% of hos­pi­tal beds.

“I think pulling up and look­ing at this from the fed­er­al lev­el and cre­at­ing a reg­u­la­to­ry struc­ture that is the same from state to state is not only good for patients and staff who are ask­ing for more reg­u­la­tion, but it’s also good for busi­ness­es to know that there’s not one set of rules in Wash­ing­ton and anoth­er in Ore­gon,” Ran­dall said.

Ran­dall also said that there was more that the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment, which cur­rent­ly spends far more on health care per per­son com­pared to oth­er wealthy coun­tries, could do to make the sys­tem more cost effi­cient and accessible. 

“I think there are a lot of big­ger things that we need to do to the sys­tem to pull out mid­dle­men, to tack­le [phar­ma­cy ben­e­fit man­agers], to think about the billing sys­tems to ensure that when you change jobs you don’t have to get all new doc­tors,” she said.

In addi­tion to tack­ling health­care access and cost, Ran­dall said that she would pri­or­i­tize afford­abil­i­ty of hous­ing, child­care, and education.

In the Sen­ate, Ran­dall has focused on the cost of edu­ca­tion as the chair of the High­er Edu­ca­tion and Work­force Devel­op­ment Committee. 

Asked about whether she would sup­port stu­dent debt relief in Con­gress, Ran­dall said she would “def­i­nite­ly sup­port” forgiveness. 

“Every time I hear us fac­ing a work­force short­age — doc­tors, teach­ers, coders — these very high-demand careers, almost all of them require some col­lege edu­ca­tion. And if we’re not mak­ing invest­ments in those path­ways, then we’re not prepar­ing our coun­try or our com­mu­ni­ties or our econ­o­my for the next generation.”

The Biden-Har­ris admin­is­tra­tion has announced over $150 bil­lion in stu­dent debt relief as of mid-April, which includes assis­tance for near­ly 5,000 Washingtonians.

Ran­dall not­ed that work­force invest­ments were nec­es­sary for indi­vid­u­als who did not want to receive a bachelor’s degree as well. 

“Labor is at the table and often in the lead posi­tion for appren­tice­ships in Wash­ing­ton State. But in lots of oth­er states, there’s no stan­dard for what an appren­tice­ship means.”

With respect to hous­ing costs, Ran­dall said that the Sen­ate “worked real­ly hard” on rent sta­bi­liza­tion over the course of the last leg­isla­tive ses­sion, refer­ring to a bill that would have capped rental increas­es at 7% per year. The bill ulti­mate­ly died in com­mit­tee in the Sen­ate, lack­ing enough Demo­c­ra­t­ic sup­port to advance for a floor vote. Ran­dall did vote in sup­port of 2023’s major mid­dle hous­ing bill, now law, which allows hous­ing devel­op­ment in some neigh­bor­hoods pre­vi­ous­ly zoned for sin­gle-fam­i­ly homes.

In Con­gress, Ran­dall said that she would fight for more pro­grams and Hous­ing and Urban Devel­op­ment block grants to assist both first-time buy­ers and renters who need greater assistance.

Ran­dall made it clear that she would work with Repub­li­cans and Democ­rats alike to ensure that her agen­da passed in what could be anoth­er divid­ed Con­gress. “I try to show up at my neighbor’s door and talk to col­leagues across the aisle and across the state about what moti­vates them, what the dri­ving forces are behind this pol­i­cy idea or their resis­tance and try to find places where we can work togeth­er as much as pos­si­ble,” she said.

Anoth­er way that Ran­dall said she could help con­stituents would be through con­tin­u­ing Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Kilmer’s work on mod­ern­iz­ing Con­gress.

As one of the youngest mem­bers of the state Sen­ate when COVID-19 hit, Ran­dall said she helped her col­leagues adjust to an online leg­isla­tive process — using Microsoft Teams to meet with col­leagues and con­duct floor action using Zoom. “I think see­ing how quick­ly we can move when we are forced to, those lessons for me inspire me to fol­low in Con­gress­man Kilmer’s foot­steps to try and update an insti­tu­tion that is so entrenched in the way things have always been done or that they have been done for a long time.”

Whether vot­ers in the 6th Dis­trict will give Ran­dall the chance to see her leg­isla­tive agen­da through remains to be seen. Wash­ing­ton Com­mis­sion­er of Pub­lic Lands Hilary Franz, Randall’s rival, has a near­ly $300,000 fundrais­ing advan­tage as of March 31st as well as the endorse­ment of Kilmer and his pre­de­ces­sor, the leg­endary Norm Dicks. 

Ran­dall, on the oth­er hand, has the endorse­ment of Unit­ed States Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Mur­ray and Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Mar­i­lyn Strick­land and Marie Glue­senkamp Perez, who rep­re­sent the neigh­bor­ing 10th and 3rd Con­gres­sion­al Dis­tricts, respectively. 

In Ran­dall and Franz, vot­ers have two strong Demo­c­ra­t­ic women with expe­ri­ence gov­ern­ing at the state lev­el to choose from. But the sheer num­ber of big-name endorse­ments like­ly sig­nals that this race is impor­tant for anoth­er rea­son. Just two mem­bers have rep­re­sent­ed the dis­trict for the last forty-sev­en years, mak­ing it con­ceiv­able that November’s win­ner will be in Con­gress for many years into the future.

About the author

Owen Averill is the Northwest Progressive Institute's Federal Correspondent and an aficionado of all things Washington State. His professional experience includes internships on Capitol Hill, for Democratic congressional campaigns, and at the Brookings Institution. When he’s not writing about Washingtonians in D.C., he is running, reading, watching the Sounders, or catching up on Irish politics.

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