Washington State Legislative & Elections Update – July 19, 2023

Commissioner of Public Lands Race

Sen. Kevin Van De Wege for Commissioner of Public Lands (D)

On June 21, moderate Democrat Senator Kevin Van De Wege (D-24) announced a bid for Public Lands Commissioner in 2024, replacing Hilary Franz who is running for governor. Van De Wege, first elected to represent the Olympic Peninsula in 2016, is a career firefighter and the chair of the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Committee. Van De Wege joins another moderate Democrat, Senator Mark Mullet, in leaving the chamber, though Rep. MIke Chapman (D-24) has announced he will run for Van De Wege’s open senate seat. Chapman is also more moderate than some of his colleagues in the House.

Former Sen. Mona Das for Commissioner of Public Lands (D)

On July 6, former Senator and progressive Democrat Mona Das announced she will run for Commissioner of Public Lands. Das served one term as Senator in the 47th before choosing not to run for reelection in 2022. Since leaving office, Das has promoted her movie “Bad Ass Women Doing Kick Ass Shit,” a film that centers on Das and promoting BIPOC women in office.

Additional Gubernatorial Announcement

Former U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert for Governor (R)

On July 7, former U.S. Representative Dave Reichert announced he will run for governor in 2024, becoming the Republican frontrunner. Reichert served seven terms in Congress, representing Washington’s 8th Congressional District which includes King County suburbs as well as Kittitas and Chelan Counties. Before running for Congress, Reichert served as King County Sheriff for eight years. He has worked as a lobbyist since leaving Congress. Though a Republican has not been governor of Washington since 1985, the announcement will hurt the chances of both Republican candidates and moderate Democrat Senator Mark Mullet, who has already attracted business support. Fellow Republican Dr. Raul Garcia (R) abandoned his campaign for governor and will instead run against Senator Maria Cantwell (D).

Additional Attorney General Announcement

Former U.S. Attorney Nick Brown for Attorney General (D)

On July 12, newly former U.S. Attorney Nick Brown announced he will join fellow Democrat Senator Manka Dhingra (D-45) in the race for Attorney General. A Harvard Law graduate, Brown served as a JAG officer in the Army before working as a prosecutor, as an assistant U.S. Attorney, as general counsel to Governor Jay Inslee, and as a partner at a prestigious Seattle firm, Pacifica.

Additional Announcements

5th Legislative District Senate Race

Representative Bill Ramos (D-5) has announced his intention to run for the open seat vacated by Senator Mark Mullet (D-5), who is running for governor. A Senator Ramos will likely be a bit less moderate than Mullet and could allow the Senate Democratic Caucus to accomplish more of their progressive agenda items.

Opposition and support for new Washington Cares Fund

As of July 1, and with some exemptions, Washington workers who do not have a long-term care policy have begun contributing 58 cents for every $100 they earn to the Washington Cares Fund. A lifetime payout of $36,500 per person will be available in 2026, to be spent on long-term care costs, including compensation for homecare workers. A group of Republican lawmakers led by Senator John Braun (R-20) are working on a policy proposal to allow workers to permanently opt out of participation in WA Cares, not depending on proof of other long-term coverage. A refund would also be available for the taxes paid into the program. We Care for Washington Cares, a new coalition comprised of SEIU 775, AARP, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Washington Budget and Policy Center and others, is taking a leading role in organizing against Republican attempts to alter the program.