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County councils select city council member to be 40th District state senator

Liz Lovelett, a Democrat, was named to the Senate on Tuesday at a special joint session of the boards and councils of Whatcom, Skagit and San Juan counties, which make up the 40th District.
Liz Lovelett, a Democrat, was named to the Senate on Tuesday at a special joint session of the boards and councils of Whatcom, Skagit and San Juan counties, which make up the 40th District. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

A member of the Anacortes City Council will represent the 40th Legislative District in the state Senate, replacing Kevin Ranker, who resigned just as the current legislative session was set to start in January after a former employee made allegations of workplace harassment.

Liz Lovelett, a Democrat, was named to the Senate on Tuesday at a special joint session of the boards and councils of Whatcom, Skagit and San Juan counties, which make up the 40th District.

She won on the first ballot with five votes.

“I’m not afraid of having difficult conversations,” Lovelett said in remarks before the vote, which was streamed live online from Mount Vernon. “I have the unique ability to build consensus.”

She was sworn into office immediately after the vote by Skagit County Auditor Sandra Perkins and Superior Court Judge Brian Stiles

Lovelett was one of the three candidates chosen to replace Ranker at a Saturday meeting of the 40th District Democrats from nominations made by elected party precinct committee officers.

Other candidates were former state Rep. Kris Lytton of the Anacortes, and labor organizer Trevor Smith.

Anna Berch-Norton of Bellingham, who chairs the 40th District’s Democratic Party, said Monday that the state Democratic Party ruled that Whatcom County Council member Rud Browne and San Juan County Council member Jamie Stephens — both of whom sought the nomination — were ineligible unless they resigned their county positions.

Browne criticized that ruling during the discussion of the candidates on Tuesday and abstained from the vote.

Skagit County Commissioner Ken Dahlstedt also criticized the nomination process.

lovelett family.jpg
State Sen. Liz Lovelett, with her children in the Skagit County Council chambers in Mount Vernon after the vote Tuesday, is Washington’s newest legislator. She replaces Kevin Ranker, who resigned just as the current legislative session was set to start in January. Anna Berch-Norton Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Washington’s Constitution describes the process for choosing a legislative successor that allows the party holding the vacant seat to nominate three candidates and for the local county council to select the replacement.

Tuesday’s meeting in Mount Vernon included the Whatcom and San Juan county councils and the Skagit County Board of Commissioners because the 40th District includes all of San Juan County and parts of Whatcom and Skagit counties.

Because the Whatcom council has seven members and the other two councils have three members, each Whatcom County Council member’s vote was weighted so that each council had three total votes.

Ranker, an Orcas Island Democrat, resigned under pressure in the wake of workplace harassment allegations made last year by a former aide, according to an Associated Press report.

On her campaign website, Lovelett describes herself as a “fifth-generation Fidalgo Island resident” and lists affordable housing and water management as her priorities.

She has served on the Anacortes City Council since 2014 and her current term ends at the end of 2021.

As an appointee, Lovelett must face a confirmation election in November 2019.

The 40th District Senate seat’s term ends in November 2020.

Robert Mittendorf covers civic issues, weather, traffic and how people are coping with the high cost of housing for The Bellingham Herald. A journalist since 1984, he’s also a volunteer firefighter for South Whatcom Fire Authority.


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