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Ranker, Van Luven advance in state Senate race

County councilman hopes to be first islander in state Senate in about 100 years

Kevin Ranker is one step closer to being the first state senator from San Juan County in possibly 100 years.

Ranker, a San Juan County Council member, and Steve Van Luven, a former state representative, advanced Aug. 19 to the Nov. 4 general election.

Of ballots counted in San Juan, Skagit and Whatcom counties as of Friday at 4:30 p.m., Ranker, a Democrat, had 8,915 votes. Van Luven, a Republican from Samish Island, received 11,402.

Ken Henderson, a Democrat and former Whatcom County Council member, received 5,406 votes.

Hue Beattie, a businessman active with the state and national Democratic Party, had 1,841 votes. Timothy “Cleaver” Stoddard, of the so-called Salmon Yoga party, had 497 votes.

State senators serve four-year terms. As of Sept. 1, they earn $42,106 a year.

This election was the first test of the state’s Top 2 primary, in which the two top vote-getters, regardless of party, advance to the general election.

Van Luven served 171/2 years as a state representative from Bellevue before moving to his native Samish Island. He served seven years as chairman of the House Trade and Economic Development Committee.

“I’m thankful for all the support from all the people in the campaign,” he said. “I think that people in the district recognize the value of my previous 17 years of experience in the Legislature and that I have something to offer people in the district. When I get to Olympia, I will hit the road running. Immediately.

“I think it’s important for your paper and your readers to know that I’ve enjoyed the support from the people there and their hospitality. I’ve appreciated the opportunity to meet the people there and hear their concerns.”

Ranker campaigned like a candidate from an isolated part of the district. He knocked on doors on the mainland, attended every forum possible, produced commercials for YouTube and cultivated endorsements. He won the nomination of the 40th District Democratic Party organization.

Ranker was endorsed by Rep. Jeff Morris; Henderson was endorsed by Sen. Harriet Spanel, who is retiring from the position, and Rep. Dave Quall. Ranker knew he had to do well in Henderson’s home county if he had any chance of making it past the primary.

And he did. Ranker essentially split the vote in Whatcom County, receiving 2,818 to Henderson’s 2,744, edged by him in Skagit County and outdistanced all candidates in San Juan County to seal a place on the general election ballot.

After the election, Ranker said in a prepared statement, “I think our campaign has proven its strength time and again, and I look forward to taking this enthusiasm to the general election.

“The way that the primary ended up has proven that if we can work together as Democrats to keep our district blue, we will be able to defeat our Republican opponent in November.”

Ranker has served as the legislative lead for San Juan County; he counted among his lobbying successes a lower increase in ferry fares; getting a fixed-wing medical flight stationed on-island through Island Air; getting a monthly VA medical clinic established at Inter Island Medical Center; and helping establish the county Agricultural Resources Committee. His successes on a regional level include protections for the endangered Southern Resident orca population, and lobbying for funding for a year-round rescue tug at Neah Bay.

Ranker said his priorities if elected are ferries, jobs and full funding for education.

In response to a question at a candidates forum in Friday Harbor, Ranker said he supports abolishing the death penalty. He said the prison system consistently is budgeted 5 percent more each year but spends four times more than that. He said the prison system is financially mismanaged; he prefers taking some of that money and investing it in education, mental health services, and drug prevention and treatment.

Van Luven supports leaving the death penalty in place, saying that Washington hasn’t had an execution since 2001 (there have been four since 1993). But he agreed that DNA tests have cleared many people on death row and proved that convictions “have been a racial issue too many times, unfortunately.” He added, “There need to be some changes.”

Both support fully funding education. Van Luven proposes establishing the education budget first, then writing the state budget with the remaining revenue. Ranker supports early childhood and vocational education.

Both also support reinstatement of the Capron Fund, which returns to the county a portion of gas tax revenue collected here. The state uses gas tax revenue for road construction and maintenance. The Capron Fund returns San Juan County’s portion of gas tax revenue to the county because there are no state roads here.

The county uses that money for road construction and maintenance. But the state Legislature earlier took San Juan County’s share in the increase in gas taxes and applied it to the state ferries.

Both also support the Growth Management Act.

Van Luven voted for the GMA as a legislator. Without the GMA, “Skagit Valley would have been totally paved over,” he said. That would have had global implications, he said; Skagit Valley farms grow seed that is used around the globe. “Skagit Valley feeds the world,” he said.

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