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New Washington state legislators headed to Olympia in 2019

(AP)

The 2019 Legislative session gets underway on Jan. 14th, with plenty of new faces, and an even stronger majority for Democrats.

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Democrats grew their majorities in Olympia significantly this past election, flipping three seats in the Senate and seven in the House.

That leaves Democrats with a 28-21 majority in the Senate, and 57-41 lead in the House.

On top of the newly elected lawmakers who flipped seats, many others were elected to replace members of their own party, so there will be dozens of new faces in the Legislature this session.

In the Senate

There a half-dozen new lawmakers in the state Senate.

On the Republican side, Senator-elect Jeff Holy makes the move from the House to the Senate, to replace outgoing Senator Michael Baumgartner.

There are also fiv new Democratic Senators.

Jesse Salomon, a former King County public defender and Shoreline Deputy Mayor, beat fellow Democrat and incumbent Maralyn Chase to take the Senate seat in the 32nd district  that includes Edmonds, Lynnwood, and Shoreline.

In the 34th district — encompassing Vashon Island, White Center, Burien, and West Seattle — Joe Nguyen, a manager at Microsoft, won the seat left vacant by outgoing Senate Majority Leader Sharon Nelson.

Three newcomers flipped Senate seats.

In the 26th District (Gig Harbor), Democrat Emily Randall officially won her race after a recount, taking the seat left open by retiring Republican Senator Jan Angel.

Randall has a background in charitable work and advocating for LBGTQ rights, and campaigned hard on affordable health care, strongly supporting a multi-state health care program with California, Oregon, and possibly Hawaii.

She will be one of two incoming lawmakers to become the first open lesbians serving in the state Senate.

The other is Claire Wilson, the Federal Way School Board President who snagged the Senate seat in the 30th District in Federal Way, from former Democrat-turned-Republican Mark Miloscia.

Wilson says her big focus will be on education, specifically early education and at-risk students.

Democrat Mona Das will also be a fresh face in the Senate. The small mortgage business owner, who was born in India and immigrated to the U.S. with her parents here at eightt months old, was behind a big upset in the 47th District (South King County), taking the win over incumbent Republican Senator Joe Fain. Fain was hit with still-uninvestigated rape accusations after the primary which he has since denied.

Das says her experience in the mortgage industry will be a huge asset in her work as Vice Chair of the Housing Affordability Committee.

She wants more affordable options for home buyers to help free up rentals for others who aren’t ready to buy.

Right now, she says people can either rent apartments or buy homes for a half-million dollars or more, and that’s an issue.

“There needs to be more condos, there needs to be more townhouses, there needs to be opportunity for people to move out of apartments and into more affordable housing that they can buy,” Das said.

“That’s been a big passion for me for the last 14 years, is taking people who don’t think they can afford to buy, and helping them realize the dream of home ownership, and then once you have that you have more housing stock,” she added.

In the House

In the House, there will be nearly two dozen new faces.

10 new Republicans were elected to the House, and an 11th is on the way Jan. 14th when a replacement for the resigning 13th District (Kittitas County) Representative, Matt Manweller, will be named.

Manweller has been dogged by sexual misconduct allegations, and was fired from his teaching job at Central Washington University.

The Ellensburg Republican promised that if he were re-elected in November, he would resign. Kittitas County Commissioners will pick a replacement for him.

Other new Republican Representatives include:

Jenny Graham, 6th LD
Matt Boehnke, 8th LD
Keith Goehner, 12th LD
Chris Corry, 14th LD
Jeremy Dufault, 15th LD
Skyler Rude, 16th LD
Larry Hoff, 18th LD
Kelly Chambers, 25th LD
Chris Gildon, 25th LD
Robert Sutherland, 39th LD

There will be a dozen new Democrats in the House, including the youngest member of the state Legislature 27 year old Jared Mead, who just flipped a seat in the 44th district with his win over Republican, Mark Harmsworth.

Mead did better than expected in the primary, coming out 7 points ahead of Harmsworth in the Snohomish County swing district, but he still had tempered expectations heading into the general election. In the end, he beat Harmsworth by 5 points.

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Since the win, Mead has been busy meeting with everyone from constituents to other lawmakers in his district, in Mill Creek, Lake Stevens, Snohomish, and parts of Marysville.

“I’m just trying to figure out what our needs are and compiling priorities for this session. I want to go into this session and be effective, and you can’t go into a session and be effective if you don’t do the planning and the ground work prior,” Mead said.

Education, affordable housing, and transportation are the major issues for Mead’s district.

One of the main issues in his campaign concerned whether the Highway 2 trestle will be tolled.

Mead stands by his pre-election position that it is too soon to tell whether tolling will be necessary, but he is firm on one stance: He will not support tolling the existing lanes of the trestle to pay for any fixes or upgrades, including new lanes.

Mead will be in a good position to fight for that and other transportation issues with his assignment to the transportation committee.

He’s also a big supporter of some kind of property tax relief, and while he likes the idea of saving local orcas, other clean energy ideas, and possibly a carbon fee, his overall philosophy heading into the session is making sure he is part of the conversation, and getting all the facts and learning exactly how it will impact people in his district, and how they feel about it.

Mead vows to listen and learn, in an effort to do what is right for his constituents.

“I do think I can make a difference. I’m young – the youngest – energetic. I’ve got a little bit of experience to know how the process works, so that I don’t go in there doe-eyed and confused,” Mead said pointing to his years serving as a legislative aid for Senator Guy Palumbo.

“I can go in there and start talking about issues and say here’s what I know, here’s my perspective and I’m not nervous to say it, and I’m not nervous to confront people and talk about the issues,” He added.

It will be a busy start to the year for the young lawmaker whose wife is expecting their first child around the time session starts.

Democrats flipped both Republican-held House seats in the 5th District, making up Issaquah, Snoqualmie, North Bend, and Renton.

Democrat Lisa Callan beat out incumbent Republican Paul Graves for one seat in the swing district.

The former Boeing engineer and current Issaquah School Board director is focused on education funding and finding alternatives to high property taxes, among other issues.

Democrat Bill Ramos took the other House seat in the District.

Other new Democrats in the House include:

Rep. Dave Paul in the 10th District (Oak Harbor)
Rep. Mari Leavitt 28th (University Place)
Rep. Melanie Morgan 29th (Parkland)
Rep. Lauren Davis 32nd (Shoreline)
Rep. Debra Lekanoff 40th (La Conner)
Rep. My-Linh Thai 41st (Bellevue)
Rep. Sharon Shewmake 42nd (Bellingham)
Rep. Amy Walen 48th (Kirkland)
Rep. Debra Entenman 47th (Kent)

The incoming legislators also represent one of the most diverse groups the Legislature has ever seen, with many new women and minorities serving.

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