Posted by: sweeneyblog | October 10, 2012

An Interview with Kevin Ranker

Before I can even ask my first question, Sen. Kevin Ranker is throwing me to the wolves. Well, at least the subject matter anyway. “The fact that we got to a place where we had to kill an entire wolf pack, an endangered wolf pack, is a clear failure on the part of the agency.”  Before long, the context becomes clear. The latest brush-fire Ranker has been involved in is criticizing the Department of Fish and Wildlife for killing a wolf pack that had been harassing some cattle in Stevens County. He made some comments critical of the action on his facebook, which exploded into a maelstrom of comments. Before long, Ranker found himself back in Olympia, cross-examining the agency’s actions. “I’ve been talking to the top experts at the National Parks Service and Yellowstone. Everyone I’m talking to says the justification they used (to kill the pack) is fatally flawed. It is really unfortunate. What we need to do now is make sure that this never happens again. We need to put in place some very strict policies that frame the agency’s agenda so that this sort of failure does not happen again.” He paused, taking a big bite of his rushed dinner. “Now what was it you wanted to talk about again?”

Sen. Kevin Ranker

Ranker is just finishing out his first term in the state Senate. The former San Juan County Commissioner was elected in 2008 and quickly cut out a niche for himself around environmental jobs. Just this year, he sponsored a bipartisan bill to create over 620 jobs cleaning up toxic sites around the state. He has made a name for himself by urging politicians to look at environmental challenges through a job creation lens, a view he spelled out in a great interview here. In the redistricting this year, his district became even more Democratic, so with a safe majority behind him, he is running for reelection with a calm confidence.

I met with Ranker at the Chuckanut Brewery as he frantically grabbed a slice of pizza between forums. I asked how he was handling the myriad forums and he cracked a big smile. “This is my third with John Swapp, my opponent, and I’m really enjoying them. We get to really debate some important issues, and the more I debate my opponent, the clearer the fundamental differences between Democrats and Republicans become. Do you support the protection and advancement of women’s reproductive rights or not? Going to these forums really strengthens my position on what needs to be accomplished this year.”

In the last four years, what has been your biggest accomplishment as a legislator? “What am I most proud of? That’s easy. Marriage Equality.” Ranker was one of the key votes in the state Senate for marriage equality and has been a tireless advocate of this issue. “I don’t think I will ever participate in a piece of legislation that is more powerful or more important to so many people than this last year’s worth of work on marriage equality. To be able to personally impact so many people, that’s why you do this sort of work. When you have days like that, when we passed marriage equality off the Senate floor, you remember them for the rest of your life.” His face grew fierce for a moment, “But we’re not done. The most important vote anyone has in our lifetime is this November. Right there with Jay Inslee and Obama, in front of that is Ref. 74. We have got to approve that.”

So what is your number one priority if you are reelected? “It is going to be a continued laser focus on job creation, with a particular focus on opportunities like renewable energy and toxic clean-up. We’ve got to rebuild our economic drivers in communities where they are the weakest. I will also absolutely continue the tireless fight to protect and advance women’s reproductive rights.”

Sen. Ranker snaps a photo with fellow legislators the day Marriage Equality was signed into law

In a similar vein, why should people vote to reelect you? “Well, if you didn’t, I’d have more time with my little girl. Send me home!” The smile quickly runs away from his face. “In all seriousness, and this might sound a little corny, but it’s the truth. I just spent a few hours going to the Drug Court graduation. It was such a powerful experience; these people changing their lives not just for themselves but for their community. I looked at these kids, they look at people like Judge Snyder as a model citizen, but these kids are model citizens. The courage they are showing to make positive changes in themselves and their community, that’s people making a difference.” Getting back to the subject at hand, Ranker brings it home. “People should vote for me because I recognize these sorts of things and frankly, wear it on my sleeve. For as long as I can remember, I have been totally devoted to and committed to a sense of community. As a state senator, I get to do some things that can help create that sense of community. I feel so lucky to represent the district that I do, there’s these little thriving beautiful communities that I get to work in and work with. I want to continue to do this and listen to all those divergent views.”

Everyone talks about funding education, how are we going to actually get it done? Without missing a beat, Ranker answered. “What did Kris Lytton say? In all seriousness, it is really nice to have Kris representing this district as well because she is so good on education.” Getting down to the details of the problem, his outlook turns dour. “The funding problem comes down to this really frank discussion we need to have as a country: revenue versus expectations. If we are to have a fantastic education program, which the courts have ordered us to do, it can’t just be paid for by tax loopholes or some sort of shell game. The courts forced us to hold our feet to the fire. I don’t have a silver bullet, but I’m willing to be bold and do things that aren’t politically sexy to get education funded.”

Sen. Ranker sits down for an interview

Waxing philosophical, he turns to a broader question. “Every single politician needs two things to do the right thing; political cover and political pressure. I need 100 people to say yes, we’ve got to do this, and I need 100 people to come back and say, ‘Why the hell did you do this?’ It might come back to haunt me but the reality is that it is really important, that sometimes we need more pressure than we like, and sometimes we need a little more cover than people give us.”

What about your opposition? His opponent, John Swapp, ran against Jeff Morris two years ago and was most famous for making a rather weird campaign video about doorknobs. At first, Ranker is polite and deferential. “I don’t want to prejudge him on every issue out there.” But before long, Ranker is rolling. “I’ve heard the things he’s said, that because he has a small business background, it makes him more qualified. I remember having this issue when I was running for county council, this notion that small business makes you more qualified. There are some fundamental differences from running a business and running a government.” His gestures become more animated as he goes through the paces. “The bottom line at a business is making money, they can do other things but in the end, the business has to make money. Profit is the driving factor. The bottom line in government is taking care of your citizens. You create opportunities for business but take care of our citizens. That is a very different bottom line from that of a tech company. This is the fundamental difference between my opponent and myself. My core values represent this district very well, and I won’t comment on whether his do or not.”

How has the redistricting affected your race? After briefly quoting Will Rogers, (“I’m not part of an organized party, I’m a Democrat”) he took a swing at the Democrats on the redistricting committee. “I’m sick and tired of the Dems not being as strategic as possible. The situation we are in with the 40th LD, I don’t need a 65% for me district, I need a 51% district. Well, okay maybe a 53%. But I would rather see us put the 42nd district back in play in a big way. We could have Matt and Natalie in there like that.” I asked him how he thinks the race to the north will turn out. “We still might have a very real opportunity there, but it is an uphill battle and we could have been starting from a winning position. It is disappointing the way it went.”

With that, we were running low on time. He gave me his thoughts on I-502 (short version: Good idea, vote yes!) and expressed his excitement for the election. “It’s going to be a good year, I can’t wait!”

He did make a point of stressing that The Political Junkie was one of the news sites he checks every morning, along with a slew of local newspapers. He recently discovered the subscribe button, so now all the updates get emailed to him directly. So you heard it here, read what Senator Ranker reads and subscribe today!



  1. […] Interview with Kevin Ranker Home  »  News  »  Political Junkie: An Interview with Kevin Ranker Oct 17, 2012 No Comments ›› […]

  2. […] you happen to live in the 40th district, bravo! Proudly vote for Kris Lytton, Jeff Morris and Kevin Ranker. They all deserve your vote for the hard work they have done in the last two […]

  3. […] would be “co-chaired”. This potential arrangement included a bone tossed to our own Sen. Kevin Ranker (D-Awesomesauce), possibly putting him in co-charge of the Energy and Natural Resource committee, a […]

  4. […] in October of 2012, Sen. Kevin Ranker knew exactly what he wanted to do in the 2013 session. His number one priority was clear, “It is going to be a continued laser […]

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