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Saturday, December 9, 2023
Dec. 9, 2023

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Washington Lands commissioner race gets even more crowded as Dave Upthegrove jumps in

State’s public lands chief attracts 6 candidates so far


King County Council Member Dave Upthegrove entered the race for Washington Commissioner of Public Lands on Monday, becoming the fifth Democratic candidate vying for the job of managing state public lands and forests.

Upthegrove, a former state lawmaker who ran unsuccessfully for the lands chief job in 2016, created a campaign committee in May but did not raise money while deciding whether to run.

“For me, running for State Lands Commissioner is the culmination of a life and career focused on environmental and natural resources issues, not a stepping stone to higher office,” he said in a statement. “I am ready to deliver on a forward-looking conservation and climate protection agenda.”

Upthegrove joins four fellow Democrats in the race: state Sens. Rebecca Saldana of Seattle and Kevin Van De Wege of Port Angeles, Patrick DePoe of Neah Bay, and former state senator Mona Das of Kent. Sue Kuehl Pederson, who lost to Franz in 2020, is the lone Republican candidate so far.

Next year’s contest is drawing lots of interest because the current commissioner, Hilary Franz, is forgoing reelection to run for governor.

As head of the Department of Natural Resources, the lands commissioner is responsible for the caretaking of Washington’s 5.6 million acres of state land and the revenue it generates. The job pays an annual salary of $161,905.

The position also plays an increasingly critical role in the state’s response to climate change, including with the rise in the number and severity of wildfires. The Department of Natural Resources is the state’s lead wildfire-fighting agency and there’s growing attention on the value the state’s forests could have for capturing and storing carbon dioxide.

Upthegrove, of Des Moines, served 12 years beginning in 2002 in the state House of Representatives. He was then elected to the County Council where he is in his third term and is currently chair. In the 2016 race for lands commissioner, he finished third, behind Franz, in the seven-candidate primary.

While in the Legislature, he chaired the House Environment Committee and the House Select Committee on Puget Sound, helping to create the Puget Sound Partnership.

If elected, Upthegrove said he would be Washington’s first “out LGBTQ statewide executive officeholder.”

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