Sen. Randi Becker, the 2nd Legislative District lawmaker who has been a trailblazer for health care legislation over the last 12 years, announced her retirement late last week from the Washington state Legislature.
She’ll serve the rest of her term, which runs through the end of the year.
“It has truly been my honor to represent the 2nd Legislative District for the past 12 years. I am grateful my constituents trusted me to represent their voice and fight for their individual rights for over a decade,” Becker, R-Olympia, said in a statement released by the state Senate Republican Caucus. “This has been the most challenging job that I’ve ever had, and the most humbling. Each year I served and spoke with people from my communities and around the state and I was reminded of how fortunate we are in this country. We have the ability to be involved, to serve and to speak out about the things that matter to us.”
Throughout her time as a senator, the third-generation Washingtonian helped to revitalize the 2nd Legislative District in the years following the Great Recession. In addition to her health care legislation, Becker also helped bring college programs to Graham Kapowsin HIgh School, fought for personal rights and against gun control legislation, and was a vocal opponent of tax increases.
“Sen. Becker will be missed in the Senate. Her background as a medical clinic manager not only helped her be an effective Republican Caucus Chair, but also gave us a better understanding of health care in general. I especially enjoyed her keen sense of humor, her caring nature for all members and staff of the Senate and her absolute dedication to the people of her Legislative District. She exemplifies the meaning of a true public servant,” said Senate Republican Deputy Chair and 13th Legislative District Sen. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake.
Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, said he learned a lot from Becker.
“Randi is my pal,” the 9th Legislative District lawmaker said. “When she was the chair of the Senate Health Care Committee, she forced me to become literate in health care issues and work with the other body. I appreciated that. When you are caucus leader, the caucus chair is your right arm. She’s my confidant and my friend. I will miss working with her, but I know she is excited to move on to the next chapter.”
Her chief accomplishment might end up being a pilot project bill that would require training for staff and faculty to learn the warning signs of students struggling with mental health issues. They would then receive telemedicine-based care.
Two school districts would pilot the project per ESSB 5389, which has been stalled in the House’s Appropriations Committee since Feb. 28.
“Kids who are at-risk are less likely to seek help by going to a counselor or psychiatrist, but if they can visit with someone in private, right from their school, it could make a real difference for them,” Becker said in a previous statement regarding the bill.
Two other pieces of telemedicine legislation have been passed both the House and Senate this session, SSB 6061 and ESSB5385. Those will likely be delivered to the Office of the Governor for signing.
Becker currently serves on the Senate’s Rules, Health and Long Term Care, and Ways and Means committees.
During the 2014 legislative session, Becker came under fire for striking an all-payer database from a bill that would have allowed customers to compare the cost of health care services.
In an archived article from The Seattle Times, Becker said “the bill was government telling our citizens what to do, not the citizens telling government what to do,” and noted there were concerns with revealing companies’ proprietary information.
Premera Blue Cross, at the time the state’s largest insurer, had lobbied against this measure.
In her last three election cycles, Becker received a total $4,600 in contributions from Premera, according to the state’s Public Disclosure Commission.
Candidates Emerge Following Becker’s Announcement
In the day following Becker’s announcement, three Republican candidates announced their candidacies for the 2nd Legislative District seat.
Gina Blanchard-Reed, Josh Penner and Ronda Litzenberger all announced campaigns.
Litzenberger, a current Eatonville School Board representative of 11 years, is running on a platform to fight for high-quality health care, make mental illness treatment more accessible and prioritize fiscal responsibility, her campaign’s website says.
A lifelong Eatonville resident, she has raised five children and has operated a business.
For more information on Litzenberger, visit www.neighborsforronda.com.
Orting Mayor Josh Penner is also pursuing the seat. Penner states that he has been an advocate for smarter budgeting, stopping tax increases and for the voters’ approval of $30 car tabs, his campaign site states.
Penner is an Iraq War veteran and served eight years in the Marine Corps.
For more information on Penner, visit www.votepenner.com.
Graham fire commissioner Gina Blanchard-Reed, an executive director for a domestic abuse assistance nonprofit, is also running for the seat.
Blanchard-Reed has helped her fire department balance and manage a $28 million operating budget, a press release from the candidate said. She also helped to pass a critical maintenance and operation levy that kept her fire station open.
She’s been a conservative political organizer for decades, having been elected as a Republican National Delegate to serve at the national convention.
For more information on Blanchard-Reed, visit www.facebook.com/ginablanchardreed/.