Six Candidates Compete to Replace Retiring Sen. Becker

By Eric Rosane /
Posted 7/21/20

The announced departure earlier this year of longtime state Sen. Randi Becker, R-Olympia, who represents the 2nd Legislative District, led to filing by several Republican candidates hoping to receive …

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Six Candidates Compete to Replace Retiring Sen. Becker


The announced departure earlier this year of longtime state Sen. Randi Becker, R-Olympia, who represents the 2nd Legislative District, led to filing by several Republican candidates hoping to receive the passing of the torch. 

Three Republicans announced their candidacies all within the 24 hours following Becker’s plan to not seek reelection for a fourth term. 

Residents of the 2nd Legislative District have six candidates to choose from — five of them Republican and one Democrat. 

They include a fire commissioner, a former state representative, a school board director, a mayor and even a couple political newcomers. 

The Nisqually Valley News reached out to candidates this past week with a questionnaire. To see their unedited answers, visit 

Ballots in Thurston County were mailed out July 15, while Pierce County ballots were mailed out July 17. Voters in both counties can update their registration online in both counties up until July 27, or in-person through 8 p.m. on the day of election. 


Jim McCune

Age: 69

Occupation: Small business owner of 50 years, Pierce County councilman

Party Affiliation: Republican

Elected Offices Held and Dates: State representative, 2005-2013; Pierce County councilman, 2013-present; Republican Party Precinct Committee Officer; Republican National Delegate 1988

Funds Raised: $52,410


Current Pierce County Councilmember Jim McCune is looking to leverage his decades of political experience to win voters over in August.

A former representative who served for nine years in the 2nd Legislative District’s Position No. 1, McCune briefly worked with Becker during his time at the Capitol.

“I am running for this seat because I believe, now more than ever, that the citizens of the 2nd LD need an experienced representative. Support from constituents confirms that I made the right choice to run for the Senate seat,” he wrote. “As a former state representative, I am prepared for the job.” 

McCune will not seek reelection to the Pierce County Council due to term limits. 

The former state legislator said, if elected, he would prioritize voting “principle over politics” to make sure his constituents’ values won't be compromised. 

“Working together on bills that protect and maintain individual rights is my focus. It is imperative that we respect and protect people’s property rights, parental rights and businesses from more regulations and higher taxes. Allowing parents and local school districts be in charge of student studies will have my attention,” he wrote. 

In order to help relieve the projected three-year, $8.8 billion revenue shortfall the state is expected to see due to the coronavirus recession, McCune said he’d like to see both legislative chambers discern the state’s top 10 priorities and reduce spending for agencies. 

“They are taxed more than their fair share,” McCune wrote. “It is imperative that the scope and size of the many agencies and services be reduced. Clearly, with the use of the computers for meetings, travel can be reduced by at least 75 percent. There may be opportunities for early retirements.”

Some of the issues that don’t get enough attention, according to McCune, include human and drug trafficking, a compromised sex education program and the growth of relying on grants and foundations to fund government services. 

In order to address the growing homelessness crisis, McCune wrote that the best thing the Legislature could do it repeal the Growth Management Act and “require individuals to accept consequences for the actions they take.” 

“Knowing that there will always be people in need, the taxpayers have always stepped up to the plate to provide funding for housing, mental health, drug abuse, meals and even job training. We can look for solutions in tax exempt foundations, whose missions are to help the homeless find homes,” he wrote. 


Gina Blanchard-Reed

Age: 50

Occupation: Executive director for Turning Pointe Survivor Advocacy Center

Party Affiliation: Republican

Elected Offices Held and Dates: Graham Fire and Rescue commissioner, 2016-present; Precinct committee officer, 2018-present; National Delegate GOP Convention, 2016. 

Funds Raised: $24,598


Gina Blanchard-Reed hopes to use her demonstrated leadership, broad coalition of support, and fresh ideas to address the challenging times ahead for both the state and 2nd Legislative District, she said. 

“We need leaders who have demonstrated the ability to build bridges, form meaningful coalitions, stand on principle and be effective,” she wrote. “I am that leader. My endorsement list shows I can bring in a wide range of support, work across the aisle. I know when to persuade, when to compromise and when to fight.”

An executive director at a nonprofit, Blanchard-Reed says she understands the plight of the vulnerable. 

“We need to explore creative ways to solve issues such as homelessness and mental health,” she wrote. “More money does not always help us address these issues.”

If elected, Blanchard-Reed said she could do valuable work serving on the Health and Human Services Committee and the Transportation Committee. 

In order to address the projected shortfall, Blanchard-Reed said she’d like to see the state generate revenue by bolstering business growth and development. The state also needs to rethink how it views spending, she said. 

“We should cut taxes for business and provide incentives. We do need to streamline government, promote ways to save money and update technology across the board,” she wrote. “Everyone will need to tighten their belts, however. It is important to prioritize spending and plan for future emergencies.”

Blanchard-Reed also said it’s important to incentivize building by reducing permitting and regulation in order to address the homelessness crisis and housing shortage. 

On the issue of police reform, Blanchard-Reed said it’s imperative to continue supporting law enforcement and those who serve their communities. 

“We as legislators need to understand this issue thoroughly,” she wrote. “I absolutely believe our police should be supported with funded training and adequate staffing. I, however, believe that we need to review techniques around restraining, containing, neutralizing, etc. We need to constantly look at best practices and ensure that officers receive up to date training.”

Blanchard-Reed has received endorsements from a number of local Yelm leaders, including council members Joe DePinto, Tad Stillwell and former council member Cody Colt. 


Ronda Litzenberger

Age: 51

Occupation: Small business owner

Party Affiliation: Republican

Elected Offices Held and Dates: Eatonville School Board Director, 2009, 2013, 2017-present. 

Funds Raised: $23,209

Ronda Litzenberger has both experience in small business and education, and she’s looking to use that experience to win over voters during the August primary. 

The top two issues to Litzenberger include restarting the economy in a job-friendly manner and getting children back to school — both imperative issues as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis. 

“As a small business owner that has experienced the Great Recession of 2008 and was deemed non-essential for a time by our governor, I know first-hand the impact government overreach has on a business’ ability to thrive,” she wrote. 

Litzenberger also said one of her top priorities includes getting the budget back on track without instituting an income tax. 

If elected, Litzenberger said she would work to pass legislation to make politicians take the same pay cut they’re asking as their state employees. She would also advocate for a freeze on new hiring and spending by the state. 

She said it’s also important for the state to incentivize economic growth for businesses and implement regulatory framework that would make it easier for businesses to get back on their feet. 

“It makes more sense to save what was once the most robust economy in our state’s history than to allow business and industry to fail and then build our revenues from the ground up,” Litzenberger wrote. “We also need to seek flexibility of federal CARES money, so we can support our unique local economy efficiently and effectively.”



Joshua Penner

Age: 37

Occupation: Mayor of Orting, small business owner

Party Affiliation: Republican

Elected Offices Held and Dates: Mayor of Orting, 2018-present; Orting Council Member, 2012-2017; Pierce County Charter Review Commission, 2016; Precinct committee officer, 2015-present. 

Funds Raised: $7,678


Orting Mayor Joshua Penner is throwing his hat into the ring to represent the 2nd Legislative District to address the projected coronavirus-related budget shortfall while also defending the rights of his constituents. 

“I have a strong desire to take the lessons I’ve learned from turning the City of Orting around, and apply them to the state. Put simply, balance budgets, hold bad actors accountable, and be bold enough to call out wrong-doings when they’ve been done,” Penner wrote. 

“Holding the line” on the upcoming budget revenue scenario is what Penner sees as the priority for the upcoming legislative session. 

“We need to fight like mad dogs to balance the budget without raising taxes. Because if we lose that fight, it will be our commuters, our families, the people of our district that will bear the brunt of paying that bad budget,” he wrote. 

Penner said he could be effective in a number of committees, though with his fiscal experience running a city he said the Ways and Means Committee would be a great place to make an immediate impact. 

He also noted that he would come to bipartisan discussions with a “fresh mindset” while also focusing on the policy rather than the person. 

“I’ve been very successful with this approach as the Mayor of Orting, and it will be as effective with legislators that don’t agree with me as it has been with councilmembers that didn’t agree with me. We can disagree without being disagreeable,” he wrote. 

Penner would like to see the state refocus its efforts on reigning in the expenses that have ballooned over the previous couple sessions. 

On the topic of police reform, Penner said that officers are often asked too much of and the public adds “more to their plate every year.” 

“As someone that is supported by police, but also as a mayor that directs the chief of his own city, I think we need to look at this as addressing the whole concept of public safety and crisis intervention. Simplifying it into ideas like defunding police, or outlawing chokeholds is treating symptoms and not looking at the big picture,” he wrote.



Matthew Smith

Occupation: Youth minister

Party Affiliation: Republican

Elected Offices Held and Dates: None

Funds Raised: $4,840


Matthew Smith, a former state Senate legislative aide and longtime 2nd Legislative District resident, is running to ensure small businesses have the tools to recover once the economy reopens while also bringing a fresh perspective to the position. 

“Working as an aide to a state senator the last four legislative sessions has given me the tools and knowledge to be effective in the Legislature,” Smith wrote in the Thurston County voters pamphlet. “Serving youth and families in our community for the last decade has given me valuable insights into what the people of our district expect from their state government.” 

Smith joined the Marine Corps at age 17 and served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 and 2004, according to his campaign. 

After serving in the military, Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in church ministry and theology at West Coast Baptist College in California. He also has graduated from Evergreen State College with a bachelor’s degree in climate and political science. 

Smith wrote that the largest challenges the state is expected to face include addressing the post-COVID economy’s needs, traffic and education. 

“We cannot afford the same, tired institutional solutions. I’m a battle-tested innovator, bringing real-world experience to represent you,” he wrote. 


Rick Payne

Occupation: Elected union officer at Department of Corrections

Party Affiliation: Democrat

Elected Offices Held and Dates: Precinct committee officer

Funds Raised: $0


Rick Payne, the sole Democrat in the race for the 2nd Legislative District’s Senate seat, is hoping to leverage his work as a union officer to win election and bring forward a better government to its constituents. 

“Rick Payne has been a champion for working people for decades — negotiating on behalf of union members for increased wages, affordable health care, better retirements and safe working conditions,” his campaign wrote in the voters pamphlet. 

A graduate from Mt. Tahoma High School with certificate training in labor and law contract negotiations, Payne is also an active member of the Holy Disciples Catholic Church and a volunteer for the Pierce County Democrats. 

Payne also serves as a precinct committee officer. 


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