Legislature more diverse than ever before

Legislature more diverse than ever before (PHOTO: KOMO News)

The recent midterm elections really changed the face of the state House and Senate. It is being called the most diverse legislature yet.

For the first time, tribal drums were being played in the state House chambers with tribal leaders presiding. The special occasion Monday was to mark the election of the first Native American woman to the state House, Representative Debra Lekanoff (D-Bow, Skagit County). "We're excited to be a part of the table," she said. "We're excited to engage and it's wonderful to be able to bring a new breath of concept ideas and generational decision making."

"We're pretty excited," said newly elected state Senator Emily Randall (D-Bremerton) standing alongside newly elected state Senators Joe Nguyen. My grandparents moved to Washington from the Southwest," she said. "My family is Chicano. They moved in the '60s to escape racism and they found this welcoming community and now their granddaughter is a state senator. So it's really exciting."

Nguyen (D-White Center) says he's proud to be the first Vietnamese elected to the senate. "I'm excited because I think one of the biggest things for any elected office is that they have representation that reflects the values of the people and when you can see it clearly manifest in both of us, I think a lot of folks are very excited about that."

Over in the House, Vietnamese refugee My-Lin Thai of Bellevue. Those are just a few of the names of the changing faces of the legislature.

Democrats have strong majorities in the House and Senate and they have the Governor's office. Now, they say the bills and votes are going to be much more diverse. "If you look at our new state legislature it really represents the people of Washington far more," said Tina Podlodowski, chair of the state Democratic Party.

Longtime state senators say they embrace the diversity. "It'll be very different I think," said Sen. Tim Sheldon (D-Potlach) who has been in office 29 years. "More ladies here, which is great, and a good crop of returning seasoned people as well. So it's a good mix."

"Oh sure," said Sen. Jjim Honeyford (R-Yakima). "I think it's always good to have diverse opinions in the senate and diverse perspectives and that's always good."

Tuesday, the Governor delivers his 'state of the state' address at noon. The regular session is set to go for the next four months.

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