Randall wins tight state Senate race, plans to focus on education and health care

Emily Randall won a tight race for the state Senate seat in the 26th District.
Emily Randall won a tight race for the state Senate seat in the 26th District. Courtesy

Following a manual recount, first-time candidate and Democrat Emily Randall won the state Senate election for the 26th District.

Randall’s margin of victory was 101 votes, or 0.14 percent, over Republican Marty McClendon.

“When launched I had never run for office since junior high ASB. I didn’t have a campaign staff, and I was worried, as so many first-time candidates are, if I was ready,” Randall said. “But really quickly we had a growing community who wanted change.”

Randall said she has been interested in public service and public policy since she was a child. As a 7-year-old, she learned the power the state Legislature could have on a family.

In 1993, her sister was born with microcephaly, a birth defect where a baby’s head is undersized. The condition can lead to development delays and other issues, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That same year the Washington Legislature expanded Medicaid which, according to Randall, gave her sister the opportunity to live a full life.

After 10 years working in health care and education advocacy, Randall decided to run for office.

She focused her campaign on wages not keeping up with health care and housing costs, as well as crowding in Gig Harbor-area schools.

Those issues resonated with supporters, Randall said.

“They were raising their hands, offering to go door to door and make phone calls. It was really powerful seeing how ready our community was for change,” she said. “Not that it wasn’t a tough race, because we won by 101 votes, but from the very beginning it was such a grassroots effort. Neighbors helping neighbors, and people who have not been involved in politics before stepping up and saying it’s time for their voices to be heard and their needs to be met.”

The tight race required a mandatory manual recount, a process that occurs in legislative races when two parties are separated by 150 votes or fewer, and .025 percent of total votes.

“What was really surprising was learning about the process when a race was as tight as ours,” Randall said. “It really solidified my beliefs that, A) we have great auditors, and B) every vote counts.”

Now that Randall has won, she is determined to take steps to improve the Gig Harbor community.

“Most of what the Legislature does is provide funding and pass laws,” Randall said. “I want to make sure I’m asking for the money our community needs, and I can be a loud advocate for the legislation that can help the most of us.”

Randall already is working with four committees: higher education and workforce development, transportation, environment and tourism, health and long-term care.

Randall said she believes everyone deserves a chance at higher education.

“I’m the first in my family to graduate from college so I know the power of education access,” Randall said.

On transportation, she said she wants to ensure growing communities like Gig Harbor have access to transit and investment in roads.

Randall said she also wants to invest in protection against climate change and will work to expand access to health care in rural and under-served communities.

She will be sworn in at the Senate Chamber in Olympia on Jan. 14. She will join five other new senators, four Democrats and one Republican.