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Thursday, November 14, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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About this race

The lands commissioner leads the Department of Natural Resources, which manages 3 million acres of state lands for trust beneficiaries, including K-12 school construction, state buildings and counties. Its current leader, Peter Goldmark, is retiring.

Democrat Hilary Franz, an environmental attorney, and Republican Steve McLaughlin, a retired Navy commander, are running to replace him.

McLaughlin supports increasing timber harvests and opening more state lands to recreational opportunities, such as horseback riding, hunting and off-road vehicles. “I believe that healthy working forests are the key to funding our schools,” said McLaughlin, who is married and lives in Seabeck. “We’re harvesting way below what we can be without damaging anything. I want to see those harvest levels increase because it increases revenues, it creates jobs, it reduces fire hazards.”

Franz, who is executive director of the statewide advocacy group Futurewise, said timber harvests are part of the solution. But she also believes the department should look at other ways to maximize revenue from state lands, such as leasing it for wind or solar power or other economic development. “I believe that we have a responsibility to fund our schools. I believe public lands are critical to making sure that happens,” she said. “I’m committed to making sure that we are leveraging our public lands in a way that provides a stronger funding source for our schools and that diversifies our funding source.”

Commissioner of Public Lands, State of Washington

Candidate Votes Pct
Hilary Franz (D) 1,456,429 53.34%
Steve McLaughlin (R) 1,274,138 46.66%

* Race percentages are calculated with data from the Secretary of State's Office, which omits write-in votes from its calculations when there are too few to affect the outcome. The Spokane County Auditor's Office may have slightly different percentages than are reflected here because its figures include any write-in votes.

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Verner, Upthegrove top lands commissioner field

Community outreach and internal communication were not Goldmark’s strengths. DNR has been beat up over the recent wildfire seasons, and morale is low. Fresh leadership is on the way, but shoring up the agency won’t be easy.