Dear Friends, 

As your elected representative, I am deeply humbled by the overwhelming support you have shown my candidacy for a fourth term. Representing each and every one of you – members of our community, families, workforce, and all who call this wonderful place home – is the honor of a lifetime.

I wish to express my sincere gratitude for the privilege of serving you in Olympia for nearly six years now, Creator willing, if this campaign season proves successful. It has been a true honor to represent the diverse voices and vibrant communities across our beloved Whatcom, Skagit, Anacortes, and San Juan Island Counties.

Let me reaffirm my unwavering commitment to you: your concerns shape my agenda. Every vote I cast in the People’s House is guided by your voices, reflecting not just the literal words but the very spirit of your aspirations. Serving our district remains my foremost responsibility, and it is the trust you have placed in me that steers my legislative efforts. Moving forward, you have my promise that I will continue working collaboratively, fostering a bipartisan spirit, as I work to uplift all Washingtonians.

Click the image to hear my thank you message!

It is essential that the laws we craft are not only forward-thinking but also sustainable and practical, tailored to the everyday realities of our citizens’ lives. I am dedicated to ensuring that our legislative efforts benefit all, particularly those who will be directly impacted by the policies we enact.

I am grateful for the strong partnerships and mutual respect I share with my esteemed colleagues: Senator Liz Lovelett from the 40th LD, Representatives Alex Ramel from the 40th LD, Representative Dave Paul from the 10th District, and Clyde Shavers from the 10th LD, as well as our neighbors in the 42nd District, Representatives Joe Timmons and Alicia Rule.

Click on the image to hear a message from your 40th LD Dream Team!

Their dedication and collaborative spirit are invaluable assets, and I wholeheartedly endorse and support each of them as we strive to better serve you. Together, with both new and longtime colleagues across the aisle, we will continue to put people first, ensuring that your values and needs are represented at every level of decision-making.

Thank you for your continued support and trust. It is a profound privilege to serve as your representative, and I look forward to advocating on your behalf, ensuring our district remains a wonderful place to live, work, and thrive.

Keep reading for more on this Fantastic Friday. 

Rep. Debra Lekanoff

National Fentanyl Awareness Day

Friends, in recent years we have talked many times about the ongoing opioid epidemic in this country. It’s a centerpiece of my work in Olympia, and a high priority of mine as we see the devastating effects throughout our communities.

Chief among this issue is the rise of fentanyl use, particularly right here in Whatcom County. According to the Whatcom County medical examiner, there were 136 total deaths from overdoses in 2023 – a 43% increase from 2022.

Last week, on May 7, we recognized Fentanyl Awareness Day, which gave space to raise awareness around the devastating effects that Fentanyl can have not only on individuals, but entire communities.

According to the National Governor’s Association:

“Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. The introduction of fentanyl into the illicit street supply is commonly referred to as the “third wave” of the United States overdose crisis, and most overdose deaths today are attributed to illicitly manufactured fentanyl. Fentanyl has largely supplanted heroin in the street supply due to being inexpensive to produce.

Fentanyl can be found in other street drugs, including cocaine. An ongoing threat includes an increase in the prevalence of counterfeit pills containing fentanyl.  The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has released a public safety alert due to data that shows 7 out of every 10 pills seized by the DEA contains a lethal dose of fentanyl. Given this, those ingesting a substance that looks like a prescription pill but that was not prescribed by a medical professional could be counterfeit and contain fentanyl. Counterfeit pills look like prescription drugs found in pharmacies, are easy to purchase and can be sold in online spaces such as social media sites.”

Cheap opioids that are easy to acquire, and often, as in the case of fentanyl, significantly stronger than known drugs like morphine or heroin. It’s a terrible epidemic that impacts our unhoused and low-income communities the hardest, and it needs our attention now.

There will be no simple, overnight fix to this issue, and it will take the continued focus of our elected officials at all levels to right the ship and help our communities recover.

Kick Off! Lekanoff is Endorsed by Local Firefighers from Snohomish to Skagit to Whatcom County! 

I remain committed to fight for the health, safety, and lives of our Washington Firefighters, and I will be the first to stand on the line to ensure we protect their lives as they protect ours every day.

Thank you to the Anacortes Firefighters for your continued support!

I’ll be traveling down to WSLC Convention COPE, where delegates from the WSLC’s affiliated unions vote on candidate endorsements. The WSLC then informs union members about which candidates earned endorsement, and why.

I will be joining union members to travel from there to stand with our 125 Boeing firefighters, who are members of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local I-66 and are seeking a contract that includes competitive pay and better staffing.

While Boeing has only been here for since 1916, the history of firefighters protecting this great state and nation have been here long before. It’s time for us to ensure that we treat those who are protecting our lives with respect, and we take care of them as they have taken care of us.

Thank you, Becky, for hosting this incredible event!

While we have been talking about my unopposed reelection campaign in recent weeks, my official campaign kickoff only occurred yesterday evening!

Thank you, Carrie and Dean, for co-hosting this event!

This was such an wonderful evening, and a great way to officially kick off my campaign to continue on as your voice in Olympia! I am thrilled to be running unopposed, and my heart is lifted by your continued support.

Click on the image to hear my full message!

I am so grateful to everyone who joined us for this kick off event yesterday, and I hope to see so many more of you out on the campaign trail soon!

Thank you to all of my incredible co-hosts who have supported me as I continue to do the important work on your behalf in Olympia!

Thank you to Becky and Paul Connor MD, Lummi Indian Business Council Chairman Anthony Hillaire, Dean Shelton, Carrie Blackwood, Tony Melillo, Jason McGill, Ziad Youssef, Whatcom Sheriff Donnell “Tank” Tanksley, Shannon Wright, Jay Julius, Whatcom County Commissioner Kaylee Galloway, Dan and Lisa McShane, Crina Hoyer, Bellingham/Whatcom Firefighters IAFF Local 106, Anacortes Firefighters, IAFF Local 1537, Mount Vernon Firefighters, IAFF Local 1983, Marysville Firefighters IAFF Local 3219, and many more!

There will be many more events throughout my campaign, and I hope to see so many of you there. We are able to accomplish so much when we work together, and that starts with stepping up and making sure your voice is heard.

Keep an eye out for future newsletters and on my social media channels for additional information on upcoming events.

Taking Steps to Fight for Salmon and the Environment 

As we approach the interim period, I am dedicated to addressing critical challenges that define our time: climate change, water quality and quantity, and species protection, with a special focus on our salmon. The task ahead is vast, and it demands the best of our collective expertise, sound science, and strategic policymaking.

At the heart of my efforts is your voice and your ideas. We will delve into creating robust policies and regulations backed by fiscal investments. Our goal is to ensure that everyone who plays a vital role in this endeavor feels included, heard, and valued. This collaborative approach is not just about making decisions together; it’s about sharing the responsibility of these decisions.

We are tasked with lifting the heavy burden of saving our salmon, and I am committed to ensuring that those who join this effort are supported and recognized. The path we choose now will define our role as leaders not just within our state but for future generations. We will address issues of water quality and quantity, where our goal is to move away from conflict towards cooperation and shared decision-making.

During this interim, let’s harness our collective will to tackle the effects of climate change, fight for habitats, plan for the future of water, and restore and protect the salmon. I am grateful for the support and wisdom of my colleagues across the district, state, and nation who look to Washington as a leader in climate action.

Together, we will develop laws that not only reduce carbon emissions but also enhance our water quality, protect diverse habitats, and preserve our cherished species like the salmon and orcas. Our commitment to these efforts will ripple through our ecosystems, sustaining everything from our agricultural lands to our forested watersheds. Together, let’s make impactful decisions that will stand the test of time for our people.

I will be hosting several town halls around the state, but my first ones will be here at home, focusing on climate, water, and species protection with an emphasis on salmon. These will be the places where we will engage stakeholders and create those significant policies that need to be crafted. Here, I can share with all of you who I am, where I come from, and the strength and experience I bring when I bring people together.

I hope you believe in me because I believe in you. Please join and support me. To learn more, please watch for my “Fantastic Fridays” updates, and feel free to call me or email me because I’m happy to sit down at any kitchen table and talk with you.

Skagit River Closed to Chinook Fishing 

Next, an update on part of our natural beauty here in northwest Washington.

The Skagit River, which runs through Burlington and Mt. Vernon and Sedro-Woolley, will be closed to Chinook Salmon fishing until further notice. This halt went into effect earlier this week, on Wednesday, May 15.

According to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) website, the reason for action was:

“Pre-existing Endangered Species Act (ESA) coverage for the effects of Puget Sound salmon fisheries expires on May 15, 2024. Federal ESA consultations on 2024-25 Puget Sound salmon fisheries are ongoing but are unlikely to be completed by May 15. Skagit River salmon fisheries are known to intercept ESA-listed Chinook in the May period. Accordingly, the river will temporarily close for salmon fishing starting May 15, 2024.

For more information, click here.

This closure is expected to be short in duration, with the WDFW anticipating that it will be complete within the next several days.

Creating More Affordable Housing Responsibly 

Those of you who have followed me during my time serving as your voice in Olympia understand how important providing affordable housing and protecting our environment are to me.

In 2024 legislative session, there were enormously important bills that did not pass that I will be fighting hard to move in the 2025 session with my colleagues. I was disappointed when House Bill 2276, a bill to expand housing supply, passed out of a House committee then stalled.

The proposal would have created a permanent income source for the Housing Trust Fund and for affordable housing for people with disabilities. We know the housing crisis and addressing the homeless crisis is going to take more than one session and working in incremental steps. We must do this together proactively with leadership from House Housing Chair Strom Peterson from the Snohomish County. We know we will be taking responsible steps that include all governing bodies collaborating to address this crisis.

With that in mind, I want to take a minute to talk about how Whatcom County is directly addressing the issue of affordable housing.

The issue at hand is how to regulate and allow the construction of additional dwellings – specifically, detached accessory dwelling units like backyard cottages or in-law suites – in rural areas.

This is a delicate issue, and one that we take seriously and are working to address statewide in Olympia. In the meantime, Whatcom County is taking action on this front already.

According to the Bellingham Herald:

“Whatcom County allows for both attached accessory dwelling units, like a converted garage, and detached accessory dwelling units, like a backyard cottage, in some rural areas. The county has permitted about 24 ADUs — both attached and detached — annually in the last four years…

This housing is allowed on a permit-by-permit basis…and those wishing to build must prove that they have an adequate water supply and meet certain size requirements. Water is the biggest issue that comes up when talking about allowing for more units in rural areas.”

As we talk about housing across the 40th legislative district, please watch for updates in the newsletter from the San Juan County Pea Patch Project, which is affordable housing and workers housing that is being built in Orcas Island.

We must do everything in our power to ensure that all Washingtonians have an affordable place to live, and while doing so we must not overtax our already burdened water supply.

I am glad to see Whatcom County requiring proof of an adequate water supply as they permit these buildings, and it is my hope that we can find common sense regulations to allow additional affordable housing units to be built in our rural communities.