State Senator Rebecca Saldaña • Courtesy

State Senator Rebecca Saldaña (D-37) suspended her campaign for Commissioner of Public Lands on April 11, noting that her campaign underwent a fundraising freeze while she served in the 2024 legislative session, which ended in early March. Saldaña was also treated for cancer after being diagnosed in late October.

In a statement, Saldaña said she will continue serving as state Senator for the 37th District, which includes the Chinatown International District and much of Southeast Seattle, a seat she has held since 2017.

“I wholly believe I am still the best candidate in the CPL race to take on the Republicans and win and the best person to govern for long-term success,” Saldaña said in a statement. “However, I had cancer, underwent six months of chemotherapy while serving all Washingtonians in the state legislature, and faced a three-month fundraising freeze. These hurdles impacted our campaign in finances only. I’ve never felt stronger or more clear-headed about my priorities and mission.”

Saldaña began her campaign for Public Lands in September last year to succeed Hilary Franz, who is leaving the role to run for Congress in Washington’s 6th District. 

The Commissioner of Public Lands leads the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in protecting nearly six million acres of public trust lands, including employing some 2,000 scientists and researchers who work on solutions to fire management and other issues.

Saldaña, who is of Mexican American descent, would have been the first woman of color to hold a statewide seat in Washington, had she continued her campaign and prevailed in November this year.

In a statement, Saldaña noted that she was recruited to run by environmentalists. During her campaign, she promised to continue championing her environmental and environmental justice priorities in Olympia.

In the Olympia, Saldaña led environmental legislation like the Climate Commitment Act, the Healthy Environment for All (HEAL) Act, the Clean Fuels policy, and more.

The HEAL Act directs state departments to coordinate in addressing environmental health disparities for people of color and low income people disproportionately impacted by environmental health impacts, and empowers the Department of Ecology to incorporate environmental justice into strategic plans, budget development, and funding and grant decisions — for example, aiming to direct 40 percent of grants that create environmental benefits to “vulnerable populations and overburdened communities.”

“I will continue to take my work to the next level to have a bigger impact on building an environmental justice-centered, clean-fueled, and fairer economy that supports healthy communities, including holding the next CPL accountable,” Saldaña’s statement continued.

Other candidates in the race for Public Lands Commissioner include Patrick DePoe, a Makah Tribal leader and Director of Tribal Relations for the Department of Natural Resources; Democrat and former State Sen. Mona Das; Democratic King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove; Democratic State Sen. Kevin Van De Wege; Republican and former Power Manager of Grays Harbor PUD Sue Kuehl Pederson; and Republican former Congresswoman and state Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler.

Franz, who currently holds the position, endorsed DePoe. 

According to Ballotpedia, Upthegrove leads in campaign contributions, with $330,119, followed by closely by Herrera Beutler with $323,247. Before suspending her campaign, Saldaña came in third with $171,682.

The election takes place November 5, 2024, after a primary in August 6. The filing deadline is May 10.

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