SEQUIM — Eric Pickens, a Sequim Democrat, is running in 2024 for the Legislative District 24 seat now held by Mike Chapman.
Pickens cited his background as a working parent, an educator and labor leader. He is president of the Sequim School Board and a Port Angeles school teacher.
“Being raised in the 24th district, I have a lot invested [here],” said Pickens, who graduated from Chimacum schools.
“I feel I can be an advocate for justice and change, with a commitment for public service,” he said.
More than 50 people attended his kickoff campaign rally Saturday in front of the Sequim Civic Center with tents and umbrellas available.
Some of the attendees included past and current Sequim School Board members, educators and community members.
Pickens has the backing of Chapman, a Port Angeles Democrat who is running for the state Senate in 2024.
Chapman attended Saturday’s campaign announcement along with Washington Education Association President Larry Delaney.
Chapman announced in July he will seek the state Senate seat to be vacated by Kevin Van Wege, who is running for state Commissioner of Public Lands.
“I’ve worked with Mike Chapman over the years in a number of issues; he knows how passionate I am, that I’m looking to advocate for folks from an authentic place and do what’s right for the 24th district,” Pickens said.
“It feels great to have his support, among others.”
Pickens said many of the issues of the 24th district — which covers the North Olympic Peninsula’s Clallam and Jefferson counties as well as part of Grays Harbor County — are rural in nature.
Income inequality is an issue Pickens is hearing about from constituents across the region, including the issues with housing costs and availability that goes with the income disparity.
“Inflation continues to be a barrier for folks — and with that, homelessness as well,” Pickens said.
Workers’ rights is another thing Pickens expects to focus on.
“I come from a proud union family; I want to make sure we take care of the working class,” he said.
“I’m a champion of folks being able to have access to mental and behavioral health resources that they need,” he added.
He expects health care to be a significant issue for the 24th district as well.
“Too many seniors and families can’t pay their medical bills … [or are] not being able to find providers,” he said.
Education issues also figure into Pickens’ plans for the region.
“[Students] should have world-class education, regardless of Zip code,” he said. “We owe that to students here in the 24th. I have a strong understanding of how education funding works in this state.”
Michael Dashiell is the editor of the Sequim Gazette of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also is composed of other Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach him at email@example.com.
Matthew Nash of the Sequim Gazette contributed to this story.