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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

State Sen. Kevin Ranker resigns amidst workplace conduct investigation

Washington Senate
Washington state Sen. Kevin Ranker resigned his seat in a letter received by Gov. Jay Inslee's office on Friday.

Washington state Sen. Kevin Ranker, an Orcas Island Democrat, has resigned his seat in the midst of a workplace conduct investigation. In a letter to Gov. Jay Inslee dated Friday, Ranker, who served in the Senate for a decade, said his resignation was effective immediately. The state's 105 day legislative session starts Monday.

The resignation came just days after Senate Democrats announced that Ranker had stepped down from his leadership roles on two Senate committees.

In an emailed statement to supporters Saturday afternoon, Ranker apologized to his former employee, Ann Larson, whose allegations triggered the ongoing investigation.

"I am deeply sorry for any stress I caused her and I sincerely apologize," Ranker said. "I wish her peace." 

Larson had accused Ranker of mistreating her while she worked for him as his legislative assistant during the 2010 legislative session. Larson also alleged that Ranker retaliated against her after she left his office and went to work for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Larson is currently the director of government relations for the Washington Department of Enterprise Services. 

In response to the allegations, the Washington Senate hired an outside lawyer to investigate. That investigation was expected to conclude this month. In an earlier statement, Ranker said he was cooperating  with the investigator and expected to be "exonerated from these allegations."

Ranker did acknowledge having had a previous "brief relationship" with Larson before he hired her in 2009. 

In response to Ranker's resignation, Larson said she's "glad it's over and I can move on with my life."

"I hope that by my actions, more people will feel safe to report any kind of inappropriate behavior without fear of retaliation," Larsons wrote. 

On Saturday, Brad Hendrickson, the Secretary of the Senate, said the investigation into Ranker's conduct had not yet been completed. "There has been no report finished yet, although we expect that soon," Hendrickson said. However, Hendrickson said that the investigator had recently met with Ranker to let him "hear and react to some of the statements that were made by witnesses along the way." 

In his email to supporters on Saturday, Ranker said working in the Washington Senate had been "one of the greatest honors of my life." He also listed a series of accomplishments including passage of same sex marriage, efforts to protect orcas, climate change initiatives and efforts related to women's reproductive rights. 

Washington Senate Democrats said the process to replace Ranker would begin "as soon as possible." 

Ranker is the fourth Washington lawmaker to resign or lose election over the past year following allegations of harassment or misconduct. 

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."