Spokane is sending one new state representative to Olympia for the 2019 legislative session that begins on Monday: Republican Rep. Jenny Graham in the Sixth Legislative District.
“I don’t look at this as Jenny’s adventure. I want to be able to include the people that elected me," Graham said.
"It’s not a ‘me Jenny’ thing, this is actually a ‘we’ thing. I am going to be working with others to implement remote testimony, so that the people in the Sixth District and the people in eastern Washington can have their voices heard," she said.
Though it’s her first term as an elected official, she worked in the last few weeks as an advocate for a bill that was approved and signed into law. It gives victims of child sexual abuse until their 30th birthdays to report their crimes to law enforcement. Graham still remembers her first visit to Olympia to give her own personal testimony.
“I was terrified. I was a survivor of childhood sexual assault and I was telling that story for the very first time publicly and I was living in fear. My life could have been absolutely in jeopardy. So, I was afraid. Am I going to be able to get through this? But I thought I’m going to go, I’m going to give it a try. And I did make it through it. It was really hard. You want to talk about one of the most difficult things, it’s almost like unzipping your skin and every nerve, you’re just so vulnerable." she said.
"Going to Olympia as a legislator now for the first time, the public safety hearing workday was the first event on the list that I had, so when I walked to the hearing room, it dawned on me that was the same exact hearing room that I first testified as that scared private individual and it was the same committee chair, Chair Goodman (Rep. Roger Goodman, Democrat from Kirkland),” Graham said.
“It was really surreal to come back as the legislator now to understand exactly what it’s like to be on the other side of that lectern and now I’m the legislator and I have a very good understanding of both sides of this,” she said.
Graham will sit on that same Public Safety Committee, as well as the Judiciary and College Workforce and Development committees.
Her fellow Republicans will assign her a mentor to help her through her first session, but during a recent orientation session for legislators, she had a chance to get acquainted with some legislators, including some from the Spokane delegation.
“I had an opportunity to sit in on a school construction committee hearing and then there was a workgroup afterwards that I was allowed to sit in on," Graham said. "Marcus Riccelli is on that committee and was in that workgroup. It was neat to have a chance to talk to him about the issue and talk to him about when I was doorbelling and meeting teachers and students and bus drivers to talk about these safety issues that we were discussing.”
Graham has hired an aide to run an office back here in her district. She says she’s very aware of the need to stay connected, even while she’s working in Olympia.
“We’re talking about having telephone town halls," she said. "I will be out in the public as much as possible for any number of things that come up. That’s important knowing that they can call me and finding ways to reach out to them. And, after session, I see myself going out and doorbelling again. I don’t have to wait for a couple of years to go by. There are a couple of areas that I couldn’t get to because it wasn’t humanly possible to do it, so I’ll take a look at that and make it a point to go back and stay connected and continually do that.”
Jenny Graham will begin her career as an elected official next Monday, when the Washington legislature begins its 2019 session.