Washington Assistant Attorney General Sarah Reyneveld says her 15 years as a public servant inspired her to run for political office. The Ballard mother-of-two is running for a House seat in Washington’s 36th District currently held by Rep. Gael Tarleton, who is making a bid for secretary of state this year.

Reyneveld said her three priorities during her campaign will be creating affordable and healthy communities, making a bigger investment in public education — from early learning to higher ed — and tackling climate change through a clean energy model.

The 36th District candidate credits her father’s time on the California Solar Energy Commission as part of her early exposure to environmentalism. She’s served on the board of Washington Conservation Voters and advocated for climate Initiative 1631, which failed statewide in 2018 but received nearly 58 percent support in King County.

Reyneveld moved with her family to Queen Anne when she was 16. She and her husband Joel Merkel, who is a King County deputy prosecutor, purchased their home in Ballard in 2013. She attended the University of Washington School of Law.

She said they bought a fixer-upper, and that addressing housing affordability is another issue she would champion if elected.

Reyneveld said zoning laws are primarily a city issue, but the Legislature can consider legislation that allows for more accessory dwelling units and other affordable housing options. She also wants to see more investment in the state’s Housing Trust Fund.

43rd District Rep. Nicole Macri introduced legislation this session that would end exclusionary zoning and allow for duplexes, triplexes and townhomes to be built in single-family neighborhoods statewide.

Reyneveld said she understands it’s unlikely the Legislature could pass rent control in the state this session, but she’s watching Macri’s push for rent stabilization. The lawmaker was unsuccessful in getting the rent control ban in Washington lifted previously.

Reyneveld said she wants the state to increase its investment in rental assistance and diversion programs, and also to help expand the number of shelter beds available to people living unhoused.

The 36th District candidate notes her endorsement from District 7 Seattle City Councilmember Andrew Lewis, who is chairing the city’s Select Committee on Homelessness. She said she’s looking forward to working with the city and county as they address the homelessness crisis through a new regional authority.

Reyneveld said she’s supportive of 36th District Rep. Noel Frame’s efforts on a House tax structure work group and upcoming engagement with communities across the state. She said she wants to see systematic tax reform that reduces the state’s reliance on sales taxes and alleviates the burden on working families and fixed-income seniors.

The 36th District candidate would support a personal income tax, if it ensures the wealthy pay their fair share, she said, and fixes to the business and occupation (B&O) tax.

Reyneveld said she wants a capital gains tax to fund early childhood learning, lamenting that early learning education currently represents 1 percent of the state’s budget. She said she was involved in the advocacy work that resulted in King County dedicating 52 percent of its Puget Sound Taxpayer Accountability Account revenue from Sound Transit toward early learning.

Reyneveld is on the board of the Washington’s Paramount Duty organization, which advocates for amply funding public education, smaller class sizes and a well-rounded curriculum, and worked on former Gov. Chris Gregoire’s Washington Learns study.

She said the state is currently not meeting its class-size reduction obligations mandated by Initiative 1351, which voters passed in 2014. Schools also need to have more counselors and nurses, Reyneveld said, and a 13.5 percent cap on special education funding needs to be lifted.

Washington 36th District Sen. Reuven Carlyle told constituents in December that he is concerned about collection issues and revised revenue estimates for the Washington College Grant. Created through a workforce investment bill passed by the Legislature, the scholarship fund is meant to provide financial aid to more than 110,000 low- and middle-income Washington residents, making it so students pay little or no tuition.

Reyneveld is chair of the University of Washington Alumni Association Board of Trustees UW Impact, which advocated for the passage of the Workforce Education Investment Act that created the Washington College Grant; it was previously called the State Need Grant. She said she wants to see the grant not only protected from revenue shortfalls, but also increased investment in apprenticeship programs, including those that benefit the 36th District’s maritime industry.


The 36th District candidate said she ended up on multiple waitlists when looking for child care, and the reason she was able to eventually acquire it was because her mother and mother-in-law could fill the gap three days a week.

“The reality is that working families in this area, and particularly low-income families, can’t afford the cost of care,” said Reyneveld, who supports legislation to expand the state’s Working Connection Child Care program, so more families can qualify for subsidized child care.

The 36th District candidate has support from several past and present Port of Seattle commissioners, including Ryan Calkins, Courtney Gregoire and freshman Commissioner Sam Cho.

Reyneveld said it’s important to maintain industrial lands, which the port is pushing the City of Seattle to do as it assesses potential zoning changes. The port also wants the Washington National Guard’s armory site in Interbay to remain zoned industrial should the property become surplus and the National Guard relocates. The 36th District candidate said she’d like to see an industrial/housing hybrid model be further explored, as was one recommendation from the now-disbanded Interbay Public Development Advisory Committee, of which Tarleton and Gregoire were members.

Reyneveld said she supports clean fuel standard legislation and the port’s work on electrifying its fleet. While also pushing for cruise ships to plug in when docked at a port terminal, she said she’d like to see other ways the port can reduce the impact and number of cruise ships in the region.

If elected, Reyneveld said she would follow Tarleton’s leadership when it comes to working on a plan for funding the replacement of the Magnolia and Ballard bridges, adding coordinating light rail expansion into Ballard has to be part of the discussion in that corridor.

Reyneveld is the second 36th District House Position 2 candidate to declare her candidacy, following Liz Berry, director of the Washington State Association of Justice, earlier this month. Both say they’re backing U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren for president, but will support whoever wins the Democratic nomination.

“I strongly believe in her vision for working families and tackling climate change,” Reyneveld said, “but I will of course support whoever the nominee is.”

People can learn more about the 36th District candidate at sarahreyneveld.com.