• Press Release

WA State Rep. Debra Lekanoff Nominated by EMILYs List for 2021 Gabrielle Giffords Rising Star Award

April 19, 2021

For Immediate Release
April 19, 2021

Washington State Representative Debra Lekanoff Nominated by EMILYs List for 2021 Gabrielle Giffords Rising Star Award

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, EMILYs List, the nation’s largest resource for women in politics, announced that Washington State Representative Debra Lekanoff is a nominee for the eighth annual Gabrielle Giffords Rising Star Award.

“Serving as the only Native American lawmaker in Washington State, Debra Lekanoff has paved the way for women of color to run for positions of leadership in her community and we are thrilled to nominate her for the 2021 Gabrielle Giffords Rising Star Award,” said Emily Cain, executive director of EMILYs List. 

“Debra attributes the hard work and dedication she brings to her job each day to the lessons of leadership she learned growing up in a small tribal community. During her first term as a state representative, Debra introduced over 200 pieces of legislation and sought to bring people together to create a more harmonious and prosperous community. Pulling from her experiences as a Native American woman, mother, and leader, Debra has passed some of the strongest legislation in the country when it comes to combating climate change and has sponsored bills to protect native lands and natural resources. Inspired by her daughter, Debra has also made issues that younger generations will be most impacted by — such as education and affordable housing — a priority in her work. We are thrilled to nominate Debra for this award and are confident in her ability to bring people together to create lasting change.”

A member of the Tlingit and Aleut Tribes, Debra Lekanoff is the only Native American serving in the Washington State Legislature. Debra serves as co-chair of the Joint Legislative Taskforce on Water Supply, vice chair of the House Committee on Energy and Environment, and sits on the Rural Development, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Committee. Debra has worked in public service for over 20 years at various levels of government, including as governmental affairs director for the Swinomish Tribe. This has provided her with expertise at the international, national, state, tribal, and local levels on many of the issues facing her state today. 

Named in honor of the dedicated and courageous Gabrielle Giffords, the Rising Star Award celebrates an extraordinary woman serving in state or local office. The award honors a woman who demonstrates the sort of commitment to community, dedication to women and families, and determination and civility that have been the highlights of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ career, in and out of office. Previous Rising Star Award recipients include former Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams in 2014, former Boston City Councilwoman Ayanna Pressley in 2015, former Colorado House Speaker Crisanta Duran in 2016, Philadelphia City Councilwoman Helen Gym in 2017, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx in 2018, California Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo in 2019, and Ohio House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes in 2020. 

The Gabrielle Giffords Rising Star Award winner will be chosen with community input.

Debra Lekanoff is nominated alongside:

  • Catalina Cruz,  New York State Assemblywoman 
  • Lina Hidalgo, Harris County, Texas Judge 
  • Park Cannon, Georgia State Representative 
  • Jennifer O’Mara, Pennsylvania State Representative 
  • Tram Nguyen, Massachusetts State Representative  

EMILYs List, the nation’s largest resource for women in politics, has raised over $700 million to elect Democratic pro-choice women candidates. With a grassroots community of over five million members, EMILY's List helps Democratic women win competitive campaigns – across the country and up and down the ballot – by recruiting and training candidates, supporting and helping build strong campaigns, researching the issues that impact women and families, running nearly $50 million in independent expenditures in the last cycle alone, and turning out women voters and voters of color to the polls. Since our founding in 1985, we have helped elect the country's first woman as vice president, 157 women to the House, 26 to the Senate, 16 governors, and more than 1,300 women to state and local office. More than 40 percent of the candidates EMILYs List has helped elect to Congress have been women of color. After the 2016 election, more than 60,000 women reached out to EMILY's List about running for office laying the groundwork for the next decade of candidates for local, state, and national offices. In our effort to elect more women in offices across the country, we have created our Run to Win program, expanded our training program, including a Training Center online, and trained thousands of women.