(The Center Square) – One of Spokane Valley’s most outspoken voices, City Councilmember Al Merkel, announced his bid for a seat in the Washington State Senate on Wednesday.

Merkel, a relative newcomer to politics and a recent addition to Spokane Valley leadership, said that having grown up the child of foreign service officers, he’s naturally attracted to service-oriented roles, and the Senate was the next step.

“If you want to get something done, you can’t just whine about it; you have to take action,” he said.

Merkel is running as a Republican for a seat in the 4th Legislative District, which encompasses his home of Spokane Valley and the area north of it. Sen. Mike Padden currently serves the district but announced earlier this month that he will not run for re-election.

If elected, Merkel said he would continue serving on the Spokane Valley City Council while holding the seat in the state Senate.

The new candidate sees public safety as one of Spokane Valley’s most significant issues. Merkel said a lack of police officers and respective funding is fueling an uptick in crime and drug use in the area. He hopes to work with others to bridge the gap with marijuana tax revenue.

“If only 10% of the taxes that the marijuana growers in Spokane Valley [contribute to] was returned,” he said, “that would be someplace between $7 million and $15 million, which is more than the $5 million that were looking for to pay for all of our officers.”

Advocating for the enhancement of drug possession charges is also among his priorities as the 4th District and the rest of the state are grappling with a fentanyl epidemic. Merkel said he wants to focus on people who are profiting, not users, by bringing back the use of confidential informants.

He wants to make the process more locally defined and driven, returning power to the community, much like he intends to approach advocating for reform within the education sector.

Being an emergency substitute teacher for Central Valley School District gave Merkel an insight into the lack of control local municipalities have over the growth and development of their schools. No school should have to buy portables right after being replaced with a new building, he said.

State regulations limit how a district can prepare for future growth and class sizes. Merkel said the school district should determine whether it wants more schools or bigger buildings.

When asked about an ongoing investigation into his conduct directed by Spokane Valley’s City Council, Merkel maintained that he has no idea what the accusations are or who his accuser is, noting that he believes it’s a politically motivated move.

Regarding another matter involving a lawsuit alleging Merkel fostered a hostile work environment and discriminated against a female employee while working at Sequoia Detox Centers in 2020, he said the court has never served him.

Merkel said he wants to provide relief for taxpayers and return power to the people. He said the issues in Spokane Valley are very similar to the ones he would face on a state level.

“Spokane Valley is a microcosm of what’s needed across the state,” Merkel said.

Constituents can visit the candidate’s website for more information on his campaign. They can also reach Merkel by email at [email protected] or by phone at 509-315-6416. He is hosting a campaign kickoff event at Casa Del Oro in Spokane Valley on May 11 at 4 p.m.