By James Tabafunda
Northwest Asian Weekly
With 29.28 percent of the votes counted as on press time on Wednesday, Nov. 4, Wilson Chin has fallen far behind Betty Patu in the race for a spot on the Seattle school board.
Chin earned 31.99 percent of the votes compared to Patu’s 67.73 percent. As of press time, 31,241 votes separated the two candidates: Chin had 27,954 votes and Patu had 59,195 votes.
The final result may not be known for days in this race.
Chin, 49, and Patu, 61, are vying for the position held by former district principal and City Council member Cheryl Chow. She decided not to run for a second four-year term on the board. She decided to endorse Chin instead.
The winner will represent District 7, the seat representing Southeast Seattle. The majority of students in this district are of color.
As a research scientist at the University of Washington, Chin is working on HIV trial vaccines. Patu retired last spring after a 32-year career reducing gang violence, improving diversity education, and managing school programs aimed at reducing dropouts from Seattle Public Schools.
In July, Chow said Chin’s background in the sciences would be a positive addition to the Seattle school board. “Someone coming from that field would bring knowledge and possibly information that we are not familiar with.”
If elected, he “will forge ties with diverse educational communities, promote collaborative leadership, and work to build a rigorous, accountable educational environment that successfully prepares college students, skilled workers, and artisans.”
About 50 Patu supporters, including her children and grandchildren, cheered and clapped at her election day party at the Renaissance Seattle Hotel’s Visions Lounge. The first results were announced on television at 8:28 p.m.
They continued to celebrate and share stories of waving “Betty Patu for Seattle School Board, Pos. 7” signs in various Seattle locations.
At 9:12 p.m., Patu addressed her supporters. She said, “Thank you for coming tonight to help celebrate this victory.”
She added, “There were times that we were really frustrated with not having enough money. But, you know what, when we didn’t have enough money, God sent us people. We had more volunteers on board than we’ve ever had.”
Patu’s plans for her first day on the job include organizing a committee of advisers representing different parts of Southeast Seattle. “I’m not going to do this by myself,” she admitted. “I need my community behind me … to sit down and discuss, ‘What are we going to do?’ ”
On her large lead, she said, “I’m just overwhelmed. I’m just excited. I know there is going to be a lot of work ahead of us, but you know where my heart is. It’s all about the kids.”
Patu thanked several members of her own family, including her campaign manager and daughter Virginia Patu-Owens.
She also extended heart-felt thanks to her sister. With a few tears, Patu said, “It’s very important to have family, and I want to make sure to let them know that. I want to tell my sister, Florence, who’s been there with me, that I love her dearly.”
Everyone at the event clapped immediately. “When I needed family there, she was always there with me. She’d come over, and she would stay over late at night to keep me company,” Patu added.
Washington State Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos (D-Seattle) has known Patu since the 1990s and endorses her for District 7. She said about Patu’s lead, “I think its because Betty is an authentic person. She speaks with a genuine voice from her heart. … The single, biggest issue here is that Betty is an experienced educator. She brings more than 30 years of educational experience to the table.”
She pointed out, “I think Betty’s strongest appeal is that she’s going to be able to walk onto the school board and be able to say, ‘You know what? Maybe we need to tweak the policy this way so that it’s more reasonable for our school principals, for our teachers, and that they can really do their job, which is to educate our young people.”
“People who believe in me voted for me tonight because they know where my heart is,” said Patu. “My whole reason for this run is because I want to see every child have an equitable education, all of the City of Seattle, and that’s what we need, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Chin, who awaited the election results on Tuesday night with his family at his home, could not be reached for comment by press time. ♦
James Tabafunda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.