UPDATE: On June 11, Sophia Aragon announced that she suspended her campaign. In a release, she said:
“I’m committed to continue to serve the people of the 22nd through my work with the Washington State Nurses Association. I will continue to work with legislators to make quality health care a reality for all Washingtonians.”
“Although my campaign has come to an end, I will continue to be an advocate for the 22nd district and for all the wonderful people I met during my campaign.”
By James Tabafunda
Northwest Asian Weekly
Stability is important to many people, especially in tough economic times.
For Sofia Aragon and her family, nursing has always been a job that provided financial stability. It is a job about caring for people and one that she admits to enjoying. Years ago, her mother emigrated from the Philippines after being recruited to work as a nurse in the United States.
In 2010, Aragon hopes to get more involved in another profession — politics — and restore stability in state government.
She is running as a Democratic candidate for Position 1 in the 22nd District (Olympia, Lacey, and Tumwater) of the Washington State House of Representatives.
Aragon learned last January that Rep. Brendan Williams decided to step down after six years of service as a representative for the 22nd District. “When I looked at the field [of candidates], I didn’t see anyone who had a real broad health care background, and that’s personally important to me as a constituent,” she said, explaining one reason why she decided to run.
Aragon is one of seven Democrat candidates seeking votes in the next primary election in August. Major issues for the 22nd District include the state budget, women’s issues, and education — encouraging students to go into the health professions, for example.
In 1975, Aragon immigrated at the age of three with her parents to the United States. She later attended public schools in South Seattle and eventually graduated from Issaquah High School.
She earned her bachelor’s degree in economics at the University of Washington in 1994 and her bachelor’s degree in nursing at Seattle University in 1997.
Drawn to working for “people of ethnic diversity,” Aragon started her career in community health nursing at the Rainier Park Medical Clinic, one that served “a lot of the immigrant population.”
“There was some kind of law passed in Olympia, and … it ended up really cutting our patients off, a lot of them, from health care,” she said. “And, I remember not understanding why they would do that because our clinic was very successful.”
From that point on, she decided to learn how state laws are formulated, particularly those involving health care.
Beginning in 1999, she attended the Loyola University School of Law in Chicago and studied health law.
Because she felt the Seattle area was progressive and “more advanced in terms of making sure people were very integrated,” she returned home after graduating from law school and wanted to pursue a career in public policy.
She began her new career at the Washington State Department of Community Trade and Economic Development in 2002.
“I was doing fiscal notes, which is the analysis of how much a bill would cost the government if it were to pass. My subject areas were health and human services and criminal justice,” Aragon said.
By networking “more into the Olympia community,” she found her next job as a legislative and policy liaison for the Washington State Department of Health and worked in this department from 2002 to 2007.
It was during this time that she learned about how the state government spends its money and works with local governments such as King County.
Aragon currently works as the senior governmental affairs adviser of the Washington State Nurses Association. For the last three years, she says she has worked more closely with the state legislature. “I took this job because I wanted to learn about that aspect [of face-to-face work with legislators].”
Another deciding factor for her in seeking political office was what she learned about state legislators. “They were average people trying to do extraordinary things. … And so, I thought maybe someday, I would like to do that because I admired the work they did.”
Her favorite pastimes include relaxing with her friends and playing tennis.
Lonnie Johns-Brown, a health and human services and women’s issues advocate for the last 26 years, feels Aragon is a great candidate for Position 1.
“This is a unique opportunity to add to the very slim ranks of Asian American representatives in the state legislature,” she said. “It’s not as diverse as it needs to be, and Sofia understands the need for more diversity and issues around racial disparity as well as health care.”
Velma Veloria, the first Filipino American elected to the Washington State Legislature in 1992, said, “[Aragon] already knows how the process works. She will hit the ground running.”
“She’s got the whole package,” added Johns-Brown. ♦
For more information about Sofia Aragon, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-870-0484.
James Tabafunda can be reached at email@example.com.