By James Tabafunda
Northwest Asian Weekly
Dan Shih advocates for justice; he works on such issues as patent infringement, class actions, and contract and warranty disputes.
But now, the Seattle attorney is taking a leave of absence from Susman Godfrey to battle five other opponents – at this time – for a seat in the Washington state House of Representatives.
Democratic state Rep. Brady Walkinshaw of Seattle, who last occupied the seat, announced he was going to run for U.S. Congress, 7th Congressional District last December. Walkinshaw has not officially endorsed any candidate for the open seat.
“He suggested that I consider running,” Shih said. “I, at first, did not think much of the idea, but I did some exploring, both personally as well as talking with other community leaders, other elected leaders to get a sense of things.”
“If you’d ask me a decade ago or more about running for office, it would have not been on my radar at all partly because I’m a minority. We don’t have that many role models,” he said.
“Not only am I Chinese American and first-generation American, I’m also gay.”
Shih and his husband, Ted, are raising three children: Madeline, 8, and twins Valerie and Cassandra, both 5. Shih said his family usually garner positive responses when out in public together. “We have been stunned when people [come up to us to] say, ‘You have a beautiful family.’ ”
Seeing who actually achieves public office, you don’t really see much opportunity Shih says.
“I think that’s changed in our district at least, and I think seeing role models does a lot.
Despite being in a minority, my viewpoint has changed over time.” In late January, he decided to announce his candidacy.
Shih is running because he wants to help pass Democratic and progressive legislation to improve people’s lives and stop those who would turn back the clock, according to his website.
The most important issues to Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, according to Shih, are not that different from those in other communities; they include the proper funding of the public-school system. “I went to a public school. It is critical to me,” he said.
Other issues important to him include affordable housing, public transportation, and immigrant/refugee issues.
Shih’s parents emigrated to the U.S. in 1969. His father David Shih is from Shanghai, China, and his mother Eva Shih is from Tainan, Taiwan. He said, “They emigrated here with very little. Their focus was to find security.”
“They’ve always been supportive of my public service work. They see it as the realization of the American Dream.”
Born in Seattle, Dan Shih later moved with his family to Mercer Island and attended elementary school there before attending Lakeside School. (He is now a board member of the Lakeside School Alumni board.)
He said, “I was very fortunate to go to Princeton University where I earned a computer science degree [in 1994]. I started off as a mechanical engineer, an aerospace engineer then switched over to computer science at some point.”
The summa cum laude graduate went on to earn his master’s degree in economics from Stanford University in 1995. He then worked in business strategy and consulting.
In 2006, Shih earned his law degree from Stanford.
Community service has become an important part of his life. He serves on various boards, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington. “I serve on the legal committee, which advises on the impact litigation that they bring for civil rights and civil liberties. I also serve on the finance committee and the executive committee.”
Dealing with human trafficking and sexual assault as a member of API Chaya’s board, he said, “It is about protecting the vulnerable who are being oppressed or who are the victims of violence. That one’s been very important to me. It’s kept me grounded in the Asian Pacific Islander communities and actually, has broadened my perspective beyond just the Chinese American community because we serve so many marginalized communities there.”
Public service is a really amazing thing Shih says. “As you do more of it and as you do well in things, I think you get more opportunities to do so. So, it’s a natural path.”
That path comes to a critical point when voters of the 43rd District cast their ballots.
“I have the breadth of experience our district needs,” he said. (end)
For more information about Dan Shih, visit www.danshih.com.
James Tabafunda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.