By Ruth Bayang
Northwest Asian Weekly
Brad Owen is stepping down as our state’s lieutenant governor, and six candidates are competing to fill Owen’s seat. Three of the candidates have ties to the Asian Pacific Islander (API) community.
Phillip Yin, a Republican, believes he is the best qualified candidate, “because I have been a successful global journalist and portfolio manager. I will bring great jobs and business to Washington.”
Yin, 41, the son of immigrants from Hong Kong, was born in Mesa, Ariz., but moved to Yakima a few months later. He received his International MBA from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., an undergraduate business degree from the University of Washington, and a summer program at the Harvard Business School.
“I think what makes Washington great is they don’t subscribe to parties or labels, but subscribe to what’s right,” said Yin when asked why he thinks he can win in a traditionally blue state. “I want to create new jobs by having investors domestic and internationally create jobs in our state. We don’t have a state income tax, and we must keep it that way. We don’t want to risk losing businesses that can grow our … tax base. The Democrats have been in power in this state for a long time and I strongly believe our state is ready for new leadership.”
Yin launched CCTV America in Washington, D.C. and also worked for Bloomberg and CNBC. He said his reporting experience would allow him to build ties with leaders in Chinese business and government.
In 2011, Yin challenged sitting senator Maria Cantwell in the 2012 United States Senate election. He dropped out of the race due to fundraising concerns. At a recent fundraiser at the House of Hong in Seattle’s International District, Yin raised $20,000 for his lieutenant governor campaign.
At the time of this report’s printing, the Yin campaign had raised at minimum $120,000.
Another candidate, Sen. Steve Hobbs , has raised twice that amount, $250,000. The Democrat is best known for his work on a state transportation bill passed by the legislature last year. “I spent the last two years traveling the state discussing the construction and passage of the 2015 transportation package,” said Hobbs. “It is the largest transportation infrastructure investment bill in the history of Washington state, and I am incredibly proud of the bipartisan, statewide work we did to make it a reality.”
Hobbs, 45, was born in Everett and raised in Lake Stevens, where he still lives with his wife, Pam, and their three sons. Hobbs’ mother was a Japanese immigrant and his father was an U.S. Air Force veteran.
They divorced when he was a child. Hobbs continued the family military tradition, joining the U.S. Army Reserve at 17. He graduated from the University of Washington in 1994 and enlisted in the regular Army in 1997. In a seven-year career, he was deployed to war zones in Kosovo and, in 2004–2005, to Iraq. Hobbs left the Army in 2005, but remains in the state National Guard.
“I am the only candidate in this race who understands emergency management,” said Hobbs. “On-the-job training cannot be the way a new lieutenant governor learns how to manage a crisis.”
Hobbs has served as a state senator since 2007.
He ran for Congress in 2012 from the 1st District, a contest eventually won by U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, D–Wash.
Another one of Hobb’s Democratic colleagues, state Sen. Cyrus Habib, is also in the running. Habib was born in Baltimore, Md., to parents who emigrated from Iran. A three-time cancer survivor, Habib lost his eyesight and became fully blind at age 8. Shortly afterwards, his family moved to Bellevue.
“Losing my eyesight to cancer… taught me the importance of hard work and creative solutions,” said Habib. “And that’s precisely what the people of Washington state need in their next lieutenant governor, someone who will work tirelessly and embrace innovation so that the Legislature can finish its work on time, pass budgets that meet our constitutional and moral obligations, and function in a less partisan fashion.”
Habib, 34, is also a Rhodes Scholar, Yale Law School graduate, and intellectual property lawyer at Perkins Coie. He has $425,000 in his campaign war chest. Habib hopes to make the lieutenant governor office a “megaphone” for issues, such as education reforms and action on climate change. Habib praised Owen’s work on trade and economic development and said he wants to build on that.
“I have used my time in the state legislature to champion policies addressing the opportunity gap, income inequality, and climate change, to ensure that we leave this state and all its residents with more and better opportunities and a higher quality of life,” said Habib.
Owen announced his retirement on March 8, ending a 20-year tenure in a post that has had just three occupants over the past 60 years.
Ruth Bayang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.