By Ruth Bayang
Northwest Asian Weekly
He’s a Republican who wants Gov. Jay Inslee’s job. He has said that he won’t support Donald Trump, and he is passionate about homelessness.
Bill Bryant, 56, runs his own consultancy business for agricultural exporters and is a former two-term Port of Seattle commissioner. He stopped by the Northwest Asian Weekly office on Aug. 22 to meet with staff, so we asked what he will do as governor for the International District (ID) and the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.
“Most people (in the ID) who own their own small business wants a governor who understands how difficult it can be and figure out how the state can stay out of the way and not make it any harder,” said Bryant.
“Inslee said during the (Aug. 17) debate, ‘I’m a governor who likes small business.’ There’s a difference between liking small business and knowing how hard it is to build one. Until you’ve done it, you won’t know how hard it is to meet payroll and keep it running and moving it forward and keep it growing.”
“A lot of folks are concerned about trade. They’re never going to have a governor who understands trade more than I do.”
Bryant studied trade and diplomacy at Georgetown University. After college, he worked on trade issues for Governors John Spellman and Booth Gardner.
“I was in China in 1985 when it was not the powerhouse it is today. I’ve gone back repeatedly over the past few decades and watched China grow. And I’ve done business in China,” said Bryant. “That’s an invaluable experience for a governor, given how important a trading partner China is with Washington state.”
“[Washington state has] one of the highest unemployment rates in America. People in Seattle don’t know that,” said Bryant. “That’s because right here (Seattle), the unemployment rate is 4 percent.”
Bryant wants to bring companies and jobs outside of the urban area. “Let’s spread out the growth.” He said this will benefit the urban area since “there’s a limit to how many people we can put in here and still expect our traffic to move.”
Speaking of traffic …
“Transportation is different for everyone,” said Bryant. “In urban areas, they mean traffic and traffic congestion. If you go to other parts of the state, it means infrastructure that’s falling apart — roads and bridges deteriorating.”
A common theme
Education is one issue, Bryant said, that transcends all communities.
“People are concerned that the quality of education their kids are getting is not the same as they got, particularly in rural or poorer neighborhoods. Those kids don’t have access to the same programs as kids in wealthier school districts.”
Homelessness and mental health
Before he ever ran for office, Bryant said he was a volunteer and night manager at the St. James Cathedral Winter Shelter in Seattle. It’s an issue that is close to his heart.
“You can’t separate the collapse of the mental health system from the homeless issue,” said Bryant. “We need to get these people the primary mental care that they need. That’s not just a function of spending more because we have doubled the amount we have spent on homelessness under Governor Inslee and homelessness has gone up. Clearly throwing more money at it is not working.”
So what’s the solution? Bryant referred to a project called Quixote Village in Olympia. The Village consists of 30 tiny cottages, a large vegetable garden, and a community building that contains showers, laundry facilities, a communal kitchen, and living and dining space.
Bryant said residents get a mailbox, which means they have an address they can include on a job application. “They contribute one-third of whatever they earn towards their rent. They’re now beginning to earn their own way and get established and get a job. And they’re making that transition into more permanent housing. That’s exactly what we need to be doing.”
Diversity in his staff
Bryant told the Northwest Asian Weekly that he will hire AAPIs on his staff for upper and executive-level jobs. Currently, he has eight campaign staff members, including four women, one of whom is a Latina, but no AAPIs.
A recent Elway poll showed Bryant trailing Inslee by 12 points. Elway said that was the exact same margin in April, the last time it polled. It also resembles Inslee’s recent 49.3 to 38.33 Aug. 2 primary lead.
And Bryant might have a tough go with GOP voters. While some voters favor a candidate who doesn’t endorse Trump, 38 percent of Republicans surveyed won’t support a Republican who disavowed Trump.
Ruth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.