By Arlene Kiyomi Dennistoun
Northwest Asian Weekly
The race for the 7th congressional seat pitting Brady Walkinshaw against Pramila Jayapal is heating up, as the general election on Nov. 8 inches closer. As dirty, mudslinging political battles go, this race is pretty tame. Walkinshaw continues to point out that Jayapal doesn’t live in the 7th district, most of her campaign funds come from outside of Washington, and she was busy fundraising in New York during the state senate’s vote on the budget this session. Jayapal said Walkinshaw couldn’t even get his district to endorse him nor win in his district during the primaries.
The Northwest Asian Weekly spoke to both candidates recently. Aside from their gender and age difference (Walkinshaw is about 20 years younger), a noticeable difference is their approach to getting the job done. Jayapal talks about building movements, and Walkinshaw describes building bridges between opposing positions and being locally focused.
The candidates share common values – both want to partner with the federal government to increase the minimum wage and are committed to addressing issues of immigration and diversity, police accountability, homelessness, mental health, transportation, and college affordability. Jayapal has an impressive list of endorsements, from labor unions and Asian Pacific Islander community leaders. She’s a seasoned politician who’s tackled the policies of the Bush administration, and the hate crimes and discrimination occurring against Arab, Muslim, and South Asian communities after the tragic terrorist attacks on September 11. Jayapal said, “I’ve taken on issues that required standing up to very powerful forces when no one else wanted to.”
Walkinshaw was about 17 years old when the September 11 attacks struck. He also has an impressive list of endorsements and support from Asian Pacific Islander community leaders and a host of organizations dedicated to the environment and diversity. Because he’s 20 years younger, Walkinshaw doesn’t have the breadth and length of public service Jayapal has. Both candidates served in the legislature for about the same length of time (two years) — Jayapal as a Senator and Walkinshaw as a Representative.
In response to Jayapal’s outstanding past two decades of leadership, Walkinshaw said, “She’s 20 years older than me — that’s true! I can’t fast forward my life,” he laughed.
He pointed out that legislators from Jayapal’s 37th district, which includes Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos and Rep. Eric Pettigrew, endorsed him, and not Jayapal.
Jayapal said she wasn’t entirely surprised by the endorsements by her fellow 37th district legislators. She explained she had a significant disagreement with Santos and Pettigrew over a payday lending bill, and that’s why they endorsed Walkinshaw.
Jayapal added, “We’re pretty even in the percentage of endorsements from legislative colleagues.” Walkinshaw said he’s most proud of the endorsement from former candidate Joe McDermott, King County Council Chair.
One clear difference between Jayapal and Walkinshaw is Walkinshaw’s support of I-732, the carbon tax initiative. Dan Shih, a candidate for the 43rd district that Walkinshaw is leaving to run for Congress, and State Senator and candidate for lieutenant governor, Cyrus Habib, also supports I-732. Walkinshaw and other supporters believe I-732 is the first step on acting on climate change. Jayapal opposes the initiative based on what she, the Sierra Club, and many labor organizations and unions believe is a poorly written initiative that will blow a billion-dollar hole in the state budget that will affect low-income people and communities of color.
Walkinshaw also co-sponsored the bill that created the Joint Legislative Task Force on the Use of Deadly Force in Community Policing. Both Walkinshaw and Jayapal have endorsed I-873, which removes proving malice and lack of good faith to bring criminal charges against police officers who use deadly force.
“I’m running on a much more local agenda,” said Walkinshaw. “Our community needs a partner in our development over the next 15 to 20 years. Jayapal is running on a platform of more national issues.” Walkinshaw said when it comes to building partnerships in urban development and transportation and the International District, we need a “locally focused member of Congress.”
Jayapal on why she’s the better choice for Congress
If Jayapal wins the election, she’ll be the first South Asian American woman elected to Congress and she believes the Asian American community is excited at the prospect.
“I’m a movement builder,” said Jayapal, and she’s worked on issues that were controversial and unpopular. Jayapal has worked alongside the Asian Counseling and Referral Service to get additional benefits for immigrants, and founded One America, which created some of the nation’s best immigration policies.
Jayapal said it’s untrue Walkinshaw has been more effective as a state legislator. “If he were more effective, he would’ve been able to get his own district to endorse him. He couldn’t even win his district. It’s every different when you’re working in a Republican majority. Jayapal said she’s the only candidate who’s worked in a Republican-controlled Senate. She was able to pass legislation to get funds for apprenticeship programs for all immigrants and refugees, expanded contraceptive rights for women, and retained funds for the international baccalaureate program at Rainier Beach High School.
Jayapal will keep her seat in the state Senate if she doesn’t get elected to Congress.
Although she’s optimistic about her chances of winning, the first bills she’d introduce if she remains in Washington are tuition-free community colleges, gun violence protection, funding basic education, mental health, and transportation. If elected to Congress, her priority is affordable college so that it’s debt and tuition free. Although climate change is a priority for her, Jayapal wants to work on federal legislation that “has legs,” and has a chance of passing. Fossil fuel companies are blocking progress and climate change bills do not stand a chance of getting through Congress, said Jayapal.
Walkinshaw on why he’s the better choice for Congress
Walkinshaw is cheerful and has an upbeat response to the recent poll released by Jayapal and printed in the Stranger, which has endorsed Jayapal. Walkinshaw explained the poll, which showed Jayapal ahead by 14 points, was done in August, two weeks after the primary election. What the poll showed explained Walkinshaw, is Jayapal’s numbers remained the same, while his numbers increased by eight points.
The Seattle Times has endorsed Walkinshaw because of his focus on local issues. Asian Pacific Islander community leaders, including Martha Choe and Joan Yoshitomi, have also endorsed him.
If elected, Walkinshaw would be the first openly gay Latino Democrat elected to Congress. “My grandmother Jean Walkinshaw was a former TV producer for KCTS and was very involved in the Asian American community. His family’s involvement in the Northwest immigrant community helped form Walkinshaw’s passions, which included participating in the civil rights movement in this country.
Walkinshaw is running for Congress because “right at this moment we need someone with the ability to build bridges. That’s my reputation and track record in Olympia.” He was the prime sponsor of “Joel’s Law,” which allows courts to order involuntary commitment if a family’s petition to the court meets the requirements for detention.
Walkinshaw worked for three years and was the prime sponsor of HB 1553, the Certificate of Restoration of Opportunities Act (CROP) bill which finally passed this year after receiving bipartisan support with a 49-0 vote in the Senate. The bill allows qualified applicants with criminal histories to get occupational licenses. Walkinshaw worked closely with Sen. Mike Padden (R), chair of the Law and Justice Committee to get the bill passed. “This opened up thousands of jobs for folks with criminal records.”
Walkinshaw believes his ability to build bridges will bring about the national carbon tax law even though so few states are willing to go that route. “We need a climate partner and a champion for the Pacific Northwest. That’s why I’m running. It’s a very close race right now. There’s a lot of people trying to make up their minds in this race as they learn more about the two of us and our track records. We need urgent federal leadership.”
Arlene can be reached at email@example.com.