By Assunta Ng
Northwest Asian Weekly
Six months ago, I said, “Seattle’s 2017 election sucks!” How wrong I was!
What seemed to be a dull and highly predictable election has now transformed to be a colorful and uncertain one, not only for the city, but also other parts of King County.
The number of Asian candidates running for high-profile offices is unbelievable. Asian Americans are shooting for the moon this year. This is the year of Asian American women and breaking glass ceilings. This is the year of Asian American voters making an impact.
Out of 21 candidates fighting for the Seattle mayoral spot, some front-runners have the same amount of advantages and baggage. The race is wide open. Don’t believe the polls that tell you the election is pretty much locked up. It isn’t until you mark on that ballot. YOU voters get to decide. You control the outcome.
The other exciting races are for Port of Seattle commissioners. A young Filipina is challenging an established Port of Seattle commissioner, and an Indian American woman is running against some big names for an open seat. Another position up for grabs is the 45th District senate race. Two Asian American women are neck-to-neck, and one will be the first Asian American senator for the 45th District. Then, on the city council level, three Chinese Americans are running for Mercer Island City Council and three for the Bellevue City Council.
It’s exciting to see Asian Americans declare, “I am running.” These voices represent a new trend. Many realize that if they would like to have a say or change things they don’t like, they have to run for office. Getting a seat at the table means you can tip the power balance between the most visible and the least visible, the majority and minority, progressives and conservatives, the silent and the outspoken.
To all you Asian Americans who are running, you deserve a bow from us. You have the courage and conviction to put yourself out there to fight for your beliefs and for the community. You are not afraid of challenges lying ahead.
Not everyone is going to win. That’s okay. Failure is a stepping-stone for you to win next year.
What you learn is valuable — the nuts and bolts in running a campaign — laying the foundation for future races. The key is to get your name out, meet the movers and doers in the community, and develop a network of supporters from hereon. In politics, you win some and you lose some. It’s about how well you learn to rebound from adversities.
Seattle mayoral race
Of the 21 mayoral candidates, there is one Asian candidate running. Sen. Bob Hasegawa is the lone Asian candidate.
If we didn’t have even one Asian American standing among the 10 candidates who showed at the API candidate forum on June 20, you would’ve noticed the missing demographic. It would be a shame to have the largest minority population in Seattle, as well as in King County, not be visibly represented in the mayoral race.
About 200 young and old Asian Americans attended the event. I suspect that the strong turnout was due to Hasegawa.
Whether you agree or disagree with his platform — him being on the far left — his participation in the mayoral race shows that Asian Americans can be serious contenders for big offices. A few mainstream media polls show Hasegawa in second or third.
The other reason for the strong turnout was, people were curious about other candidates, such as Cary Moon, Jenny Durkan, Jessyn Farrell, and Nikkita Oliver. You read so much about them in the news, but what do the real person really look like? Where do they stand on tough issues?
Asian American women
KING TV calls Jinyoung Englund, a Republican, and Manka Dhingra, a Democrat, top contenders for the 45th senate seat.
This has never happened before — that the mainstream would dub two Asian American women top contenders in the same race! It shows the Asian community does have quality candidates in both political parties. This race is important because this race will determine the control of the senate.
Both parties are fighting hard for their candidate. If either Korean American Englund or Indian American Dhingra wins, she will be the first Asian American elected official for the 45th District.
Last year, Sen. Andy Hill of the 45th District died of lung cancer, and Dino Rossi was appointed to fill the remainder of Hill’s term. Rossi is not running for the seat.
With a total population of 136,000, the district includes Woodinville, Redmond, Sammamish, Duvall, Kirkland, and part of Redmond. This area is one of the fastest growing in the Puget Sound region.
The Port of Seattle race
Two Asian Americans are running for the Port of Seattle Commission’s seat, Bea Querido-Rico, an engineer for the Port of Seattle, for position 1, and Preeti Shridhar, an administrator for the City of Renton, for position 4.
Querido-Rico, of Filipino descent, is running against two well-known candidates. One of them is Commissioner John Creighton — her boss — sort of. Shridhar, of Indian descent, is in a crowded race against seven other candidates. One of Shridhar’s opponents has name familiarity, former Seattle City Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck.
As first-time candidates, it will be a tough race for both. However, surprises do occur in elections.
Vote, vote, vote
The Asian community has a big role to play in this election. The Asian vote does count in close elections, in the city and county. The Asian vote will make an impact, especially in the mayoral race. So vote to make history in the election. You get to choose who will be the top two going into the general election, for our next mayor.
One thing you can say about this election is that it’s absolutely not boring — and your participation will only make it more interesting.
Assunta Ng can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.