By Tim Gruver
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Come November, the 45th state Senate district will be represented by one of two women who will decide the balance of power in the Legislature.
On the Republican side is Jinyoung Lee Englund, a Korean American and former Bitcoin activist. On the Democratic side is King County prosecutor Manka Dhingra, an Indian American.
Should Dhingra win, the Democrats will gain control of the state Senate, which is currently held by Republicans in coalition with a conservative Democrat.
The senate seat was left vacant after Andy Hill died from lung cancer. Two-time gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi (R-Sammamish) was appointed by the King County Republican Party to fill the vacancy until the November election.
On Oct. 10, Englund and Dhingra discussed a variety of topics at the Microsoft Conference Center in Redmond in a debate moderated by KIRO 7’s Essex Porter and Joni Balter.
Following the Las Vegas mass shooting, both Englund and Dhingra said that they would support a ban on bump stocks.
“I am against a device that could turn any weapon into an automatic weapon,” Englund said. “Violence is not a partisan issue.”
When asked whether a Democratic majority would be more likely to support gun control measures, Englund said that she would work with her party to push for stricter gun control.
Dhingra has supported banning any modifications that allow semi-automatic firearms to shoot at rates comparable to automatic guns, in addition to closing loopholes allowing people with a history of domestic violence to own weapons.
Bump stocks are legal because of their status as an accessory and not a mechanical gun modification, which are illegal.
“Gun violence is preventable,” Dhingra said. “The people have already spoken about it. I am committed to ensuring that we ban bump stocks.”
On carbon taxes, Englund said that such a tax would disproportionately hit poor, rural families who drive longer distances.
“The people who will be hurt are the ones that live farther away and subject to tax per mile,” Englund said.
“Our job is to balance desires of the people of our state with economic opportunities for low-income people.”
Promoting more fuel-efficient vehicles and supporting their manufacturers, Englund said, is a better answer to carbon emissions and climate change.
She advocated for the electrification of cars. Englund said. “If you impose a carbon tax that doesn’t directly reduce carbon emissions, it’s just another tax. We need to get fuel-combustion engines off the road.”
Both candidates oppose a state income tax, though Dhingra has voiced support for a two-percent capital gains tax and closing corporate tax loopholes as alternatives.
“We are closing a lot of the special interest tax loopholes,” Dhingra said. “As a state, we have to make sure we are prioritizing low-income people, small businesses, and children.”
Washington voters last approved an income tax during the Great Depression. The state Supreme Court later ruled that an income tax violated the state constitution, which holds that taxes be uniform within the same class of property.
Washington is one of seven states in the United States without an income tax. A state income tax has been proposed nine times in the Legislature, most recently in 2010, and has failed to pass.
The two candidates agreed that increasing the state sales tax is not an acceptable solution to funding education.
Englund said that she opposes a state sales tax because of its potential impact on businesses, but expressed support for more property taxes.
“If you decide to create a wall between people and employers and labor, you’ll have a society that falls apart,” Englund said. Unlike sales taxes, Englund said property taxes are not dependent on consumer habits.
To circumvent the state’s education funding problems, Englund said she would support expanding the state’s charter schools, rather than relying on public education.
Both Englund and Dhingra said that they would work to expand affordable housing in King County.
“The issue with big businesses is that the city must have the infrastructure to help that business,” Dhingra said. “If people want to move here to work in these businesses, they have to afford the rent, they have to buy a house. We have to make business friendly and we have to step up to make that happen.”
With the passage of the Sound Transit 3 (ST3) measure last November, car tab taxes increased by 0.8 percent of your vehicle value, to fund rail and bus projects in the Puget Sound region. This accounts for $80 for every $10,000 of a vehicle’s value.
Englund argued that the car tax is not only too costly to taxpayers, it funds projects they are not guaranteed to want.
Dhingra argued that the car tab tax was necessary to ensuring quality public transportation in King County — including the addition of 62 new miles of light rail.
“We want light rail, we should have had it 10 years ago,” Dhingra said. “I would like to have the evaluation system be fair, but that’s how we’re paying for our transportation system. You cannot have pipe dreams.”
Dhingra and Englund stand in opposition to Seattle’s safe injection sites for heroin users, saying that they would not support any similar measures in the 45th district.
The sites — which offer addicts clean needles, medical supervision, and access to drugs that reverse the effects of an overdose — were banned in Federal Way, Auburn, and Bellevue earlier this year.
“I do not believe that a safe injection site is a good thing for the east side,” Dhingra said. “For me, it’s about early intervention. Where do you get the most bang for your buck? You do early intervention and invest in our youth, and that investment will pay for itself.”
Englund said that she would not support it and is open to introducing a bill banning drug injection sites in the 45th district, but only with the cooperation of medical professionals.
“We need to ensure that we have a compassionate response that helps [users] overcome that addiction, not enable it,” Englund said.
Both candidates have voiced their opposition to the Trump administration’s new birth control rule, which allows employers to withhold access to birth control from their workers on moral grounds.
“I am for a woman’s right to choose and I do believe that women have a right to choose to use contraception,” Englund said. “I would like to see businesses work together with women’s rights advocacy groups to ensure the right to birth control.”
Dhingra pledged to sponsor any legislation ensuring access to birth control and end insurers discriminatory practices.
“Women’s reproductive rights, women’s access to healthcare, is a no-brainer to every adult in this room,” Dhingra said.
Englund, meanwhile, said that state Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s lawsuit against the Trump administration on the birth control rule was overstepping his duties.
“I would like to see our attorney general focus on matters of the state,” Englund said. “It’s important that elected officials are doing the job that they were elected to do than positioning themselves for higher office.”
The 45th district, which is currently represented by two Democrats in the state house, has generally leaned Democratic in recent years. It includes Duvall, Kirkland, Redmond, Sammamish, and Woodinville. The district includes 141,000 residents located in King County and is northeast of Seattle.
In the 2016 presidential elections, Hillary Clinton carried 64.8 percent of the vote in the 45th district, while President Donald Trump won 28.0 percent of the vote.
White residents make up 76.5 percent of the population, Asian residents make up 13.4 percent.
Tim can be reached at email@example.com.