By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Some of you couldn’t care less about voting. Most people evoke common principles such as “voting is your civic duty.” Exercise your right and role in democracy. What if I elicit some compelling reasons for you to act?
Vote for Asian American voices
The number of Asian Americans running for office in this election is astounding— more than 40. (See our story on the front page). And that’s just in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties. It’s also interesting the note the diversity in Asians—Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, Indian, Pakistani, Iranian. In some races, Asian Americans are running against each other. Call it a sign of progress. From school boards to city councils, port to hospital commissioner, east to west of Puget Sound, north and south sound, Asian American candidates are spread out all over the map. They all understand that it is vital to get a seat at the table.
As part of the Asian community, we need to support and nurture our leaders. Running for office is an important path to develop leadership and service. We say to all the candidates, win or lose, we stand with you. If you have Asian candidates in your area, support them. It takes a lot of sacrifice, hard work, and courage to run for office. One particular race is Sam Cho running for the Port of Seattle seat No. 2. Since Lloyd Hara served as the first Asian American Port Commissioner of Seattle in 2006-2010, there have been no other commissioners of Asian descent. Trade is a key part of our economy. China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and other Asian countries are vital trade partners with our state. If elected, Cho would be the youngest and the first Korean American commissioner. He demonstrated his skills and understanding of issues in debates, as seen at the API Candidates Forum on Oct. 9 at the International District/Chinatown Community Center. The other rising stars to watch include Renton City Council candidate Kim-Khanh Van, Bellevue City Councilmember Janice Zahn, and SeaTac City Councilmember Peter Kwon.
Vote for no confidence
The only Asian American candidate that I am ashamed of, is incumbent Kshama Sawant, Seattle City Council member. For a vote of no confidence in her divisive leadership style, we endorse her opponent, Egan Orion. Orion is willing to listen and work with diverse communities. Sadly, although Sawant is of Asian descent, she distances herself from the Asian community. The Northwest Asian Weekly’s request for an interview went unanswered.
Vote for non-Asian candidates who have a record of working with the Asian community
Marcie Maxwell, mayoral candidate for Renton and Seattle City Council candidate Jim Pugel, have worked extensively with the Asian community. Maxwell has a long list of Asian leaders endorsing her.
If elected, Pugel, a former cop, would contribute a different perspective on public safety and can promote better working relations between the police department and the city council.
If Maxwell is elected the mayor, she would bring more people of color to work for the City of Renton, and be a bridge for communities of color and the mainstream.
Vote of appreciation
Elected in 1993, Larry Gossett, 74, has been on the King County Council for 25 years. By all accounts, his record and contributions speak for itself. He has done a lot for people of color. Loyalty towards Gossett is strong in the Asian and African community.
One Black leader said, “If not for Larry’s sit-in protest at the University of Washington president’s office, I would not be graduating from UW.” That protest instantly woke the university to the racism that was and is alive, and that a more concerted effort should be made to address the issue, to recruit and retain Black students. Gossett was in the forefront of the civil rights movement. Attorney and supporter Kim-Khanh Van remembers how Gossett and the late Bob Santos inspired her a decade ago, to join the protest against Goodwill development for fear of gentrification and the impact on ethnic businesses. Gossett has also secured funding for the Filipino Community Center project from King County.
Vote for courage
Not every Asian American candidate is going to win in this election, and that is OK. If you lose this time, try again in the next election. Rep. Vandana Slatter, of Indian descent, who had lost in the Bellevue City Council race, said she learned valuable lessons from the experience, which you can’t get from anywhere else.
Sofia Aragon, candidate for Burien City Council, ran last year for state senator and lost. With courage and determination, she ran again for city council, and won with a substantial lead in the primary election. It would be a waste if Asian candidates disappeared after losing on their first try. Aragon’s message is clear: never give up. And she understands the significance of Asian American representation in every level of government.
Vote for justice
Initiative 1000 is a proposal to restore affirmative action, to open doors for people of color, including Asian Americans who have been marginalized in jobs, business contracts, and educational opportunities. Support the approval of Ref. 88 so that I-1000 will be implemented in the state of Washington, to remedy discrimination for certain groups, without the use of quotas or preferential treatment. Unfortunately, some Chinese immigrants misinterpret I-1000, and narrowly define the law as limiting Asian Americans in college admissions. In solidarity with other ethnic groups, we fight against discrimination for a healthy society.
Vote for a better Washington
Some think that any taxation is evil in Washington state. Not all taxes are bad. We need money to pay for roads, ferries, light rail, buses, and bridges.
Don’t be fooled by I-976. An annual car license fee of $60 is not a big sum. To reduce it to $30 for all vehicles, without being replaced by other types of revenue to build and fix our roads, would paralyze our state’s transportation system and our infrastructure.
For a better Washington state, please vote No on I-976.
Vote for common sense and passion
I have interviewed several candidates who have shown a passion to serve. Seattle City Council candidate Alex Pedersen, former aide to Councilmember Tim Burgess, is not ideological-oriented. He is open-minded to issues.
Fred Felleman, a Port Commission candidate for Position 5, demonstrates his common sense and passion for his work at the Port. He is committed to diversity and fully supports hiring a director for the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. Once Bookda Gheisar was hired, he encouraged her to explore possibilities for the Port with a free hand.
Vote for the future
Matt Chan, a supporter of Girmay Zahilay, said Zahilay “represents the future and the promise it holds,” while King County Council District 2 incumbent Larry Gossett “touts his impressive past accomplishments, and rarely speaks of the future as his priority.
On the political stump, it is clear that Gossett is running on who he is and what he has accomplished, which is enormous, but Girmay paints a picture of a future that holds promise and plans for a better community.”
Eric Blumhagen, candidate for the Seattle School Board, contacted the Asian Weekly and other Asian leaders and organizations right after the primary. We are impressed by Blumhagen’s eagerness to learn about the needs of the Asian community. He was the only school board candidate to take the initiative to study the issues facing Asian students in his district.
Vote with your values
In Seattle City Council District 2 race (Tammy Morales vs. Mark Solomon), you will find that Morales is a community activist, while Solomon is a moderate. If you believe in activism and homeless’ rights, Morales is your choice. She is not an ally of Mayor Jenny Durkan. However, if you want someone who works well with the mayor and on the other side of Morales, Solomon is your guy.
Assunta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.