By Tiffany Ran
Northwest Asian Weekly
At the time that Patty Murray spoke at her election party on the evening of Nov. 2, she had a lead of 51 percent to Dino Rossi’s 49 percent in unofficial returns. As is often the case with Washington state, the race would be a close one and voters would likely go to bed not knowing the final outcome. At their respective election-night parties, Rossi and Murray gave thanks to the many volunteers and staff members that worked tirelessly on their campaigns — knocking on doors, holding signs, speaking to voters, organizing events, and working at the phone banks.
Michael Scheele, a Japanese American and political director for the King County Young Republicans, was one of those dedicated volunteers. His regular duties for the Young Republicans involve making arrangements for speakers, contacting affiliate groups and leaders for events, and connecting young voters.
“I’ve been involved in politics since the early 90s in the area, but I’ve been interested in the subject since I was a child,” said Scheele. “The ideas that Ronald Reagan espoused in the 1980s about limited government and strong national defense for restoring pride in America and advancing the American dream, those spoke to me even as an 8-year-old. Those ideas still stick with me.”
Scheele spent an hour at the phone bank and helped set up the Young Republican’s victory party at Earl’s Restaurant in Bellevue before heading over to the King County GOP election-night party at the Bellevue Hilton.
Misty Shock, a Korean American and new media director for the Washington State Democrats, spent her Halloween doorbelling for Democratic candidate Patty Murray.
“It’s been a crazy few weeks, but things are looking good,” said Shock.
Many young Asian Americans involved in Washington’s recent general election. They are part of a large group of young voters in Washington working to move the polls and inspire others to vote.
“Some people say that if you don’t vote, you can’t complain. My theory is if you don’t like the candidates that are coming out, you need to be a part of the process. Otherwise, you’re just griping to the wind. You don’t always get the perfect candidate[s], but they’re the people who showed up and are willing to take the time and [make] sacrifices. If people are dissatisfied, they need to be a part of the solution, either volunteering or supporting people who are up to the challenge,” said Scheele.
“I think it’s great for anybody to get involved with politics and have a say in and take action on issues that affect them,” said Shock, “As new media director, I want to make that process easier and more accessible for people. Because Asian Americans share such a strong cultural background and bond, I think they have the strong potential to be a potent force and advocate for issues that affect their community.”
Jinyoung Chung Lee, a Korean American and Rossi’s executive assistant and scheduler, said, “This is an important election because most of my friends and I are in a position to actually do something. We are young enough where not all of us have multiple children and mortgages, but old enough earning disposable incomes and are accelerating professionally.”
Advocacy and state politics
Downstairs from Murray’s election party at the Westin Seattle, Kristina Logsdon, a Japanese American, and Heather Villanueva, a Filipino American, with other members of People of Color for Progress, Win/Win Network, and other advocacy groups, watched the results of the ballot initiatives.
“A lot of advocacy groups are doing advocacy on their own but are not really hooked into the big players in state politics like the labor union, SEIU (Service Employees International Union), and some other groups,” said Villanueva, a public affairs program assistant for the SEIU who worked with Logsdon on furthering initiatives.
“We really need to examine if we’re making across the board cuts, that we actually all feel the cuts the same way. When you completely cut off programs for immigrant services, that’s not equal to whatever cuts there are somewhere else. We need to look at how these cuts disproportionately affect people of color.”
Ballot Initiative Network is focused on informing immigrant or disenfranchised communities about ballots that could benefit them for the long run.
“There is definitely a sense that no one has come to talk about issues as a community in a way that pertains to us. Whenever election season happens, sometimes, there is an effort to reach out to communities, but it’s like a three month thing and then people leave. So there is a lot of trust that needs to be gained, too,” said Logsdon, director of the Ballot Initiative Network, a project of the nonprofit Win/Win Network, a collaborative effort by members of the progressive community.
Halfway through the night, the crowd cheered as results were updated, but Logsdon carried a knowing, worried expression. “This might turn out to be a depressing night,” said Logsdon.
She was referring to Initiative 1098 and Referendum 52, which Villanueva argues would bring money into the state and dedicate money to education and health care. The two measures were rejected at the polls.
Asian American leaders are elected
This year, seven Asian Americans out of 94 candidates moved on to the general election from the primaries.
“The bottom line is, politicians make all the policy decisions for us,” said Cindy Ryu, who ran for state representative position 1, 32nd district. “Whether we’re lawyers, dentists, doctors — those are the things Asian parents would want us to be, guess who makes the decisions for us? Politicians,” said Ryu.
Ryu won the state representative position, defeating Art Corday 58.83 percent to 41.17 percent. Out of the seven Asian American candidates, Sens. Sharon Tomiko Santos, Bob Hasegawa, and Paull Shin, all incumbents, were re-elected. Tomiko Santos ran unopposed. Sen. Steve Hobbs and Dave Schmidt are in a virtual dead heat, with Hobbs leading by a mere eight votes (at press time). Sen. Chris Marr lost his seat to newcomer Michael Baumgartner. Diane Toledo lost to Joe McDermott for a King County Council seat.
“It is very important that people who care about this country participate. Campaigns, politicians, and everyone associated with it do take notice if you voted. Everybody has access to that information.
They don’t know what you voted for or who you voted for but they know whether you voted or not. That is a big deal for me as to why we should participate,” said Ryu.
As the evening wound down, volunteers at the GOP election-night party packed up, popping the red, white, and blue balloons and taking down signs. Scheele, Lee, and others remained optimistic as there were still many votes that had not been counted.
“From the several times we’ve met with the APA community throughout the campaign, we have heard repeatedly that unpredictable regulation and soaring taxes are killing businesses,” said Lee. Sen. Murray has not visited or maintained a relationship with the APA community in 18 years, whereas Dino has met with the APA, Slavic, Hispanic and African-American communities over 15 times in his 5 month campaign.”
“I support Patty Murray because I strongly believe she is fighting for us and that she holds true to the values that motivated her to run in the first place, such as fighting for kids and the less fortunate,” said Shock.
Murray’s optimistic speech left her supporters in high spirits, but the news came shortly afterward that the Republicans captured the House while Democrats held onto the Senate. Murray still carries a slight lead over Rossi, 50.81 percent to 49.19 percent (at press time). A deciding factor could be the mail-in ballots that could be postmarked as late as midnight on Election Day. Both Republicans and Democrats are said to have lawyers on standby for inevitable legal battles when the final decision is made, according to the Seattle Times. ♦
Tiffany Ran can be reached at email@example.com.