By Ruth Bayang
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Promising “a New Deal for King County,” Joe Nguyen announced in a news conference on April 27 that he is running for King County Executive.
Surrounded by supporters and onlookers at Hing Hay Park, Nguyen said, “It’s time for a King County government that acts as if—and not just says—‘You belong here.’ It’s time for a King County government that reflects the care and compassion our communities demonstrate every day. It’s time for a King County government that listens to the voices of those furthest from power and centers the lived experiences of those navigating a society that wasn’t built for them.” The current King County Executive, Dow Constantine, has announced that he will run for re-election. If he wins, it would be his fourth term. Constantine has already secured early endorsements from Gov. Jay Inslee, former Gov. Gary Locke, Bellevue Councilmember Janice Zahn, Burien Councilmember Sofia Aragon, four labor unions, and 13 King County mayors, according to an email from Constantine’s campaign sent to Northwest Asian Weekly.
Nguyen currently serves on the Washington state Senate— the first Vietnamese American ever elected to that role. His announcement comes days after the end of the 2021 legislative session in Olympia.
Criminal justice reform is a major part of Nguyen’s platform, as he ran for Senate following the death of Tommy Le, a Burien man who was fatally shot by a King County sheriff’s deputy in 2017.
He plans on using the county’s $12 billion budget to scale up crime prevention and community services, divert youth from incarceration, and create more police accountability to build trust with law enforcement.
On his official campaign website, Nguyen also lists housing affordability, homelessness, climate change, transportation, and creating a more just economy, among his key priorities.
“Politics should be about people, not careers, and it’s increasingly clear that governments run by transactional politicians do not serve communities,” Nguyen said.
Nguyen volunteered for Constantine’s first campaign in 2009 and he beat Constantine’s current deputy chief of staff, Shannon Braddock, for the Senate seat he now holds.
Nguyen says it’s time for a change.
“Decisions from the top down are easy—but they do not solve real and systemic problems. Engaging communities, being mindful of the people you serve, adjusting systems and behaviors to accommodate the people you work for—that’s good governing.”
Nguyen’s parents came here as refugees from the Vietnam War. They were resettled in public housing in White Center, where they raised Nguyen and his siblings. His father was a mechanic and his mother worked as a seamstress before a tragic car accident left his father quadraplegic.
In the state legislature, Nguyen sponsored a bill to expand benefits under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program—a program he says kept him and his family fed following his father’s accident.
As part of his housing affordability plan, Nguyen said he plans to create alternative pathways to homeownership for communities of color who may not have access to intergenerational wealth, especially in unincorporated parts of King County.
Outside of politics, Nguyen is a senior manager at Microsoft—working to provide job training that supports all people with the skills needed to succeed in a technologically dependent economy.
He lives in West Seattle with his wife Tallie, a former special education teacher in the Highline Public School District, and they have three children under the age of 5.
Ruth can be reached at email@example.com.