By Faith Noh
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Kim-Khanh Van would be the first Asian American woman to be on the Metropolitan King County Council since 1973, if she beats Reagan Dunn on Nov. 2.
As a refugee and immigrant from Vietnam, Van hopes to represent communities that are often neglected in policy-making, and she hopes to unseat Dunn, the incumbent for District 9.
“It’s a privilege, an honor, and a responsibility to make sure that our policy reflects the Asian American lived experience and professional experience,” Van said.
Some of her main priorities are building affordable housing and reducing homelessness, ensuring public safety by addressing gun violence and hate crimes, and investing in transit and transportation.
Van has a long history of representing the Asian American community in the Puget Sound. She is the co-founder of AAPI Against Hate, as well as the president of the Vietnamese American Community of Seattle and Sno-King Counties.
Van also runs her own law office where she manages cases on immigration, personal injury, and family. Van was also a volunteer attorney for the Northwest Immigrants’ Rights Project.
As a Renton City Councilmember, Van decided to run for the King County Council because she wants policies that reflect the various cultures and communities that are often missing from the conversation, such as the Asian American community.
“If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu,” Van said. “The policies that we’ve had really neglected Asian American communities. When we talk about racism, it’s either a Black or white issue, when in fact, there are issues happening to our community members.”
Another motivation for Van was her dissatisfaction with Dunn. Last year, he was the only council member who voted against the resolution to declare racism as a public health crisis.
“When our elders get slammed to the pavement across the nation, we need to come together to make sure that we have a voice,” Van said, referencing the rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Furthermore, Van emphasized the importance of standing in solidarity with all marginalized and underrepresented communities, including BIPOC, immigrants, seniors, and veterans.
“Our lived experiences are within the greater context of King County, as we know from the Gang of Four,” Van said.
On the other hand, this race has been an uphill climb for Van. Her opponent is not only a four-term incumbent, but he has also received 55% of the votes during the primary election in August while Van was in second with 22%.
“It was not an easy journey thus far, not that I was assuming it would be, but definitely the experience of my race and my gender really came into play in terms of barriers to overcome at times.”
However, Van explained that these structural and cultural barriers actually became opportunities. Her lived experience as a woman of color has empowered her to claim her seat at the table and to amplify the voices of the vulnerable and the underrepresented.
Van is endorsed by many fellow Asian American politicians, such as state Rep. My-Linh Thai.
“I believe in representation and elected leaders must represent the community they serve,” Thai stated. “Ms. Van is the candidate who will bring voice and representation to the council that reflects the growth and diversity from her community.”
Despite the odds stacked against her, Van continues to march forward with strong support from many individuals and organizations.
“It’s just too often that Asian Americans are left out and left behind,” Van said. “It’s time for us to have experience in leadership.”
Faith can be reached at email@example.com.