Column: Before voting for King County executive, consider a past racial discrimination lawsuit

By Mark Lee
Northwest Asian Weekly

NWAW columnist Mark Lee

NWAW columnist Mark Lee

Editor’s note: This is the launch of a new monthly Northwest Asian Weekly opinion column by Mark Lee. Each month, Lee will raise topical questions and discuss issues that may be relevant to our readers. Note that, in writing for the NWAW, Lee is not representing the viewpoints of any organization. His columns comprise his own personal opinions.
In a recent poll, Susan Hutchison was shown to be the frontrunner in the race for King County executive. The King County executive is the chief executive officer of the county, supervising administrative offices and executive departments, established by the King County charter or created by the county council. He or she will also be the chief peace officer of the county.

In other words, this position holds a lot of power.

It can also be a stepping stone to higher profile offices, such as how Gary Locke moved on to become the governor and now hold a post in the Obama administration.
Hutchison was a former newscaster at KIRO. She was replaced by Kristy Lee (who is no longer at KIRO). In 2003, Hutchison’s attorney filed a lawsuit against KIRO and other defendants that included claims of race, age, and gender discrimination.

In the lawsuit, the complaint made specific reference to the fact that her replacement was younger and an Asian female. Part of the actual language of the complaint reads, “[KIRO, Inc.] replaced the plaintiff from the prime news anchor spots with an Asian female who is substantially younger than the plaintiff. This Asian female has considerably less experience than the plaintiff and is not nearly as qualified.”

Hutchison was claiming that, as a white female being replaced by an Asian female, it was an act of racial discrimination. This complaint raises several questions about Hutchison’s attitude toward Asians.

The first question is whether there was any evidence to support Hutchison’s racial discrimination claim.

The complaint claimed that Hutchison was better qualified than her replacement.

If that’s the main concern, why wasn’t it simply an issue of age discrimination? What does race have to do with anything? Was there any evidence of racial discrimination other than the mere fact that Lee was Asian?

Was age discrimination more likely a motivating factor in any discriminatory intent?

If there was little evidence that Hutchison was discriminated against racially, then why was the claim made?  Was it because she resented Asians?

Specific details about what happened behind the scenes at KIRO are not easy to obtain. The court records contain more than 500 pages of sealed documents.

Sealed documents cannot be viewed by the general public without a court order. Most of these documents are materials submitted by the defendants in an effort to dismiss the case in what is called a summary judgment proceeding. The parties signed an agreed order so that the documents would not be made public.

Some of the documents may support the defendants’ arguments about why they thought the case should be dismissed. Other documents are probably declarations from witnesses who could have likely had some factual details.

Perhaps this information could shed light on some of my questions. Howeverm at this point, they are not available to the general public.

To my knowledge, Hutchison has not previously held political office. However, being a former newscaster, she probably has more name recognition than the other
candidates.

This factor alone can give her a considerable advantage over the other candidates.

The public should be able to have some insight into Hutchison’s background if she is going to be considered for political office.

The Stranger recently ran an article detailing various aspects of her support for Republican causes, which makes it appear that her political leanings are toward the right. Simply being right wing does not equate to being racist toward Asians.

However, in my opinion, when the complaint about hiring an Asian newscaster is considered, it raises the question about whether Hutchison adopts the belief among some right wing circles that whites are the victims of “reverse discrimination” or that minorities are taking jobs away from whites.

The purpose of this column is not to draw definitive conclusions but to point out that when a candidate runs for a major political office, it is fair to scrutinize her past actions and question what those actions could mean in regard to how she would perform as an elected official. ♦

Whether you agree or disagree with him, Mark Lee would be happy to receive your comments. His next column will be printed in June.

Lee can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

One Response to “Column: Before voting for King County executive, consider a past racial discrimination lawsuit”

  1. Bettie Luke says:

    Mark;
    Thank you for your article about Susan Hutchison, candidate for King County Executive. I would not have known about her lawsuit regarding replacement “from the prime news anchor spots with an Asian female who is substantially younger”
    I agree with the content of your article, which provides relevant background information. Your article was written in a fair but firm manner.

    Bettie Luke

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