Constantine vs. Phillips

As the largest minority in King County, the Asian vote may make or break these candidates

Candidates for King County Executive Dow Constantine (left) and Larry Phillips both appeared at the Chinatown Seafair Parade on July 19 looking eerily similar in blue shirts. Their similarities do not necessarily transfer over to their politics though. Photos by George Liu/NWAW.

Candidates for King County Executive Dow Constantine (left) and Larry Phillips both appeared at the Chinatown Seafair Parade on July 19 looking eerily similar in blue shirts. Their similarities do not necessarily transfer over to their politics though. Photos by George Liu/NWAW.

By Yuki Nakajima
Northwest Asian Weekly

Candidates for King County Executive Dow Constantine and Larry Phillips were both in the Chinatown Seafair Parade last Sunday, July 19. They have both organized fund raising events in the International District. They have been present at many Asian community dinners. They are both Democrats. And they both even wore blue shirts in the parade.

But how would they differ as King County Executive?

Their backgrounds

CONSTANTINE was raised in West Seattle and graduated from the University of Washington (UW) with a bachelor’s degree in political science. He served as a legislative intern to the 34th District state Sen. Phil Talmadge. He earned a law degree in 1989. In 1992, he earned a master’s degree in urban planning.

In 1996, Constantine won the election to take a seat at Washington’s House of Representatives and was re-elected in 1998. He moved up to the State Senate in 2000, and served as the vice-chair of the Powerful Ways and Means Committee and the vice-chair of the Judiciary Committee. He was appointed to the King County Council in January 2002 and has been elected four times since.

PHILLIPS was raised in Mount Baker and graduated from the UW. After earning a law degree, he moved to work in Washington, D.C. as a legislative aid for Sen. Henry Jackson. Phillips went on to earn a masters degree in labor law.

He returned to King County to manage Randy Revelle’s campaign for King County Executive. Phillips was later elected by the voters in the 36th district to serve in the Washington State House of Representatives. He served two terms in the legislature.

In 2003, Phillips was elected chair of the King County Council and served as the chair of the council’s budget committee in 2008.

Their motives for running

PHILLIPS decided to run to be King County Executive because he is very attached to King County. He says that King County is a community of extraordinary beauty and energetic people. “There are big challenges facing us right now for the county government, for the region for our economy, for the transportation,” he said. “I think I have the best executive experiences of everybody running this campaign and the deepest knowledge of county government, and the highest energy level for effectively meeting the future well. What I want to do is draw on natural pride, optimism, and hope for the future.”

CONSTANTINE thought about running for King County Executive when he became the chair of county council in January. He decided that he needed to run to “bring county change and innovation for the very new era.”

“When I’m executive, we are going to open the government innovation and transparency to new ideas from county employees from the public,” Constantine said. “We are going to make sure we have a government that is innovative as people who make King County their home.”

Importance of votes from the Asian community

CONSTANTINE says that when he was in the public office, his office was able to represent not only diverse communities, but specifically the Chinatown/International District.

“That is a wonderful opportunity overall to work with many leaders to work on programs that provide particular needs for both immigrant communities and longtime Asian American communities,” he said. “We have a chance to build a good working relationship and this is going to be very helpful [in] governing King County.”

PHILLIPS says that voters in the Asian community are very important to him because of the voice they bring to the county and his administration. “I grew up and was raised in Mount Baker, so I grew up in a community that was very diverse,” Phillips said. “That rich tapestry of diversity is really the value of King County. [The] Asian community adds to that rich tapestry that we have here. It makes us very interesting as a place because of their history, their contributions, and what could be accomplished together in the future.”

The Walk for Rice 2009 event, from left to right: Larry Phillips, Seattle City Council’s Richard Conlin, Asian Counseling and Referral Service’s Diane Narasaki, and Dow Constantine. Photo by George Liu.

The Walk for Rice 2009 event, from left to right: Larry Phillips, Seattle City Council’s Richard Conlin, Asian Counseling and Referral Service’s Diane Narasaki, and Dow Constantine. Photo by George Liu.

Their ties to the Asian community

CONSTANTINE connects with the Asian community by discussing the work he has done in supporting Asian community institutions, which includes helping to fund $100,000 to the ongoing development of the Seattle Chinese Garden and helping to fund $10,000 to the appropriation for the Asian & Pacific Islander Women & Family Safety Center, an organization that strives to prevent women’s violence and human trafficking.

PHILLIPS approaches the Asian community by finding out its issues in terms of how he can help. He says he makes sure to stay in touch by going to the events, and communicating with people within the Asian community who know him. He also gets involved with projects that the community cares about.

Constantine vs. Phillips

PHILLIPS says that he has a breadth and depth of experience in comparison to Constantine. “I’ve been an executive for both the public sector, specifically the county government, and the private sector, and I was chief staff of King County Executive for four years and carried a number of responsibilities in terms of executive decision making,” he said. “The biggest distinction between myself and my competitors is [they have] no job training as executive.”

CONSTANTINE, on the other hand, says he is the only candidate that represents suburban cities, rural areas, and Seattle neighborhoods. He says that he has a strong record as a reformer who is not afraid to lead on tough issues.

“I believe I am the strongest candidate because I have led by example and am not afraid to stand up to the status quo and demand positive change,” he said. “We need a new leadership and vision to take our county and region forward.”

How the Asian community can benefit

CONSTANTINE says that if he becomes King County Executive, he would hire and promote Asian Pacific Americans (APA) to positions throughout his administration and propose the appointment of qualified APA judges at the county state and federal level.

“I recognize the great need for a sense of place for different APA ethnic groups to gather and spread their cultural heritage,” Constantine said. “With the APA community being 13 percent of the county’s population and continuing to grow, giving our region better transit options, strengthening the local community through job creation, and reforming government to provide the best services are [part of] the vision I have to benefit all communities.”

PHILLIPS also plans to hire people from the Asian community if he wins the election.

“[If I become King County Executive], you would get strong ties with me for life. I would create a [precedence] of hiring Asian Americans into the administration at the highest level of the executive office — [like] department of directors, and division managers,” Phillips said. “I’m the one who not only cares about the Asian community’s issues, but I get them accomplished.”

Their final thoughts

PHILLIPS has the endorsements of the Honorables Larry Gossett, Claudia Kauffman, Bruce Harrell, Lloyd Hara, as well as Al Sugiyama, Ruth Woo, Sutapa Basu, and others.

“I’m full of pride and optimism, and hopeful for our corrective future,” Phillips said. “We are all going to benefit a revived economy and that’s true for everybody who lives and works and loves this county. Join our administration and let’s meet these challenges, and together we will have a brighter tomorrow. We share the same values.”

CONSTANTINE’S campaign is also supported by leaders such as Rep. Bob Hasegawa, former Reps. Velma Veloria and Kip Tokuda, and community leaders Diane Narasaki, Hyeok Kim, Mark Okazaki, Bob Santos, and others.

“My commitment to the APA community is sincere and genuine. Being raised here in the Northwest and being able to maintain support from numerous community members of the APA throughout the years demonstrates that your support will not be taken for granted,” Constantine said. “I urge each of you to join in support of my candidacy and vision of King County as the very best place to live and work.” ♦

Yuki Nakajima can be reached at

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5 Responses to “Constantine vs. Phillips”

  1. Kenzie says:

    Larry Phillips is also endorsed by Ruth Woo. He has a history of hiring affirmatively, he has an African American and Latina on his current staff. One of his other aides is caucausion and married to a Japanese fellow. So if this isn’t diverse, I don’t know what is. Dow represents Skyway, White Center, parts of Beacon Hill and the International District. Since he’s been on the council, he has not hired ANY person of color. This is a SHAME. We crack up when told he has a “token” asian/hapa partner. An asian field director in his campaign does not speak much. It may be a volunteer, non-paying job. Larry Phillips is the better candidate for the Asian community. He walks the talk.

  2. Kimiharu says:

    If Larry’s staff is so professional why do they seem to spend all their time posting nonsense about Dow. Larry doesn’t have any Asians on his staff either. The truth is they only have four staff members and the goal is to assemble the best staff possible not to try and hire a representative of every minority group. Considering Dow’s longtime partner is an Asian woman I doubt he would have a problem hiring Asians. Now get back to work you Phillips stooge.

  3. Mei Liu says:

    Dow made a campaign promise that he would promote APA to his staff. If we base the future on his past, he wouldn’t hire ANY. It’s very telling that he has not even one ethnic minority, of Asian background or otherwise, is a member of his official staff considering the diversity of his own district (which includes the International District!). I’ve visited Councilman Phillips’ office and the diversity of King county is definitely reflected in his very friendly and professional staff. All APAs beware of anything Dow says, especially about our community.

    • Atsuko says:

      Larry has one black person on his staff, big deal. Dow’s field director is Asian and an active member of the APA community.


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