Northwest Asian Weekly
More than 120 members of ethnic media and more than 25 candidates networked and discussed hot topic issues at the Sea Beez’ Candidates Meet and Greet, held at the Nagomi Tea House in Seattle’s International District on August 22. Sea Beez, an organization providing opportunities for ethnic communities and media, coordinated the event with co-sponsors the 98118 Coalition of Immigrants and Refugees and the Hispanic Media Association. The event offered an opportunity for ethnic media to meet and build relationships with the candidates.
“[It’s] important for candidates to see the diversity of the ethnic media,” said Sea Beez founder, Julie Pham, “that we do not represent one solid voting block, that each ethnic media organization has the responsibility of representing the concerns of their particular ethnic community.”
State representative and 11th District Senate candidate Bob Hasegawa gave a rundown at the event on the past legislative session. Gubernatorial candidates Jay Inslee and Rob McKenna, attorney general candidates Bob Ferguson and Reagan Dunn, and secretary of state candidates Kathleen Drew and Kim Wyman attended the event and mingled with reporters.
This year, Washington voters will consider amending the state constitution for two items: SJR 5223 and SJR 8221. SJR 5223 would amend the constitution to grant colleges more flexibility in operating investment funds and amend the state constitution to further limit the state debt ceiling. Hasegawa said he opposes SJR 5223, fearing it would tie the hands of legislators, even when it came to new efforts to expand the economy and create jobs.
This year’s meet and greet also presented debates on the anti-marriage equality bill referendum, Referendum 74, and the charter schools initiative, Initiative 1240.
“Every year, we want to choose issues that have strong support for both sides of the arguments and where the public would benefit from having more information on the topic,” said Norman Sigler, debate coordinator for the event.
“[Referendum] 74 and I-1240 were chosen because Equality and Education have always been important topics within ethnic communities.”
For the Initiative 1240 debate, Washington State Commission on African American Affairs Executive Director Rosalund Jenkins and DFER Washington State Director Lisa MacFarlane argued for the initiative saying that the initiative in favor of charter schools was modeled after a national law that takes the best of the legislation from 41 states. Education blogger Melissa Westbrook and Everett school counselor Lillian Ortiz-Self argued against the initiative saying that charter schools offered no special advantages and that the focus should instead be on underfunded public education.
During the Referendum 74 debate, State Rep. Marko Liias and Reverent Pat Hunter argued for Referendum 74, citing the substantial difference between a second-class domestic partnership and full marriage equality for couples. Chris Plant of Preserve Marriage Washington argued to reject the referendum arguing that approving the referendum is a fundamental change in the definition of marriage while adding little to the rights given to same sex couples under the 2009 domestic partnership law.
Both issues are not new to Washington voters. Washington has had a domestic partnership law since 2007, which was sustained despite a referendum challenge. Washington voters have also defeated three past attempts to create charter schools.
The event was a community effort with members of the media working to help secure speakers, and inviting candidates, reporters, and community members. (end)