Primary election holds different results for API candidates

By Will Livesley-O’Neill
Northwest Asian Weekly

API candidates around the Puget Sound region faced their first test on Tuesday in Washington’s primary and special election. Some will move on to the general election in November, while the campaign trail ends for others who failed to finish as one of the top two candidates in their race.

The race to replace gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee as the United States representative in Washington’s 1st District featured two API candidates, state Sen. Steve Hobbs and businessman and Nepali immigrant Darshun Rauniyar. Both fell short of finishing in the top two, with Hobbs receiving nearly 6.8 percent of the vote to Rauniyar’s nearly 2.5 percent.

“We’re proud of the grassroots campaign that we ran to break through the hyperpartisan dialogue in our country,” said Randy Bolerjack, communications director for the Hobbs campaign. “Senator Hobbs is proud to represent the people of the 44th district and will continue to raise sensible, independent solutions in the state Senate.”

Rauniyar also struck an optimistic tone.

“I feel really great. I’m a first-time candidate and we really built a grassroots effort. We had thousands of donors and volunteers, and they are behind me and want me to continue to build my message,” he said.

Democrat Cyrus Habib, an Iranian American lawyer who lost his eyesight as a child, finished with more than 55 percent of the vote in the race for the 48th District’s state house position 2.

“Clearly, Cyrus has done a great job getting folks out to vote, and created a lot of excitement among voters of the 48th District. The result illustrates what we’ve been saying all along, Cyrus is an independent voice who will effectively represent the district,” said Mallory Gitt, Habib’s campaign manager, in a prepared statement for the press.

Habib will face his primary opponent, Republican Hank Myers, again in the general election.

South Korean immigrant Cindy Ryu, the former mayor of Shoreline, was also victorious in her race to be re-elected for the 32nd District’s state house position 1. Ryu, a Democrat, received more than 71 percent of the vote against her Republican challenger Randy J. Hayden. “It’s more than the 51 percent I got two years ago,” Ryu said. “I’m happy with the results, but of course this is the primary. For the general election, there will be a much higher turnout, so we’re going to campaign in a more focused way from now until November 6th.”

In the closely contested race to fill the open state house seat in the 36th District’s position 2, Iranian American Sahar Fathi fell short of a top two finish. Fathi, a Democrat and legislative aide to Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien, had received more than 12 percent of the votes counted as of press time, falling behind second-place finisher Noel Frame, Brett Phillips, and Ryan Gabriel.  “We’re still really optimistic, these are really early results,” said Fathi’s campaign manager Monisha Harrell. “Everybody feels really good about the race we’ve run and the issues Sahar has been able to raise on the trail.”

In an unusual situation in the 43rd District, Socialist Alternative candidate Kshama Sawant appeared close to qualifying for the general election in both the race for state house position 1, as a candidate on the ballot, and for position 2, as a write-in candidate.

“It’s a wake-up call for Frank Chopp and Jamie Pedersen,” said Sawant’s political director Philip Locker, referencing the two positions’ incumbent Democratic representatives. As of press time, Sawant had more than 8 percent of the vote for position 1 and write-in candidates had to have more than 10 percent for position 2. Locker was not able to comment on the campaign’s strategy if Sawant was to qualify for two races.

“I think this result represents a real shot across the bow to the out-of-touch, arrogant Democrats here in the 43rd District that a shoestring socialist candidate with no resources was able to get this percentage. The basic message is that it’s not accidental. Working people are sick and tired of the relentless corporate agenda that Olympia is carrying through,” Locker said.

“I am so grateful for everyone who has voted for me,” said Democrat Yoshie Wong, a marriage and family counselor challenging state senator Mike Carrell in the 28th District. Wong finished almost 20 percentage points behind Carrell, but will face him again in the general election. “The response from when I’ve been knocking on doors has been great, and I’ve talked to people and I’m so humbled by what people have told me. I’m very grateful, and I’m looking forward to November,” she said.

Bobby Virk, an Indian American Democrat, finished with the fourth-highest vote total in a contentious race for the 11th District’s state house position 2. Steve Bergquist won the South Seattle district’s primary with more than 28 percent of the vote.

“We feel very positive about it. We gave it our best. We knocked on more than 14,000 doors and made 13,000 phone calls,” said Virk’s campaign manager Bailey Stober. “At least 13 percent of voters thought Bobby would be the kind of leader that we need. We’re happy a Democrat came out on top, and we’ll support Steve Bergquist moving forward.”

At of press time, Filipino immigrant Sarah Sanoy-Wright ranked in second to Bergquist with over 24 percent of the votes, inching out Stephanie Bowman by about one percent.

Longtime state senator Bob Hasegawa, of the 11th District, and state representative Sharon Tomiko Santos, of the 37th District, cruised toward the general election. Hasegawa won with more than 67 percent of the vote and Santos was unopposed in the primary. Neither was available for comment as of press time.

Turnout for the primary and special election was low overall, with just over 22 percent of registered voters casting ballots statewide, and a slightly smaller percentage in King County. The general election is on Tuesday, November 6.  (end)

William Livesley-O’Neill can be reached at

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