Eight API candidates aim to topple incumbents, stake a claim in August primary

By Travis Quezon
Northwest Asian Weekly

Editor’s note: The original version of this article omitted Seattle City Council Candidate Kshama Sawant.

Eight API candidates, six of whom are female, look to make waves in the August primary election by either taking down an incumbent or staking their first claim to a seat at the table.

Metropolitan King County Council

APA candidates Naomi Wilson and Shari Song are running for separate seats in the Metropolitan King County Council.

Bellevue Mayor Conrad Lee will be seeking reelection in November but is not appearing in the primary. He is facing Lyndon Heywood, who is not accepting donations.

Wilson is a community activist and an administrator for Fred Hutchinson Research Center.

She is a second generation Korean-American, the daughter of a Vietnam Veteran, and a working single mother of two children.

“My experiences growing up here in King County in a multicultural household with a non-native English speaking parent and raising two adopted African-American children has shown me how important it is to have public officials who advocate for everyone,” Wilson said on her campaign website. “It will be this diverse background that I draw upon to secure competent and culturally relevant services for all the residents of King County.”

Wilson said she would like to provide her public health background on the Council’s District 1 seat.

Song, a candidate for the Council’s District 9 seat, is a managing broker with Prudential NW Realty Associates in Bellevue and founded and directed the Mission Church Preschool learning and education center.

“On the council, I will work full-time to focus on attracting living wage jobs, reducing gridlock on our roads and protecting our quality of life,” Song said on her campaign website.

Song is a strong advocate for transit options and responsible growth in Southeast King County to preserve farmland and open space, according to the Progressive Voters Guide, a group of progressive organizations who have reached consensus on candidates. Song has also been a leader of the Korean America Coalition in Washington, the Korean American Professional Society, and the Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS).

Song has been critical of incumbent Councilmember Reagan Dunn’s voting record.

Song’s endorsements include Washington Conservation Voters, National Women’s Political Caucus of Washington, MLK County Labor Council, Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest, NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, and The Stranger.

Seattle City Council

Seattle Central Community College Professor Kshama Sawant will be facing off against current Seattle City Councilmember Richard Conlin for a seat on the Seattle City Council in November. A native of Mumbai, India Sawant ran against State Rep. Frank Chopp in 2012, garnering 29 percent of the vote.

Sawant has she will demand for a millionaire tax to fund public education and green jobs and minimum wage to be raised to $15 if elected. She would also fight fervently against the proposed coal terminal north of Bellingham, encourage the progression of better transit connections around the city, scrap the MAP test, and highlight a dysfunctional Seattle Police Department.

Her endorsements include Real Change Founding Director Timothy Harris, President of the American Foundation of Teachers Washington Karen Strikland, the Green Party of Seattle, The Stranger, AFT Local 1789, AFSCME Local 1388, CWA Local 37083, and IBEW Local 46.

In its endorsement of Sawant, the Stranger said, “An Occupy Seattle organizer and economics instructor at Seattle Central Community College, Sawant—who is sharp as a tack and loud as an air horn—brings a lefty perspective that would widen the council’s ideological spectrum and make the progressive council member Mike O’Brien seem more moderate in comparison.”

Small business owner and Seattle Community College trustee Albert Shen is running for a seat on the Seattle City Council aganist incumbent Mike O’Brien.

Shen said the issues most important to him include capitalizing on international investment and ensuring job growth and making sure Seattle develops a smart, efficient mass transit system.

His endorsements include the Seattle Fire Fighters Local 27 and 1257, ILWU 19, the 32nd and 11th District Democrats, King County Assessor Lloyd Hara, and State Reps. Cindy Ryu, Sharon Tomiko Santos, Gael Tarleton, Cyrus Habib, and Larry Seaquist, as well as the Seattle Times.

In its editorial endorsing him, the Seattle Times called Shen “a progressive of more caution.”

Shen has also served on the board of the Susan G. Komen Puget Sound Affiliate, the Northwest Asian American Theatre, and the Seattle Chinatown–International District Preservation and Development Authority.

Mercer Island City Council

Though not appearing in the primary, Mercer Island resident Benson Wong will be vying for a seat on the Mercer Island City Council in November against current Councilmember Mike Grady. A lawyer in Seattle, Wong has served on Mercer Island Schools Foundation for over there years.

Bellevue City Council

Indian American pharmacist Vandana Slatter is a candidate for the Bellevue City Council (Position #6 seat). A victory for Slatter would disrupt the mostly conservative-leaning Council. Her opponents include 73-year-old incumbent Councilmember Don Davidson and physical therapist and community activist Lynne Robinson.

Slatter is a board member at Overlake Hospital Foundation, NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, WA State Board of Pharmacy, and Children’s Institute for Learning Differences and is a volunteer advisor to Bellevue College.

“I’m running to protect our neighborhoods, green spaces, and excellent schools,” Slatter said in a questionnaire for the nonpartisan website VOTE411.org funded by the League of Women Voters. “I have a unique combination of private and public sector experience. I am a biotech business professional, and understand Bellevue’s role as a regional tech hub in the global economy. I will bring a nonpartisan, data-driven, and fiscally responsible approach to Council.

Slatter said Bellevue’s three major challenges are creating cost-effective transportation options and traffic efficiency; keeping neighborhoods safe and protecting green spaces; and maintaining innovative enterprise, sensible development, and a well-educated workforce.

Slatter has received endorsements from Bellevue Councilmember Claudia Balducci, State Representative Cindy Ryu, State Representative Judy Clibborn, Former Representative Deb Eddy, NARAL Pro-Choice WA, Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest, OneAmerica Votes, UFCW 21, King County Young Democrats, National Women’s Political Caucus of Washington.

Board of Education

Two female API candidates are seeking election to the school boards in Bellevue and Kent.

School Board Members, or directors, are the elected governing body of the school district, serving four-year terms. The board sets the general policies of the district, which are implemented by the hired professional district Superintendent and certificated teaching staff and personnel.

My-Linh Thai is a Vietnamese American pharmacist running for Bellevue School District No. 405’s director seat No. 5. Thai has played an active role in Bellevue’s educational system, having organized a statewide math competition and a national arts competition, and served on the board of the Bellevue PTSA council.

“Bellevue School District (BSD) faces a tremendous growth in student population,” she said in a in a VOTE411.org questionnaire. “Not only does BSD need to resolve the overcrowding issue, BSD also needs to work on improving its communication with a much more diverse population where more than 80 languages are spoken in the school district.”

Thai received an endorsement from the Seattle Times for her abilities at grass roots organizing and for the relationships she has built with the school system. She has also received endorsements from 41st District Democrats and Bellevue Education Association, among others.

Maya Vengadasalam is an Indian American candidate for the Kent School District No. 415’s director seat No. 5. She is in a three-way race to replace Tim Clark, who is running for Kent Mayor. Her opponents include commercial banker Carmen Goers and cattle and crop grower Bruce Elliott.

“My commitment to school district middle school transitions, economic revitalization  legislative advocacy, funding, South King County education advocacy/equality efforts  and classroom support uniquely qualifies me for this position.

Vengadasalam would like to focus on increasing academic excellence to get children college-ready, strengthening communication with families, and encouraging community and business partnerships.

She has been a member of the Kent Mayor’s Advisory Committee and started a technology consulting firm to support non-profits and local governments. Her endorsements  include Kent Education Association and 47th District Democrats.

Seattle Mayor

The most high profile APA candidate comes in the form of Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell, who has been looking to replace Mayor Mike McGinn. Born to a Japanese American mother and an African American father, Harrell was a practicing attorney before being elected to the Seattle City Council in 2007.

Seattle’s mayoral race has been close throughout the year, with most candidates focusing their attack on the current mayor. A July poll by King 5 News put Harrell in fourth place out of nine candidates. In the SurveyUSA administered poll of 501 likely Seattle voters, 11 percent would have voted for Harrell — putting him behind State Sen. Ed Murray (22 percent), incumbent McGinn (21 percent), and architect and former councilmember Peter Steinbruek (14 percent).

Harrell has stressed that one of the top responsibilities of the next mayor will be choosing a new police chief. At the Seattle CityClub Mayoral Debate on July 16, Harrell said he would pick a chief with strong leadership abilities who was data-driven and resourceful.

On the City Council, Harrell has been a proponent of public safety issues and police reform and is the chair of the Public Safety, Civil Rights, and Technology committee.

Endorsements for Harrell include King County Democrats, 11th “Powerhouse” Legislative District Democrats, 32nd Legislative District Democrats, 37th Legislative District Democrats, King County Young Democrats, Young Democrats at the University of Washington, Seattle Building & Construction Trades Council, Laborers Local 440 (Street Pavers), Juvenile Detention Guild, and Former Seattle Mayor Wes Uhlman, among others. (end)

For more information and to read statements and biographies submitted by all candidates, visit http://www.kingcounty.gov/elections/currentelections/201308/candidates.aspx.

Travis Quezon can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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