Last Tuesday's election marked a historic day for women of color in Seattle and across Washington State. While the first out transgender legislators were elected nationwide in the so-called “off year” election of 2017, Seattle elected its first female mayor in 91 years; and its first out lesbian mayor ever. Jenny Durkan defeated Cary Moon in an expensive race that saw hundreds of thousands of dollars poured in by outside groups on behalf of Durkan, while Cary Moon self-funded about half of her own campaign.
Even still, those figures represent a drop in the bucket compared to the 45th Legislative District race between Manka Dhingra and Jinyoung Englund. During that race a total of $9 million was spent between the candidates and their allied groups. Dhingra won the seat on Tuesday by 10% of the vote, an improvement on her August primary showing, and an indication of how strong the national political environment has swung against down-ballot Republicans. With the changing balance of power in the Washington State Senate, there will be new opportunities to enact policies tearing down barriers and uplifting women and girls statewide. Equal pay, expanded state-level homeless services funding, and early education are some possible efforts that will now have a chance to move through the Senate in Olympia. Firesteel will be fighting alongside our partners for these policies and for a much-delayed passage of the capital budget necessary to fund the Washington Housing Trust Fund.
Seattle also elected Teresa Mosqueda to replace Kirsten Harris-Talley, who was appointed to fill Tim Burgess’ seat when he took over the Mayor’s office. This means that the Seattle City Council will have six of its nine seats occupied by women, four of whom are women of color. This shift also represents a change in the political make-up of the chamber, with more liberal members than even as recently as the tenure of Mike McGinn.
King County voters also overwhelmingly approved the Veterans, Seniors, and Human Services Levy lid lift, an increase of 150% on the previous levy to support a broad variety of services. Since 2006, 2056 units of affordable housing were built with funding provided by the Levy.
The Levy also supports important programs across King County such as YWCA Passage Point, a restorative justice housing program that focuses on the reunification of formerly incarcerated parents with their children. As Larsell Hollingsworth said, “The supportive housing and services I received have helped me avoid the pitfalls of re-offending. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to be a part of an inclusive community who works to dismantle systems of oppression with courage, compassion, and commitment.” With the success of our campaign to pass the levy, even more people who have been denied a fair chance in our justice system can receive the tools they need to make their lives and families whole again. As Larsell says of his outlook after building community at Passage Point, “I recognized my life was destined for greatness.”
Thank you to all who turned out to vote and made your voices heard in this campaign. With new elected officials comes new opportunities to deliver on the promises of equity and social justice in our communities.
Eric Bronson is the Firesteel Advocacy Manager at YWCA. He manages the Firesteel blog in addition to its social media streams and action initiatives. A graduate of Oberlin College, Eric focuses on the intersection of race and gender within the American political economy.
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