A senior deputy King County Prosecutor, running as a Democrat, is early out of the block in a high stakes 2017 race that will decide control of the Washington State Senate, and with it the Washington Legislature.
Manka Dhingra will run for the Senate from the 45th District, an Eastside district held by Republican State Sen. Andy Hill until his death last year. The seat is being filled temporarily by two-time GOP gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi.
The stakes are simple: Power.
The Senate currently holds 24 Republicans, one renegade Democrat who votes with the GOP -- and gives Republicans control of the Legislature's upper chamber -- and 24 Democrats. The State House of Representatives has a narrow 50-48 Democratic majority.
If Democrats win in the 45th, a district easily carried by Hillary Clinton last year, they take control of the Legislature.
The Dhingra candidacy was rolled out Monday by Northwest Passage Consulting, in political boilerplate prose. The candidate was quoted as saying: "I am a working mom who sits in traffic every day. I appreciate that dynamic growth of our economy comes with challenges to our quality of life."
The candidate, however, is better than that. She has worked in mental health and violence prevention, and co-founded Chaya, a non-profit that works to reduce systemic violence in the Puget Sound area's growing Asian communities.
Dhingra is a past recipient of the State PSTA Golden Acorn Award. She is the mother of two children who attend Redmond Middle School and Redmond High School.
"I anticipate there will be other candidates that enter the race," said Andrew Villeneuve, head of the Northwest Progressive Institute and an active Democrat in the 45h District.
The Democrats made a major 2014 effort in the Kirkland-Redmond district, but Hill's local popularity was impossible to overcome. Hill had in one Senate term become Republicans' chief Olympia budget writer.
As well, a big chunk of money from California's "green" billionaire Tom Steyer was invested in the 45th District, only to disappear without being seen by Democrats working at the grass roots level. In the meantime, Hill raised nearly $900,000 for his reelection campaign.
Dhingra chairs King County's Therapeutic Alternative Unit, where she oversees the Regional Mental Health Court, Veterans Court and the Community Assessment and Referral for Diversion program.
The first hint that Republicans fear her came in an email blast less than 90 minutes after Dhingra's announcement.
A Republican website called Shift Washington, started by dead enders from Rob McKenna's 2012 gubernatorial campaign, responded with name-calling boilerplate of its own. It described Dhingra as a "radical leftist with values that don't come close to filling the district she claims to want to represent."
It's a curious statement to make about a senior prosecutor (working under a Republican boss), active in her children's schools, whose husband is a Distinguished Engineer at SpaceX and formerly a Microsoft executive.
Boilerplate can grate on the intelligence, and the Redmond-Kirkland area is populated by some of the state's most educated voters.
They'll expect more than "working mom" and laugh at "radical leftist." But they will not likely find enlightenment in consultant-crafted direct mailings.
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