Its time to reclaim a majority with Manka Dhingra.
It's time to reclaim a majority with Manka Dhingra. Courtesy of Manka Dhingra

There’s a lot of interest in the special election in the 45th Legislative District in Washington. It’s between two young women of color with drastically different resumes. The race has drawn attention and endorsements from numerous organizations and political leaders, including former vice president Joe Biden. The race also broke a spending record last week, becoming the most expensive legislative race in state history.

Clearly, this is a high-stakes race. At risk is the potentially deciding vote on crucial issues that will impact Washingtonians for years to come. If Democrats gain one seat in the State Senate, they will have a majority in the state Legislature. Progressive champions will have more room to put forth bold policies in the abbreviated 2018 legislative session. And organizations like ours will be able to play offense on issues like women’s health and gun safety. Most importantly, Washingtonians will have one more leader in Olympia with a seat at the table that represents their values.

Progressive change has been thwarted many times over the past five years due in large part to a Republican-dominated state Senate. For example, the House passed the Reproductive Parity Act, a bill ensuring all women’s reproductive health issues —including abortion—would be covered in all health insurance plans, but Senate Republicans refused to take action. The Act had bipartisan support, including the needed votes in the Senate to pass, and polled really well among Washington voters. Yet Senate Republican leadership refused to hold a vote.

If the Democrats reclaim a majority, we will be able to make progress on the issues that Washingtonians are loud and clear about: infrastructure, public health, and public safety. Just last week, a poll found that 7 out of 10 Washingtonians want their elected officials to do more to prevent gun violence. We need another seat at the table for a legislator who shares the same priorities and bias towards action. Manka Dhingra should be that legislator.

Manka oversees King County’s Mental Health Court, Veteran’s Court and Community Assessment for Referral and Diversion Program. She is a longtime advocate for women and immigrant rights and co-founded an organization that works to end systemic violence through education, prevention and organizing. She also served on the Seattle Police Department Muslim, Arab and Sikh Advisory Council to help address hate crimes. Manka has spent her career listening to citizens and advocating on their behalf. She understands the importance of representation, of having a seat at the table and of using that seat to do what is right.

The issues that are a top priority for Washingtonians—gun violence, access to health care and reproductive care, sustainable infrastructure and public safety—all disproportionately impact women and families. Having another progressive female legislator who lives this experience while also legislating it, is key to implementing effective policy. Those closest to the issues must be involved in crafting the solutions.

The current makeup of the Legislature no longer reflects this. From 1993 to 2004, Washington state ranked first for the highest percentage of women in the state legislature. Currently, a measly 18 of the 49 members in the State Senate are women. And only nine of those women are Democrats. We need more representation from progressive female leaders, like Manka, in Olympia to ensure our voices are heard.

We’re tired of one dominant demographic deciding what’s best for our bodies, our families, and our communities. Aren’t you?

Jessyn Farrell is a former state representative who represented Washington's 46th Legislative District.

Elaine Rose is CEO for Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest.

Renee Hopkins is CEO of the Alliance For Gun Responsibility.