Danni Askini says she would be the first openly trans person to ever run for the Washington State Legislature.
If she wins, Danni Askini says she will be the first openly trans person to ever serve in the Washington State Legislature. courtesy of danni askini

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After two months of lobbying against the Republican assholes launching harmful attacks on trans people in the Washington State Legislature, you'd think activist Danni Askini would be ready to get out of Olympia for good. Instead, she wants voters to send her there next year.

Today, Askini, 33, is announcing her run for an open Washington State House of Representatives seat in the 43rd legislative district, covering Capitol Hill, South Lake Union, Wallingford, and part of the University District. If she succeeds, Askini, founder and director of the Seattle-based Gender Justice League, would be the first openly trans person ever elected to the Washington State Legislature.

"It will send a really powerful message that extreme attacks in Olympia from ultra-conservative Republicans are not going to deter people from fighting for our shared values in the 43rd," Askini says. "I think it would have a lot of meaning to the whole community."

Askini says housing affordability, homelessness, and the rising costs of higher education—"combined with the ridiculous amount of attacks [on trans rights] in Olympia"—inspired her to run. The seat in the 43rd is being vacated by Rep. Brady Walkinshaw, who's running for Congress. With Walkinshaw's exit, the open seat has been expected to draw a long list of progressive contenders. Askini may be the farthest left yet. Also in the race: Housing advocate Nicole Macri, LGBT advocate Thomas Pitchford, environmental advocate Sameer Ranade, and lawyer Dan Shih, all Democrats. (Askini has supported socialists Kshama Sawant and Jess Spear, but says she will run for the legislature as a Democrat.)

Among the legislation Askini says she would support if elected: A bill included in the city's Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) recommendations to give landlords tax breaks if they set aside affordable housing; protections for renters against discrimination based on source of income; and increased funding for homelessness, affordable housing, and foster care programs.

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Askini, who's opposed to a state senate proposal to clear and build a fence around the Seattle homeless encampment known as "the Jungle" says, "Talking about building fences is a huge distraction that isn't actually helping people where they're at."

Before founding the LGBTQ advocacy group the Gender Justice League, Askini says she did advocacy work on child welfare issues, healthcare access for trans people, and bullying against LGBTQ youth and youth of color. Originally from Maine, she moved to Seattle in 2007 and now lives on Capitol Hill. Last year, she served on a task force convened by Mayor Ed Murray to address hate crimes against LGBTQ people.

"I've picked some of most difficult issues and fought and won on those," Askini says. "I think that makes me an incredibly powerful leader. I don't shy away from fights that are very difficult."