OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) – The next representative of Washington’s 10th congressional district will be a Democratic woman, with voters deciding between two candidates who would each represent a first for the state if elected.
Former Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland would be the first Black member of the state’s congressional delegation, and the first Korean American woman elected to Congress in the country. State Rep. Beth Doglio, who identifies as bisexual, would be the first LGTBQ member of the Washington delegation.
Strickland and Doglio emerged from the state’s top-two primary in August, which drew 19 candidates after Democratic U.S. Rep. Denny Heck announced late last year that he would retire at the end of his current two-year term. Heck, who is now running for lieutenant governor, was the first person elected to the 10th congressional district in 2012 and has served four terms.
Strickland, 58, noted Washington is among more than 20 states and territories that haven’t had a Black member of Congress, including neighboring states of Idaho and Oregon.
“The more diverse voices you have, the better the decision making,” she said. “You have to have the willingness to have conversations that may be uncomfortable, that you’re not used to having, but you end up with a better result.”
Doglio, 55, said that for her, the fact that she is bisexual was never something that had a reason to be public, “but when I ran for office I thought if there was one kid that I could help feel comfortable with their sexual identity, that that was important to do.”
The district, added after the 2010 census, includes portions of Mason, Pierce and Thurston counties, including the state capital of Olympia and Joint Base Lewis McChord. The state’s congressional delegation currently has seven Democrats and three Republicans.
Strickland received just over 20% of the vote in the primary, and Doglio had about 15%. Former Democratic state Rep. Kristine Reeves, who came in third with about 13% of the vote, has endorsed Strickland.
Strickland has been also endorsed by former Govs. Christine Gregoire and Gary Locke and former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, while Doglio, a longtime climate activist, has been endorsed by environmental groups, U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal.
Both have said they would like to build upon the work Heck did representing the district. But Doglio and Strickland note that the current national landscape – a pandemic, economic crisis and social unrest sparked by recent police killings of Black people – has created a different dynamic that will affect all political leaders.
“Covid has really changed the game,” Strickland said. “It has amplified these huge inequities that exist, and I think there’s an opportunity for us as policymakers going into 2021 and forward, hopefully with a new president, to think about that through the lens of equity and inclusion.”
Doglio, who is an advocate for Medicare for all, said that the pandemic has especially shown the inequities in health care, especially when for so many, health insurance is tied to one’s job.
“It’s devastating enough to lose your job, but to lose your job and your health insurance? I think that there’s a big movement and understanding about how important it is to decouple those two things and move toward more of a public system,” Doglio said.
Strickland’s approach on health care is creation of a public option that people can buy through the Affordable Care Act. She also is calling for lowering the eligible age of Medicare from 65 to 55, as well as raising the age that children can stay on their parent’s policies from 26 to 30.
Strickland, who most recently ran the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, served two terms as mayor of Tacoma and was previously a council member.
Doglio has criticized her tenure at both, noting that she opposed a $15 minimum wage effort in Tacoma in 2015 – Strickland backed a $12 measure that ran on the ballot that year and was approved over the $15 measure – and opposed an effort to tax Seattle’s largest businesses to help fund homeless services and affordable housing at the end of 2017.
“I think she has the interest of corporations at heart,” Doglio said.
Strickland said that the $15 proposal drew concern from local small businesses in her community, and noted that the $12 minimum wage measure she pushed was approved by more than 70 percent of voters. The statewide minimum wage is now $13.50 due to a ballot measure approved by voters in 2016. Two cities have higher hourly wages: SeaTac’s is $16.34 for hospitality and transportation employees and Seattle’s varies on the size of the company, but is as high as $16.39.
“I don’t believe that the 10th Congressional District wants to mimic Seattle,” Strickland said. “Tacoma was not Seattle. The 10th District is not Seattle.”
As for the business tax, which was ultimately passed and then quickly repealed by the Seattle City Council, “the opposition wasn’t about not wanting to pay taxes, it was about not having a cohesive plan.”
Strickland said that her experience leading a city after the last recession puts her in a good position to address the challenges that the district is facing now.
“That lens is needed more than ever now,” she said. “It’s one thing to talk about slogans but it’s another thing to do the actual work of nuance and policy making and having to build coalitions.”
Doglio has served in the state Legislature since 2017, and has spearheaded bills ranging from efficiency standards for buildings to allowing city and county councils the authority to vote to raise local sales-and-use taxes to be used for housing. She was the founding executive director of Washington Conservation Voters and until recently was a senior adviser for Climate Solutions. She also worked for Audubon Washington and as field organizer for the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League.
Doglio said she would bring her focus on those issues to Congress.
“I am a very progressive person and I feel like we need some transformational change,” she said. “I hold on to those values, but I’m able to work across the aisle, across the caucus and across the stakeholder groups to find solutions.”
Voter Liz Ullery Swenson, a 34-year-old pastor who lives in Olympia, said that she primarily votes Democratic and said that she would be comfortable with either candidate representing the district, but said she especially appreciates the work Doglio has done in Olympia.
“From a policy place, I support Medicaid for all, and that alone that would encourage me to support Doglio,” she said.
Jessica Babcock, a 33-year-old stay-at-home mother who lives in Olympia, said she voted for Reeves in the primary and she said she will vote for Strickland in the general because she was impressed with her experience as mayor and because it’s “important for me to vote for a woman of color.”
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