An Indian-American is running for Washington state Senate from the 45th District at a time when instances of violence against members of the community have hit headlines.
Manka Dhingra, a senior deputy prosecuting attorney with the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, told News India Times she decided to run for office after the presidential election when she personally witnessed the fear felt by minorities in her district.
There is a special election for the District 45 seat which will take place Nov. 7. Dhingra is already the preferred candidate for Democrats. But she is up against Republican Jin Young Englund, and possibly others who may jump into the race by the May 19 registration deadline. Washington holds open primaries so the top two votegetters on Aug. 1, will go on to Nov. 7. The seat became vacant when Republican Andy Hill died from lung cancer. Dino Rossi, a Republican was appointed to fill the vacancy.
The Indian-American has been endorsed by the 45th District Democrats, Gov. Jay Inslee, and the influential Democrats up and down the political hierarchy from the national to the local level. Dhingra’s campaign has so far raised $300,000 of the estimated $1.2 million she needs to fight the race, she said. “Most of my fundraising has been from individuals- family, friends, South Asians, the tech community. I’ve lived here for 22 years,” Dhingra said.
Dhingra was born in Bhopal and came to this country at the age of 11. She has worked on domestic violence issues generally and within the South Asian community for years. She has been very active on mental health issues as well, and is considered a mental health and crisis intervention expert, and provides training to law enforcement.
She also works with Harborview Hospital, mental health professionals and the courts to improve criminal justice outcomes for mentally ill individuals. Dhingra’s election website electmanka.com, highlights work with the State Department of Social and Human Services, the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, legislators, and the Governor’s office to ensure individuals get the needed treatment.
Dhingra declared her run back in February. “I am Sikh. I decided after the Presidential election that I wanted to get involved,” she said. Her run has taken on added importance in light of several incidents of hate crime targeting members of the Sikh faith over the last couple of months.
At a recent meeting in a mosque where people from many faiths attended, as did 6 police chiefs, Dhingra said, “It was really sad to see the fear among people. I also have met parents whose kids are being told they would be deported,” she said, adding, “The other day a woman in a sari was going into Taco Bell, and stopped at the door wondering if she should have changed into her jeans. That would not have happened before.”
“We have to stand up and be counted. So this is me standing up and being counted,” Dhingra said.
Dhingra’s co-founded Chaya (now API Chaya) to counter the “systemic” violence in the South Asian community. She also served on the Seattle Police Department Muslim, Arab, and Sikh Advisory Council to address hate crime issues.
She holds a JD from the University of Washington School of Law and Bachelor of Arts degrees in History and Political Science from the University of California at Berkeley. She has been a prosecutor with King County since January 2000.
The mother of two children who attend Redmond Middle School and Redmond High School, Manka received the PTSA Golden Acorn Award for her work at Redmond Elementary School. She is married to Harjit Singh, a “Distinguished Engineer” at SpaceX.
This article was updated May 12, 2017