This April 29, the Indian-American who won her seat to the Washington state Senate last November in one of the most-watched special elections in the country, kicked off her campaign for the Nov. 6 elections to a full term in the upper house.
State Senator Manka Dhingra’s victory in last year’s special election turned the tables for Democrats, giving them effective control of all state legislatures on the Pacific coast, not to mention the pivotal one seat they needed in the State Senate. It was one of the most expensive races in the country, where according to Ballotpedia, campaign finance reports showed nearly $9 million had been spent on the District 45 race, with the two candidates spending a combined $2.8 million.
The kick-off held at Redmond Senior Center in Redmond, Washington, was special not just the because more than 200 people showed up, but because numerous volunteers who drove Dhingra’s earlier victory, came to support her now, as did several high profile Democrats from Capitol Hill, like U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, and State Senator Guy Palumbo from the 1st state legislative district, Dhingra told News India Times.
“It was really humbling to see the group team, teachers, mental health community representatives, there for the kick-off. They recognized what that one vote on the Senate means,” Dhingra said. “The amount of great legislation we were able to get through (the state senate),” she said, because of her election.
Several Indian-Americans also attended the kick-off. “One woman came up to me and said she just became a citizenship and her first vote will be for me,” Dhingra said. She bemoaned the large number of Indians in her state who are on H1-B visas and who see their future and that of their children threatened by possible changes in immigration laws on the horizon.
“A lot of women of color are coming up to me to say, ‘it’s so nice seeing someone of color. And the teams volunteering for my campaign is so diverse,” Dhingra said.
Dhingra won a ten-point lead (55.4 percent to 44.6 percent) over her Republican rival, Jinyoung Lee Englund, also an Asian-American, fielded by the Republican Party. At this juncture, no one is running against in the Aug. 7 open primary, either from the Democrtic or Republican side. However, the deadline for candidate registration is May 18, and there is still the possibility someone else may enter the primary. If no one does, Dhingra will be elected unopposed on Nov. 6. Were anyone else to enter the open primary, the two top vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, would be in the runoff in November.
Dhingra, a 20-year resident of the 45th Legislative District, was a senior deputy prosecuting attorney with the King County Prosecutors Office before she decided to enter state politics.
She garnered an impressive list of early endorsers even during the special election, including the Washington Education Association (WEA), which represents more than 90,000 teachers across the state. Her current list of endorsers includes former Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Senators patty Murray, Maria Cantwell, U.S. Reps. Susan DelBen and Adam Smith, apart from Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, Attorney General Bob Ferguson, and down the line to numerous state senators and representatives, as well as scores of organizations, from the Seattle Firefights, the Women’s Political Caucus, to Sierra Club, a number of Teamsters and other trades organizations, as well as the Alliance for Gun Responsibility and the Asian Pacific Islander Americans for Civic Engagement. ,
Among her other accomplishments, is chairing the King County’s Therapeutic Alternative Unit, supervising Regional Mental Health Court. She also oversaw the Veteran’s Court that helps veterans cope with PTSD. She is also seen as a longtime advocate for women and immigrant rights. She co-founded Chaya, now named API Chaya, to deal with domestic violence issues within the South Asian community. She also served on the Seattle Police Department Muslim, Arab, and Sikh Advisory Council, to address hate crime issues post-1/11.
She got her law degree from the University of Washington School of Law and graduate from the University of California at Berkeley. She has been a prosecutor with King County since January 2000.
Dhingra lives in the Education Hill neighborhood of Redmond, with her husband, Harjit Singh, a ‘Distinguished Engineer at SpaceX,’ and their two children.