NEW YORK – Last year, in November, it was the Indian American Ro Khanna vs. the Japanese American Mike Honda, for a US Congressional seat, in the heart of Silicon Valley. Khanna won that ‘grudge’ contest between two Asian Americans, unseating the incumbent veteran eight-term Congressman Honda, in his second attempt for office.
Come next month, there will be another face-off by two Asian-origin candidates, albeit, for a state Senate seat, in the suburbs of Washington state: the Indian American Manka Dhingra – a Democrat like Khanna – will vie against the Korean American Jinyoung Lee Englund, a Republican, who works as vice president of strategy for the Digital Currency Council, advocates for the bitcoin currency.
Both Dhingra and Englund are debutants running for office, for the district represented by the late Andy Hill, who died last year.
The 45th district stretches from Woodinville to Sammamish and includes Duvall and Kirkland. It’s one of the most keenly watched local races in the US. Both Dhingra and Englund have already raised over a million dollars for their respective campaigns.
Dhingra, 42, Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney with the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, who supervises a mental health court, was born in India. She emigrated to the US at the age of 13. She has a juris doctorate from the University of Washington School of Law and a bachelor’s degree in history and political science from UC Berkeley. She is married to Harjit Singh, an engineer at SpaceX.
Dhingra, a Sikh by faith, has a big advantage going into the general election, on November 7: she won the primaries in August, beating Englund by 10 percentage points, getting 14,605 of the 28,612 votes cast.
If Dhingra catapults to victory next month, as she is expected to, the Democrats will wrest power from the Republicans of the state Senate. That will, along with their majority in the state House and incumbent Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, give the party the reins of power in Olympia.
In essence, it will be the exact opposite of the scenario in the nation’s capital, where the GOP holds the power shift on Capitol Hill and the White House (well, that is, depending on President Trump’s political temperament and mood for affiliation on a day-to-day basis).
For the Democrats, Dhingra’s win will also be an endorsement of many of the liberal, anti-Trump positions she has taken, including supporting the now nationally-recognized state Attorney General Bob Ferguson in his numerous lawsuits to overturn Trump’s travel ban on some Muslim countries, and help illegal immigrants from deportation; healthcare and health services for women, and to ban the sale of guns for those who are convicted of domestic abuse.
Dhingra – who founded a local chapter of Chaya, an Indian American organization who helps victims of domestic abuse – steers clear, however, of mentioning Trump in her pitch to swing voters, Reuters noted in a report. She has got overwhelming support from the community, with around 2,000 volunteers joining her campaign.
“The Trump reaction, the way it works is by invigorating volunteers,” Dhingra was quoted by Reuters. “There are a lot of people, like myself, who decided we cannot be bystanders.”
While Khanna’s win over Honda was styled more as battle of the young looking to unseat an ageing politician, with both belonging to the Democrat fold, Dhingra’s contest against Englund has the potential for bigger repercussions nationally: her win will resonate all over the US as a rebuke of the Trump administration, sting the Republicans hard.
If Dhingra wins, Republicans will dread an encore of the situation in Washington in legislative races across the country. At present, the GOP control 26 state governments and two-thirds of legislative chambers.
As Reuters reported, the tide seems to be turning slowly in favor of the Democrats, as Republicans face scathing criticism for failure to get legislative action fulfilled: from New Hampshire to Oklahoma, Democrats have flipped eight Republican-held seats in special legislative elections this year. Democrats have flipped legislative seats in Florida, Oklahoma, New Hampshire and New York in 2017. Republicans picked up an uncontested seat in Louisiana.
In Oklahoma, where Trump won 65 percent of the vote in the 2016 general election, the Democrats flipped three seats in districts he carried. Candidates doubled down on local issues, such as a budget crisis forcing four-day school weeks.
With Trump refusing to scale down on his wilting sarcasm and vicious criticism of domestic and international issues issues, including lambasting the hapless residents and officials of Puerto Rico for not being able to turn the tide of their miserable situation after being hit by a monster hurricane; escalating the war of words with North Korea and Iran; estranging his own party’s elected representatives with orders to overturn Obamacare with little heed for the effect it may have on millions of poor and middle class voters, Democrats feel they just need to galvanize their support base, pitch reasonable and capable candidates – even if they are novices, to turn the trick in their favor, come Election Day.
The GOP’s implosion, as the Democrats reckon, will hasten the inevitable.
(Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him: firstname.lastname@example.org Follow him on Twitter @SujeetRajan1)