by Mike Andrew -
SGN Staff Writer
Immigrant rights activist Pramila Jayapal will face off against tenants' rights attorney Rory O'Sullivan and Democratic Party stalwart Louis Watanabe in the race for the 37th District State Senate seat being vacated by Adam Kline.
The 37th District stretches from Madison Street south through Rainier Valley to Renton and Tukwila, and is arguably the most diverse, and most solidly Democratic legislative district in the state. Kline, who has represented the district in the Senate since 2000, announced his retirement earlier this year.
While there has been speculation that one of the district's Representatives, Sharon Tomiko Santos or Eric Pettigrew, might run for Kline's Senate seat, to date neither has entered the race.
Jayapal has spent two decades working for human rights, first as founder and executive director of One America - formerly Hate Free Zone - and currently with the Center for Community Change.
Jayapal told SGN that previously she had been 'working from the outside' to 'make legislative bodies places that really represent the people,' and now hoped to be able to do so 'from the inside.'
'There's a lot to be accomplished,' in spite of the state Senate's apparent gridlock, she added. 'I have a history of working across parties - being able to find at least some common ground.'
As an example, Jayapal cites her work building support among immigrant communities for LGBT issues.
'Very early on I worked to build a coalition between immigrants and the LGBT community,' she explained. 'Hate Free Zone signed on to an amicus brief in the Andersen case, the 2006 state Supreme Court case on marriage equality.
'There was a lot of resistance to that position. It never occurred to me - maybe I was naïve, maybe I was just hopeful - but many of our members were annoyed I'd done that.
'I remember we sat in a meeting for hours, a very emotional meeting - it was a very deep, extremely difficult discussion - but we worked through it, and on the marriage issue this last time [R-74] we threw down in a really significant way.'
Jayapal was an early supporter of Ed Murray in his successful race for Mayor, and he has reciprocated with an endorsement of Jayapal, as have former County Executive and Deputy HUD Secretary Ron Sims, County Council member Larry Gossett, and City Council members Sally Clark, Mike O'Brien, Tim Burgess, and Tom Rasmussen.
Jayapal also won the endorsement of union powerhouse UFCW 21, which represents some 43,000 grocery, retail, health, and other workers. Known for its aggressive political program, UFCW 21 was also an early backer of R-74, the state marriage equality referendum.
O'Sullivan, a former staffer for Congressman Jim McDermott, is currently the managing attorney for the King County Bar Association's Housing Justice Project, a free legal service helping renters who face eviction.
In that capacity 'I've seen how state policies impact people's lives,' O'Sullivan told SGN, 'for example, when the state doesn't fully fund the Housing Trust Fund. I've spent my whole career providing legal aid to people impacted by that.'
He now hopes to be elected to the Senate to use what he says is 'experience uniquely suited to the [state Senate] position - I was legislative aide to [Congressman] Jim McDermott.'
Running against fellow progressives Jayapal and Watanabe is 'terrific,' O'Sullivan says. 'The 37th District will be represented by someone who understands our values, and who represents the folks who are most impacted by [state budget] cuts.'
O'Sullivan says he is undismayed by Jayapal's high-powered endorsements.
'I think it's a wide-open race,' he told SGN. 'The 37th District is the kind of place where you have to go out and knock on doors, and meet voters one on one. If we do that, I think we'll be successful.'
O'Sullivan has been endorsed by Washington Public Campaigns director Alice Woldt, campaign finance reformer Marcee Stone, and LGBT activists Ben Crowther, Josh Friedes, Thomas Pitchford, and Janice Van Cleve.
Perhaps the least known of the three leading candidates for the 37th District Senate seat, Watanabe describes himself as an 'educator, union activist, community leader, and progressive Democrat.'
Watanabe was the founder of Dynamical Systems Research, which became Microsoft's first corporate acquisition. Then, after 18 years in the engineering and software industry, he was offered a teaching job.
Watanabe started teaching business and statistics at Bellevue College in April 2002. He also served as business counselor at the Bellevue Entrepreneur Center helping small businesses get off the ground.
Watanabe also became an active member of the National Education Association (NEA), the country's largest teachers' union, and began to identify himself as a social activist.
'Through the National Education Association, Congressman John Lewis became my inspiration for persistence in making a better world,' he says.
Watanabe is currently a member of the board of directors of the Metropolitan Democratic Club of Seattle.
Share on Facebook
Share on Delicious
Share on StumbleUpon!