Eager to reclaim the Washington State Senate following the treachery of Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon, the Democratic grassroots in Washington’s 45th District voted enthusiastically yesterday evening to endorse Manka Dhingra, an experienced senior deputy prosecuting attorney who has been moving swiftly to build a campaign focused on amply funding education and mental health.
The 45th, which is located in northeastern King County, is among five districts that will hold special elections for Senate positions this year; the others are the 48th, 31st, 37th, and the 7th. The 45th is presently represented in the Senate by Republican Dino Rossi, but it is a district that increasingly votes for Democrats up and down the ballot, and the Democratic Party says it means to flip it this year.
A Democratic victory in the 45th would change the entire trajectory of the state almost overnight, because it would alter the balance of power in the statehouse. Five years of divided government would be over, and the Senate would cease to be a graveyard for worthy progressive legislation and an obstacle to sound budgeting.
Dhingra, forty-two, announced her candidacy in February (Democratic State Representatives Larry Springer and Roger Goodman opted not to run for the Senate) and has been fundraising aggressively ever since. She earned a strong recommendation from the 45th District Democrats’ Endorsements Committee, which I had the pleasure of chairing from 2008–2012 prior to my election to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee (WSDCC).
The committee interviewed two candidates (Dhingra and Democratic activist Ian Stratton) and concluded that Dhingra was far and away the best candidate. The district’s membership concurred in that recommendation this evening. With the district organization’s endorsement, Dhingra is now the party’s standard bearer.
Dhingra’s campaign has collected $200,000+ in contributions already, mostly from individuals, and has secured an impressive list of endorsements. Dhingra has also prioritized community engagement in her campaign’s early days, attending as many forums and public meetings as her schedule allows.
Meanwhile, with the filing period a little over a month away, Republicans have yet to coalesce around a candidate of their own. Dino Rossi sought appointment to the Senate following Andy Hill’s death as a caretaker and has repeatedly stressed since then that he’s not running. Even if he were to go back on his word, public opinion research suggests he’d be an underdog candidate.
The team at Public Policy Polling (who conduct NPI’s regular research polls) recently surveyed the 45th and asked voters about a hypothetical matchup between Dhingra and Rossi. Dhingra earned the support of 46% of respondents, while only 40% backed Rossi. That’s a definite indication that Republicans face an uphill battle in this special election, and are on the verge of losing their Senate majority.
Northshore school board member Ken Smith has announced he’s moving into the 45th from the 46th in order to run as a Republican, but he is launching his candidacy without the backing of the Republican Party.
Two other individuals have also filed paperwork with the Public Disclosure Commission to run in the 45th District for the Senate: Stratton and independent Parker Harris. Smith has yet to file his paperwork.
The filing period officially begins next month on May 15th and ends on May 19th.