Manka Dhingra speaking
Manka Dhingra speaking (Photo: Andrew Vileneuve/NPI)

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.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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