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

Democ­rats are on track to recap­ture con­trol of the Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate this Novem­ber, if ear­ly results in the 45th Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict are any indication.

Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­ate hope­ful Man­ka Dhin­gra has an impres­sive eight point lead over Repub­li­can oppo­nent Jiny­oung Lee Englund as of tonight’s ini­tial count, which King Coun­ty Elec­tions released short­ly after 8 PM. Dhin­gra has 50.54% of the vote, while Englund has just 42.59%. Inde­pen­dent can­di­date Park­er Har­ris has 6.86%.

Jubi­lant Demo­c­ra­t­ic activists broke into hearty cheers and applause at Dhin­gra’s Red­mond head­quar­ters when the results were announced. With rep­re­sen­ta­tives of her Teen Cam­paign Com­mit­tee gath­ered around her, Dhin­gra deliv­ered an upbeat twi­light vic­to­ry speech not­ing that much work remains to be done, but that the result demon­strat­ed what could be accom­plished through peo­ple-pow­ered politics.

“Our cam­paign faced unprece­dent­ed attacks from spe­cial inter­ests, but we were focused on speak­ing with vot­ers at their doorsteps and lis­ten­ing to neigh­bors across the 45th Dis­trict,” said Dhin­gra, who is cam­paign­ing on a plat­form of ful­ly fund­ing pub­lic edu­ca­tion through pro­gres­sive rev­enue reform.

“With the help of over five hun­dred local vol­un­teers, we have knocked on more than 40,000 doors in the last few months and are ready to car­ry this ener­gy into the gen­er­al elec­tion. Togeth­er we can ensure expe­ri­enced, effec­tive, and local lead­er­ship rep­re­sents 45th Dis­trict fam­i­lies in Olympia.”

Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty lead­er­ship tout­ed Dhin­gra’s victory.

“Democ­rats across the state turned out to vote, and we saw that show up clear­ly in tonight’s results,” said State Par­ty Chair Tina Podlodowski.

“I’m espe­cial­ly thrilled with Man­ka Dhin­gra’s strong per­for­mance in the 45th Dis­trict — we were opti­mistic, but this is even bet­ter than expect­ed. Manka’s results tonight put us in a great posi­tion for Novem­ber’s gen­er­al elec­tion, when turnout will be high­er and even more favor­able for Democrats.”

“These results make it clear — the mil­lions of dol­lars in lies that Repub­li­cans paid to put out did­n’t work, and vot­ers went for Man­ka Dhin­gra, the can­di­date who reflects their com­mu­ni­ty and their values.”

Repub­li­cans seemed speechless.

The Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­can Par­ty retweet­ed screen cap­tures of results from the 31st and 7th Leg­isla­tive Dis­tricts (which are con­sid­ered fair­ly and safe­ly Repub­li­can, respec­tive­ly), but offered no reac­tion to the result in the 45th. Nei­ther did Jiny­oung Lee Englund’s offi­cial Twit­ter account.

Repub­li­can oper­a­tives were also silent about the out­come in the 45th on social media… though they had plen­ty to say about results elsewhere.

Englund’s cam­paign ulti­mate­ly dis­trib­uted a most­ly boil­er­plate press release unen­thu­si­as­ti­cal­ly not­ing that Englund had “advanced” to the Novem­ber gen­er­al elec­tion, com­plete with this “me too” bit at the end:

Englund adds, “On anoth­er note, today we’ve made his­to­ry as two women can­di­dates of Asian her­itage run­ning in the most expen­sive and impor­tant leg­isla­tive race in Wash­ing­ton state. Regard­less of par­ty affil­i­a­tion or per­son­al feel­ings, this is some­thing we can all come togeth­er to celebrate.”

Yes, by all means… let’s come togeth­er to cel­e­brate. Does this state­ment mean vot­ers can expect to see Englund spend­ing qual­i­ty time in the 45th, as opposed to skip­ping neigh­bor­hood can­di­date forums to attend fundrais­ers in a dif­fer­ent coun­ty, or hold­ing major cam­paign events two dis­tricts away?

Repub­li­cans have spent a for­tune try­ing to smear Dhin­gra with false and mis­lead­ing attack ads, blan­ket­ing the dis­trict with mail­ers and dis­trib­ut­ing mul­ti­ple snot­ty robo­calls in addi­tion to financ­ing tele­vi­sion and Inter­net ads.

Tonight, it’s evi­dent those attacks did­n’t work.

Like Lisa Well­man in the 41st Dis­trict last year, Dhin­gra may have actu­al­ly ben­e­fit­ed from a vot­er back­lash to the neg­a­tive ads. Well­man mem­o­rably over­came a bliz­zard of attack mail­ers to score an upset vic­to­ry over entrenched Repub­li­can incum­bent Steve Lit­zow in the Top Two elec­tion, then went on to win a few months lat­er in the Novem­ber gen­er­al elec­tion with the back­ing of Pres­i­dent Barack Obama.

Well­man’s vic­to­ry reduced the Sen­ate Repub­li­can major­i­ty to twen­ty-five, which set the stage for this year’s deci­sive show­down in the 45th.

If Dhin­gra wins in Novem­ber, the Repub­li­can Par­ty will be out of pow­er in Olympia and the Sen­ate will be back in Demo­c­ra­t­ic hands for the first time since 2012.

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.

Adjacent posts