Editor’s Note: Seventy-two hours ago, officials released the initial results for contests appearing on Washington’s 2017 general election ballot, including the closely watched race for State Senate in Washington’s 45th Legislative District. Shortly after hearing the news that she had a nearly ten point lead over her Republican rival Jinyoung Lee Englund, Democratic candidate Manka Dhingra was welcomed to the stage by Attorney General Bob Ferguson to address her supporters. The following is the text of her speech as prepared for delivery.
Good evening, everyone.… the results are in!
Democracy is alive and well. And it’s thriving, right here in the 45th District.
To the thousands of volunteers who knocked on doors, made phone calls, licked envelopes, waved signs, and pounded the pavement on my behalf;
To my family – Harjit, Kavi, and Isha – and my mother Chandan;
To my staff – Louise, Dillon, Ashley, Lainie, and Dane;
To my interns and the members of the Teen Campaign Committee;
To all of the dedicated volunteers, the members of Indivisible, Flippable, Sister District Project, and countless others who decided, “Now is the time for me to step up and join a campaign for the first time”;
To all of you… Thank you.
You are what democracy looks like. And when democracy wakes up, justice wins.
I want to say congratulations to Jinyoung Englund on a race well run. It was an honor for me to have my first political campaign be against another strong, woman of color. Jinyoung, your commitment to the people of our district and serving our state never flagged through a long, tough, high-profile campaign.
And you know, this was a tough campaign. A lot of money was spent on this race. A lot! And a lot of it was spent by people outside our community, bent on dividing us against each other in hopes of moving their own political agendas forward. Somewhere along the way, those people started making this election about “us” vs “them.” And I don’t have to tell you – in that story, I was the “them.”
This playbook is being executed all over our country right now.
When you see the politics of tribalism, misinformation, and mistrust happening around you, when you see the hate and the fear and the division walking around unafraid, it can be scary. It can be depressing. And it can hurt.
And when nearly $2.5 million gets spent to aim those attacks at you, personally – I mean, I’m a prosecutor, I’m a pretty tough person. But that’s still not okay.
But even in the face of all those attacks, I never lost courage. And do you know why? It’s because of each and every one of you.
What I’ve learned from our community during this campaign is that when we are attacked with fear, divisiveness, and dishonesty, we respond with love.
We respond with integrity, honesty, and a commitment to solving problems, together. And these are not values that are bound to any particular party or identity. These are values that we, as members of the 45th, and as Washingtonians, and as Americans, believe in.
I learned the power that love has, to deliver justice, long ago, through my own family history. In 1947, when colonial India was legally separated along religious lines into what are now India and Pakistan, communities were ripped apart by religious violence, and tens of millions of Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims became refugees overnight. My family members were fortunate. But instead of staying inside and keeping their heads down, the women of my family decided to go out into the refugee camps and help migrants of all religious stripes on their journey.
But this is not just a story of my family. This is the story of what makes us human. This refusal to let politically motivated divisions turn people against their fellow human beings is a power rooted in love, and it’s one that I know will win, and it’s what I’ve seen over and over again during the course of this campaign.
A couple weeks ago, I met a man in Duvall. He told me he was a small government Republican and had voted for Trump, but he was still going to cast his vote for me. When I asked him why, he said that the weekend before, one of our volunteer canvassers had knocked on his door.
It turns out this woman was a local teacher whom he knew and admired. She told him that she really respected me, and that was enough for him.
When it comes down to it, this is what democracy is about.
It’s not about agreeing on everything and pretending we’re all the same.
It’s about being honest.
It’s about respect.
It’s about disagreeing and debating, but it’s also about listening and moving forward. It’s about inviting that parent from your kid’s soccer team whom you know is on the “other side” of the political spectrum into your kitchen for coffee, and knowing that even if he thinks schools should be funded by property taxes, and you think they should be funded by carbon taxes, tomorrow, you’ll still be cutting orange slices and cheering your kids on together.
In this fight against misinformation and distraction and division that feels so surreal at times – it’s real relationships between real people that will save us.
And it’s not just political conversations and neighborly debate that a healthy democracy enables. It’s also care, for and by each other.
I recently had a conversation with a self-identified Libertarian who opened his conversation with me by saying, “Well, I don’t believe the government should be interfering in people’s lives.” We stood on his porch for about an hour, talking about the role of government in a free society and what that means.
Finally, the thing that won him over was when I told him about one of my proudest accomplishments in the King County Prosecutor’s office – the establishment of the Regional Veterans’ Court. We have veterans, people who have sacrificed their lives, bodies and minds for us. Veterans, who are homeless and involved in our criminal justice system. And this is simply wrong. Often, they end up incarcerated because of untreated drug and alcohol issues, poverty, homelessness, or PTSD.
When the government supports them by establishing a specialty court for addressing these root needs – that’s not a handout.
The goal of Veterans’ Court is not to make veterans dependent on government. It’s to give them the support, services and care they need, so they can get the opportunities they deserve to stand on their own again.
These values – communicating with each other with curiosity and with integrity, honoring and supporting each other with compassion, and learning to solve problems together in a spirit of independence and creativity – these are the values that I will bring with me to Olympia as your State Senator.
And with your help, I hope to build a state government that empowers every single person in Washington to feel like they have a voice, like they have a role to play in making our democracy thrive.
So tonight, as I stand before all of you who have contributed time and money and effort and pavement pounding to this campaign, saying thank you, I also want to speak to those people who didn’t come out this time or did not vote for me – those of you who might be feeling nervous, or uncertain.
I want to say to you – you are not alone.
I promise to represent you. I promise to fight for you. I promise to bring integrity, honesty, compassion, and responsibility to the 45th, and to Olympia. But I also want to say, it’s not just me who’s going to fight for you.
It’s also people like Keith and Dixie, the retired couple who, one weekend, got tired of yelling at the news on their TVs and have spent every weekend since then volunteering in my campaign office and knocking on doors, rain or shine or snow.
It’s Ty, Joe, and all the members of our Teen Campaign Committee, many of whom can’t drive or even vote, but who have been the lifeblood of this campaign.
It’s the Novelty Hill Resisters, who organized a March for Manka last weekend and walked up and down Novelty Hill waving signs.
It’s my fellow Eastside soccer moms who fought back against misleading television ads by posting a photo of themselves on Facebook holding a sign that said, #RealPeopleForManka.
It’s the intern who spent hours canvassing with me and talking about the role of justice in our lives, and who is now going to law school to get her J.D.
All of these people, and thousands more in our state, and millions more in our country, are proving that if you care about democracy, about justice, about a free and equitable society – you don’t have to personally have a lot of money, or connections, or power to make a difference. All you need is your compassion, your creativity, and the courage of your convictions. And all we need is each other.
Ten months ago, we launched this campaign with the slogan, “Strengthening Communities.” Tonight is the result of thousands of individual people deciding to turn those words into actions. Tomorrow is the beginning of turning those actions into a future – for our district, for our state, for our country, and for our world.
And this is what democracy looks like. Thank you.
POSTSCRIPT: If Manka’s lead holds — as it has all week — she will assume the duties of her office on November 28th, 2017. The NPI team thanks Senator-elect Dhingra for sharing her remarks with our readers in this special guest post.