Manka Dhingra applauds
Manka Dhingra applauds the work of her teen campaign committee at a joint event with Senator Patty Murray (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

A year after flip­ping the Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate from red to blue, Red­mond’s Man­ka Dhin­gra (D‑45th Dis­trict) has ascend­ed into the ranks of Sen­ate lead­er­ship. The cau­cus announced today that Dhin­gra and Sen­a­tor Rebec­ca Sal­daña (D‑37th Dis­trict; Seat­tle) will be the cham­ber’s next Deputy Major­i­ty Leaders.

They will work along­side Major­i­ty Leader Andy Bil­lig, Major­i­ty Floor Leader Marko Liias, Cau­cus Chair John McCoy, and Major­i­ty Whip Mark Mullet.

“I think it’s fair to say that a Wash­ing­ton leg­isla­tive cau­cus has nev­er had the ben­e­fit of this diverse a range of rep­re­sen­ta­tion,” Bil­lig said in a statement.

“It’s one thing to talk about some­one else’s needs and anoth­er thing alto­geth­er to have lived them. No one needs to explain East­ern Wash­ing­ton pri­or­i­ties to me; I’ve been fight­ing for them ever since I was elect­ed to the Legislature.”

“The Leg­is­la­ture is full of smart, insight­ful elect­ed offi­cials who can write strong, sen­si­ble laws, and our knowl­edge is fur­ther enlight­ened by our per­son­al life expe­ri­ences,” Sal­daña said. “Rep­re­sen­ta­tion mat­ters, and when we apply a more diverse range of expe­ri­ences to our work, we wind up with bet­ter laws that apply more fair­ly and equi­tably to the very diverse com­mu­ni­ties that make up our state.”

“As a King Coun­ty pros­e­cu­tor in my day job, I have the ben­e­fit of a spe­cial­ized skill set that increas­es my aware­ness of the legal ram­i­fi­ca­tions of any leg­is­la­tion I touch,” Dhin­gra said. “In the same light, I know that when women of col­or advance into lead­er­ship roles, we flour­ish. We uplift our communities.”

“We uplift us all.”

Dhin­gra was just reelect­ed to a four year term rep­re­sent­ing the 45th Dis­trict (Red­mond, Kirk­land, Wood­inville, Duvall, Sammamish).

She is also one of five cur­rent board­mem­bers gov­ern­ing NPI’s new­ly formed sib­ling, the North­west Pro­gres­sive Foun­da­tion. The Sen­ate Democ­rats have cer­tain­ly made a wise choice by ele­vat­ing her to their lead­er­ship team.

Here’s the com­plete cau­cus lead­er­ship team ros­ter for 2019–2020:

  • Major­i­ty Leader: Andy Bil­lig (D‑Spokane)
  • Deputy Lead­ers: Man­ka Dhin­gra (D‑Redmond); Rebec­ca Sal­daña (D‑Seattle)
  • Cau­cus Chair: John McCoy (D‑Tulalip)
  • Floor Leader: Mar­co Liias (D‑Mukilteo)
  • Whip: Mark Mul­let (D‑Issaquah)
  • Vice Cau­cus Chair: Bob Hasegawa (D‑Seattle)
  • Assis­tant Floor Leader: Pat­ty Kud­er­er (D‑Bellevue)
  • Assis­tant Whip: Claire Wil­son (D‑Federal Way)

The major­i­ty has the pow­er to choose the Sen­ate’s offi­cers in addi­tion to nam­ing its own lead­er­ship team (it’s one of the big perks of hav­ing a major­i­ty) and the cau­cus’ two nom­i­nees for those posts are the peo­ple who hold them now:

  • Pres­i­dent Pro Tem­pore: Karen Keis­er (D‑Federal Way)
  • Vice Pres­i­dent Pro Tem­pore: Steve Con­way (D‑Tacoma)

Keis­er and Con­way will be respon­si­ble for assum­ing pre­sid­ing duties in the stead of Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor Cyrus Habib when he is away or unavailable.

The Sen­ate Democ­rats also announced a restruc­tur­ing of the cham­ber’s com­mit­tees. The biggest change is the cre­ation of the new Hous­ing Sta­bil­i­ty & Afford­abil­i­ty Com­mit­tee, which will be chaired by Pat­ty Kud­er­er (D‑48th Dis­trict: Red­mond, Kirk­land, and the Points com­mu­ni­ties). The Sen­ate is also cre­at­ing a new Behav­ioral Health Sub­com­mit­tee that will be chaired by Dhingra.

“I’ve heard from peo­ple across the state, and these two issues con­sis­tent­ly rise to the top,” said Bil­lig. “Every com­mu­ni­ty, and real­ly every fam­i­ly, has in some way been touched by a men­tal health cri­sis and the inter­sec­tion between that issue and our state’s hous­ing and home­less­ness cri­sis is clear as glass. The cre­ation of these new com­mit­tees will enable us to inten­si­fy our efforts to cre­ate solu­tions in these areas while pro­vid­ing Wash­ing­to­ni­ans more oppor­tu­ni­ty to artic­u­late their needs.”

But that’s not all.

The Sen­ate is also gain­ing a new Envi­ron­ment & Tourism Com­mit­tee, chaired by Kevin Ranker (D‑40th Dis­trict: San Juan Islands, What­com and Skag­it Counties).

The com­mit­tee’s pri­ma­ry focus will be envi­ron­men­tal health through improved water qual­i­ty, oil spill pre­ven­tion and oth­er mea­sures to pro­tect our state’s ecosys­tems, accord­ing to the cau­cus. It will work in coop­er­a­tion with the Ener­gy, Cli­mate and Tech­nol­o­gy Com­mit­tee on envi­ron­men­tal issues.

“The envi­ron­men­tal health of our coun­try and our state have reached a crit­i­cal tip­ping point,” Bil­lig point­ed out, allud­ing to recent reports from the IPCC and the Unit­ed States fed­er­al gov­ern­ment con­cern­ing the sever­i­ty of the cli­mate cri­sis. “Wash­ing­to­ni­ans want and deserve action on this crit­i­cal con­cern. It’s up to us to lead on this issue and accom­plish what the oth­er Wash­ing­ton can’t or won’t.”

NPI con­grat­u­lates the Sen­ate Democ­rats on the cre­ation of these new com­mit­tees. We look for­ward to work­ing with the Sen­ate to advance leg­is­la­tion that will result in a more inclu­sive econ­o­my and a bet­ter soci­ety for all Washingtonians.

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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