Leah Griffin and Emily Alvarado
Leah Griffin and Emily Alvarado (Campaign publicity photos)

When the six­ty-sev­enth Wash­ing­ton State Leg­is­la­ture con­venes next Jan­u­ary in Olympia, Seat­tle’s leg­isla­tive del­e­ga­tion will look very dif­fer­ent than it does now. Four incum­bents have cho­sen not to stand for reelec­tion this cycle, while anoth­er is look­ing to move across the rotun­da from the House to the Sen­ate. Con­se­quent­ly, there are wide open races in most of the city’s leg­isla­tive dis­tricts this year.

One of those dis­tricts is the 34th, where Eileen Cody, the longest-serv­ing mem­ber of the Wash­ing­ton State House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, is from.

Cody is a retired neu­ro-rehab nurse cer­ti­fied in both reha­bil­i­ta­tion nurs­ing and mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis care and a found­ing mem­ber of SEIU 1199 NW.

Cody was first elect­ed in 1994 (after hav­ing been appoint­ed to the House ear­li­er that year) and has been reelect­ed every cycle since then. After almost thir­ty years in the House, how­ev­er, she has decid­ed to pass the baton.

The 34th LD, which includes West Seat­tle, Vashon Island, White Cen­ter, and parts of Burien, is one of the most reli­ably Demo­c­ra­t­ic dis­tricts in the state, so Repub­li­cans are unlike­ly to even both­er field­ing a can­di­date. The gen­er­al elec­tion is expect­ed to be a runoff between two Democ­rats. Right now, those two Democ­rats could well be Leah Grif­fin and Emi­ly Alvara­do, the only two con­tenders who have filed with the Pub­lic Dis­clo­sure Com­mis­sion to suc­ceed Cody.

Grif­fin, a recip­i­ent of Pat­ty Mur­ray’s Gold­en Ten­nis Shoe Awards who has worked with Mur­ray on crim­i­nal jus­tice reform, says that after she was raped in 2014, her expe­ri­ence as a sex­u­al assault sur­vivor inspired her to get involved in politics.

Leah Griffin
State House hope­ful Leah Grif­fin (Cam­paign pub­lic­i­ty photo)

“The jus­tice sys­tem was as trau­mat­ic as the rape itself, and I could not allow that to per­sist,” Grif­fin explains on her cam­paign website.

In 2015, Grif­fin joined the legislature’s Sex­u­al Assault Foren­sic Exam­i­na­tion Task Force as a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of sex­u­al vio­lence survivors.

There, Grif­fin lob­bied for leg­is­la­tion that requires rape kits to be test­ed, tracked, and stored, rede­fined rape in the 3rd degree to hold more rapists account­able, and reformed sex­u­al assault pro­to­cols for hos­pi­tals and police investigators.

As men­tioned, since 2015, Grif­fin has worked with Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Mur­ray on the Sur­vivors’ Access to Sup­port­ive Care Act, which sig­nif­i­cant­ly expands access to sex­u­al assault nurse exam­in­ers. Grif­fin was Murray’s guest at the 2018 State of the Union Address, and the law was passed this March.

Like NPI, Grif­fin was also involved in the suc­cess­ful effort in 2020 to pass and then defend the state’s com­pre­hen­sive sex ed law.

In 2017, Grif­fin joined Legal Voice as a leg­isla­tive advo­cate and one year lat­er, she began vol­un­teer­ing as a speak­er for the King Coun­ty Sex­u­al Assault Resource Cen­ter. In 2019, Grif­fin joined the board of the Sex­u­al Vio­lence Law Center.

Aside from crim­i­nal jus­tice reform, Grif­fin is inter­est­ed in advanc­ing pub­lic safe­ty, hous­ing secu­ri­ty, pub­lic edu­ca­tion, access to repro­duc­tive health, and eco­nom­ic mobil­i­ty. Inter­sec­tion­al­i­ty is impor­tant to her.

Grif­fin has been endorsed by Seat­tle Port com­mis­sion­er Ham­di Mohamed and House Speak­er Pro Tem­pore Tina Orwall (D‑33rd Dis­trict) among others.

Grif­fin is a librar­i­an at Uni­ver­si­ty Prep and lives in West Seattle.

“I took my rage, and I chan­neled it into reform,” Grif­fin says. “There is so much to do, and I look for­ward to mak­ing those changes together.”

Join­ing Grif­fin in this House con­test is afford­able hous­ing activist Emi­ly Alvarado.

Alvara­do says afford­able hous­ing, health­care, and edu­ca­tion will be her pri­or­i­ties if elect­ed. The first time can­di­date has worked on afford­able hous­ing pol­i­cy since 2009, advis­ing three hous­ing non­prof­its before shift­ing to the Seat­tle Office of Hous­ing in 2014. Over her sev­en years at the office (two as the direc­tor), Alvara­do over­saw $275 mil­lion in invest­ments sup­port­ing afford­able hous­ing for more than 3600 fam­i­lies and man­aged the Seat­tle Hous­ing Levy.

Emily Alvarado
State House hope­ful Emi­ly Alvara­do (Cam­paign pub­lic­i­ty photo)

Alvara­do is cur­rent­ly the vice pres­i­dent of Enter­prise Com­mu­ni­ty Part­ners, which is a nation­al afford­able hous­ing non-prof­it that finances and lob­bies for ear­ly learn­ing facil­i­ties and low-income, tran­sit-acces­si­ble housing.

Alvara­do also sits on the boards of both the Wash­ing­ton Low-income Hous­ing Alliance and its PAC, the Wash­ing­ton Hous­ing Alliance Action Fund.

She has been endorsed by sev­er­al leg­is­la­tors who have a his­to­ry of work­ing on attain­able hous­ing, includ­ing Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Nicole Macri (D‑Seattle), Frank Chopp (D‑Seattle), and State Sen­a­tor June Robin­son (D‑Everett).

The West Seat­tle res­i­dent is mar­ried with two children.

Alvara­do earned her J.D. from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton’s School of Law and her Bach­e­lor of Arts at Scripps University.

“I am excit­ed to work hard on these crit­i­cal issues for the 34th and every Wash­ing­ton­ian,” said Alvara­do in a press release.

Each can­di­date has a web­site where you can learn more about them.

Griffin’s site is here and Alvarado’s site is here.

In about one month, Fil­ing Week will begin. May 20th is the dead­line for leg­isla­tive hope­fuls to declare their can­di­da­cies. We’ll know at that time if the field of can­di­dates will be expand­ing to include any oth­er hopefuls.

This con­test is one of many that we’ll be keep­ing an eye on here at the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute as the 2022 midterms play out.

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