Manka Dhingra, the Indian American Democratic candidate for the Washington 45th Legislative District state Senate seat, won the Nov. 7 general election convincingly and, in turn, flipped the majority party of the state from Republican to Democrat.
Dhingra ousted her Republican counterpart, Jinyoung Lee Englund, to the tune of 55.4 percent to 44.6 percent in retaking control of the state. The former King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office senior deputy prosecuting attorney received 16,156 votes to Englund's 12,997.
"I was proud of and excited about the result," Dhingra told India-West. "It reinforces the message from the beginning to make it about the people. It was about honesty, integrity and compassion. From the beginning I was clear I wanted a campaign run on values and not one that does attack ads."
Dhingra's campaign had an election party to celebrate the efforts made during the campaign and the election win. The event drew nearly 400 people. What the Indian American noticed was exactly what the campaign stood for.
"It was amazing to see diversity there," Dhingra said of the turnout of the event, which included kids, young adults and elders of all races. "There were people from all walks of life. That was what this campaign was all about."
Dhingra thanked her campaign team, interns and volunteers in helping her win the election during her victory speech, posted on Facebook.
"You are what Democracy looks like. And when Democracy wakes up, justice wins," she said in her speech.
The winner issued congratulations to the runner-up Englund as well.
"It was an honor to have my first political campaign be against another strong woman of color," she said.
Despite that, the state Senator-elect said she has not heard from Englund to concede the election. Some mail-in ballots still need to be accounted for, but not enough to turn the result of the election.
Dhingra said the heated campaign, which had countless dollars funneled into it from groups throughout the country, became less about the issues and more about "us versus them, and I was the 'them'," she said.
"When nearly $2.5 million is spent to aim attacks at you personally ... it's not OK," Dhingra said in her speech. "And even in the face of all those attacks, I never lost courage and it's because of each and every one of (my supporters)."
The wide gap of Dhingra’s win — nearly 10 percent — was even more than she expected.
“I didn't think that would happen. I was hoping for a 3 percent lead heading into mail-in ballots," she told India-West. "It was surprising to have a 10 percent lead (on election night)."
It is the first time the district, which includes Duvall, Kirkland, Redmond, Sammamish and Woodinville, was won by a Democrat since 2006 when Eric Oemig defeated Toby Nixon. Republicans won the 1998, 2002, 2010 and 2014 elections.
This year's election was a special election held as Republican state Sen. Andy Hill passed away, creating a void for the seat, which is being held by Republican Dino Rossi until state Senator-elect Dhingra takes over next month following certification of the results.
The importance of the election was evident with the number of statements released by various groups and dignitaries across the country.
Indian American freshman Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., was among the first to congratulate Dhingra.
"In our communities, from Lorena González and Teresa Mosqueda on the Seattle City Council, to a huge victory for Manka Dhingra in the hotly contested race for the 45th District State Senate seat, I'm incredibly proud and excited to see strong and experienced women of color with progressive priorities winning office," Jayapal said in a statement driven by the success of Democrats in Washington, Virginia and New Jersey.
Jayapal's campaign knocked on 6,000 doors for Dhingra to help flip the 45th District and win a Democratic majority in the Washington state Senate.
The Democratic National Committee was also quick to congratulate Dhingra on her victory in the Pacific Northwest.
“Congratulations to Manka Dhingra on her resounding victory in the Washington 45th state senate race, which successfully flipped control of the Washington state Senate to the Democrats," committee chair Tom Perez said in a statement, adding Englund's tactics to degrade Dhingra's campaign through ads proved unsuccessful (see earlier India-West story here).
With Washington turning Democrat "blue," the entire Pacific West Coast holds a Democrat-majority, including Oregon and California.
"As a prosecutor, advocate for survivors of domestic violence, and longtime resident of the district, Manka will use her experience to stand up for the most vulnerable and help build a brighter future for Washington’s working families," Perez added. "The DNC is proud to have invested in the Washington Democratic Party to support strong progressive advocates for working families like Manka Dhingra."
Added Democracy for America chair Jim Dean on Dhingra's "game-changing" win in the state Senate, “With Manka Dhingra in the state Senate, Washingtonians not only will now have another strong, progressive voice in Olympia, they will have flipped control of a legislative chamber and won a state government united in its commitment to standing up to Donald Trump’s attacks on our healthcare, environment, education system, and immigrant communities."
Dhingra's election will prove beneficial to the progressive voice of many voters in her district. The Progressive Turnout Project issued its congratulations to the winner for further pushing the district to meet those views.
“Manka Dhingra is a breath of fresh air with a proven track record of standing up for domestic violence victims and marginalized communities," PTP executive director Alex Morgan said in a statement. "She will be a true progressive voice who will stand up for all Washingtonians when she arrives in Olympia.”
Morgan added that Dhingra's successful campaign is a good one to replicate if the Democratic candidates hope to claim control again in 2018 following the next important election.
The Asian American community also showed its support for Dhingra and her win.
"We were pleased to endorse Senator-elect Manka Dhingra and we celebrate her victory. Investing in mobilizing the local Asian American and Pacific Islander community yielded concrete results, and the AAPI Victory Fund will continue to support candidates that recognize the importance of our community and stand for our values," said Shekar Narasimhan, chairman and co-founder of the AAPI Victory Fund.
Dhingra said she will campaign right away for the regular cycle for the seat, which is up in 2018. She added that she hopes to hold the seat for the foreseeable future if all goes well.
Added former Washington Gov. Gary Locke of Dhingra, "Manka's victory underscores the political impact of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Not only can we swing the electorate, we are increasingly running for office and winning. We are grateful for the work of the AAPI Victory Fund. Washingtonians will now have a government that will focus on issues ranging from education to expanding benefits and services to the middle-class and those most vulnerable to the regressive policies of the Trump administration."
Dhingra said she intends to work on passing legislation as soon as she takes over the office. Among the important issues she hopes to pass include passing the capital budget as well as fixing legislation on women’s reproductive health and gun control.
This is where flipping the state to Democrat comes into play, she said.
“We have been held hostage by a handful of Republican senators,” she said. “Now we can get (legislation) into and out of committees and get things voted on.”